Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) and Youth and Society (YAS) have given government and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) up to Friday to resolve the Covid-19 risk allowance impasse.
The two civil society organisations (CSOs) stated in separate interviews yesterday that the ongoing strike is negatively affecting the majority poor who depend on public schools for education.
Based on the 2019/20 Education Sector Performance Report, enrollment in private schools forms just 2.7 percent of the country’s total, meaning over 97 percent of learners are suffering due to the strike.
During a press briefing in Mzuzu yesterday, YAS programmes manager Amos Simwela warned that if the impasse is not resolved by Friday, it will engage its legal team to map the best way forward and hold nationwide protests next Tuesday, while Csec says it will mobilise parents to take action.
The warning from YAS and Csec comes after some public school learners mostly in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Ntchisi and Nsanje took to the streets on Tuesday and petitioned authorities to resolve the teachers’ strike to enable them learn uninterrupted.
Said Simwela : “Government and TUM’s disagreements should never degenerate to the level of affecting the right to education of learners in public schools.”
In the event that the impasse is not resolved by Friday April 9, Simwela said YAS will proceed to seek legal redress to ensure that the right of children to education is protected and upheld.
“We will also organise demonstrations on Tuesday April 13 2021 for which we will mobilise citizens and all interested stakeholders in petitioning government to end the strike in the interest of the children whose right to education we must all strive to protect,” said Simwela.
In a separate interview, Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe said they are also planning protests and legal action should the impasse stay unresolved.
He said: “As Csec, we call on parents, students and Malawians of goodwill to get involved. We will come up with a statement that will guide in terms of the next course of action. Our membership, including the board, has been discussing the possibility of a legal action.”
Kondowe said parents have a role to play because government is failing to discharge its constitutional duty.
“So, if the State can’t promote, protect and fulfil children’s right to education. parents, students and Malawians of goodwill have to defend that right,” he said.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Justin Dzonzi says the academic calendar has gravely been affected by Covid-19, and this has affected the right to education for learners who have endured months without learning.
He said: “Covid-19 i s an emergency, a crisis that everyone understands, but I think complicating it with either unwillingness to meet its obligation as an employer on the part of government, or taking advantage of the situation purely as a matter of greed by teachers, is an issue that negatively affects the right to education.”
Another human rights and anti-corruption lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa said the matter borders on the right to education but also equality which are enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
Last year, schools were closed for five months due to Covid-19, and early this year, schools were also closed for five weeks following the second wave of the pandemic.