At the threat of a nationwide strike by teachers in the country, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has bowed down to pressure and allocated K2 billion (about $2.9million) for leave grants in the proposed 2016/17 National Budget.
The minister has provided for the allocation in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) vote.
Teachers make up the bulk of civil servants in the country and at last count there were close to 80 000 of them with a salary allocation of K108 billion (about $157million) in the 2016/17 financial plan.
In a petition issued in April, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) gave government until May 9 to resolve teachers’ grievances or face a nationwide sit-in by all primary and secondary school teachers.
The grievances included non-payment of leave grants for 2015/16 fiscal year for all secondary school teachers and payment of salary arrears.
The K2 billion payment for leave grants is part of the K147 billion (about $213million) allocated to MoEST pending approval by Parliament which is currently scrutinising the budget through cluster meetings.
Gondwe has allocated K108 billion for salaries which includes rural teacher allowances which this time have not been allocated a separate programme.
Speaking at the Education, Science and Technology cluster on Tuesday, MoEST director of planning Ken Kaziputa Ndala said Treasury has also given the ministry a ceiling of K10.9 billion (about $16million) for the recruitment of 10 500 primary school teachers and 466 secondary school teachers for the next 12 months.
“It also includes the recruitment of additional teachers for primary and secondary schools for three months amounting to K2.7 billion. There will be 10 500 primary school teachers and 477 secondary school teachers,” he said.
This means Treasury will have to seek additional funding to continue paying salaries for the newly recruited teachers beyond the three months allocation.
Reacting to the development, TUM general secretary Dennis Kalekeni said teachers were happy that Treasury has made a separate allocation for leave grants unlike in the past when it was under Other Recurrent Transactions (ORT).
“It is pleasing to note that the government has allocated K2 billion for leave grants. This has caused problems in the past because the budget was not clear,” he said.
But the recruitment of teachers is happening against a backdrop of 60 percent capacity recruitment at teacher training colleges (TTCs).
Coincidentally, the TTCs will all suffer budget cuts except for the newly opened Chiradzulu and Phalombe TTCs whose allocations have been increased to cater for an additional year of students.
The allocation to TTCs has gone down slightly from K3.678 billion to K3.612 billion but Ndala said this was because funding for Open and Distance Learning will be financed for July only.
Initially, TUM demanded a response from MoEST on its petition and threatened to go on a nationwide strike on May 9. TUM’s grievances included withdrawal of teachers’ promotions, salary adjustments, failure by MoEST to pay leave grants for secondary school teachers for the 2015/16 financial year and delayed payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers. n