In the 2019 post-election protests, people from all walks of life fought for justice together. They felt hard done by with the outcome of the results. They were unanimous in their resolve and thinking the results of the elections were not a true reflection of their will. And so for six months led by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) they seized the streets to show their anger and rally with petitioners who were pushing for the courts to nullify the presidential elections. There was purpose of unity.
Long and short of it, both the petitioners and protestors got what they wanted on March 3 2020 when the Constitutional Court declared the May 21 presidential elections null and void and sanctioned the holding of fresh presidential elections. Democracy won. Malawians had demonstrated that in unity there is strength.
Regrettably, the nationwide protests were married by violence. Some opportunistic rioters hijacked the protests to loot shops and damage property worth billions of kwacha. The demonstrations also negatively impacted the country’s economy as shops remained closed for many days in weeks and months. But good things come at a price.
Fast forward to 2020.
Covid-19 took the nation by storm. Everyone was threatened. By March 21 Government declared a semi-lockdown of the country to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus which causes Covid-19. Government also launched a nationwide campaign to educate the masses on ten importance of observing preventive measures. This was not a fight for the president or one ministry or sector but for everybody. Everyone had to take part.
Thanks to the unity of purpose, the first wave of the pandemic came and went. Then the second wave came. It run riot. Unlike the first wave, the second one was more virulent and scathing. But again thanks to the unity all Malawians have demonstrated in fighting the disease, the pandemic is again on the wane. Life is slowly returning to normality.
Just like the post-election protests and their dark side, we are now counting the costs of the pandemic. We are not yet out of the woods. There is a scare of a third wave. But we are somehow a little comforted by the fact that we have been availed with the life saving AstraZeneca vaccine. With the vaccine and continued observance of the preventive guidelines, there is hope life will soon return to normality.
Regrettably, against the background of the unity shown in fighting the common enemy—Covid-19 pandemic, and before it the stolen election in 2019—teachers are now all alone in their fight for Covid-19 risk allowances. Teachers want recognition and to be treated as equals with all other cadres and professions in the public sector. Unfortunately they are fighting a lone battle to get government to avail them what is deservedly due to them. The unity of purpose Malawians demonstrated when they were protesting the results of the Tippexed elections in 2019, is gone. The united front with which teachers alongside everybody else fought the Covid-19 pandemic during both the first and second wave is no longer there. Parents whose children are the biggest victims of the teachers’ nationwide strike are now looking the other side.
The same government which has been imploring teachers to take the lead in educating pupils to comply with the preventive guidelines for the Covid-19 pandemic has turned against them. The same government which closes schools to prevent the spread of the pandemic thinks teachers are just noise makers, attention seekers and trouble brewers when they ask for Covid-19 risk allowances. If teachers are at no risk of infecting pupils or being infected with the coronavirus in their line of duty, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 could not have allocated billions to the education sector for the prevention of the spread of the pandemic as schools are in session.
Teachers need support from all stakeholders in the education sector for them to discharge their duties efficiently and effectively. Parents are the first line of support for teachers to be effective in their work. When teachers are left to fight lone battles, including for them to get Covid-19 risk allowances, it is the pupils and parents themselves that are the biggest victims. Parents just need to do the needful—back teachers to force government to pay the much sought-after allowances and sanitise the education sector.