- Critics say it is an elections ploy
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) says it is set to promote 14 000 teachers in primary, secondary and tertiary schools to motivate them and promote quality education.
But critics have cautioned that this could be a ploy to woo voters as the May 21 Tripartite Elections approach.
MoEST Principal Secretary (PS) Justin Saidi said in an interview yesterday one of the factors that have led to dwindling education standards in the country is lack of motivation for teachers who stay long on the same grade without promotion.
He said: “We know that many teachers have not been promoted in many years. This has resulted in them being lazy and not concentrating on their work. So, we are promoting them to various grades.
“Some have already been promoted, but there will be mass promotion interviews for all teachers beginning this month.”
So far, he said, the ministry has filled all senior positions at its headquarters which had been vacant or where people were acting for a long time.
The ministry has also filled up all six positions of education division managers who are all at P4 and promoted 15 lecturers in all teacher training colleges to senior levels.
Meanwhile, government says it has recruited 10 000 primary school teachers and will recruit 500 secondary school teachers this month.
Saidi also said government plans to construct additional schools in the cities to reduce congestion.
But Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) board chairperson Benedicto Kondowe cautioned that government could be taking action “because we are approaching campaign”.
“There are many teachers in the country who have worked on the same position for as long as 10 years. So while this promise that they will start promotions from this January is welcome, it should be done periodically not when people demonstrate or set up a vigil,” he said.
But Saidi dismissed the fears, saying the move has nothing to do with campaign or politics.
He said: “You know I am a civil servant. I articulate issues of government. So this is not campaign. It is in one of the plans we at the ministry are executing.”
The PS also said the exercise was budgeted for; hence, it will not stretch the ministry’s expenditure.
“We budgeted for this and we will manage it,” said Saidi.
In the 2018/19 fiscal year, MoEST was allocated K166 billion to cater for the recruitment of 10 000 primary school teachers and 500 secondary school teachers, but promotions were not included in the budget.
Meanwhile, a senior officer in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development said the promotions are not practical given the challenges Treasury has had in paying teachers’ arrears and leave grants dating back to 2009.
Said the official: “Some of these things are only practical when there is money, a department can budget for a thing or an activity, but if money is not there, it is not possible. It is a good move as long as we will not have scenarios where one stays without receiving salaries because there is no money. Promotion is like recruitment which needs a lot of money.”
Parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee chairperson Rhino Chiphiko expressed concern over the current financial flow, saying Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is likely to collect less than anticipated which will in turn affect the planned budget lines, including the promotions.
“We are having problems with the cash flow. Chances are high that MRA will collect less than the expected revenue. We are continuously experiencing cash drought so it will affect this. I doubt if we have that in the national budget or they will bring it in the mid-year review,” he said.
Chiphiko also warned the teachers to be careful because interview processes in government take time and letters of promotions might be ready after the elections.
“This move is to make teachers help government win elections. They know that teachers play an important role in the elections so this is deliberate, but if they say they budgeted for it, let’s wait and see, But I doubt if it is in the national budget,” he said.
On his part, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) secretary general Charles Kumchedwa has since hailed government for the effort, saying they have been asking government for teachers’ promotions for too long.
He said: “It is a welcome idea that they will promote the teachers, it has been our plea always to government. I had a meeting with the Principal Secretary on the same where I stressed the need, if this is the response, then that is great news.
“However, why now and not five years ago? We are watching and we are waiting for implementation of the same.”
Two months ago, 114 representatives of disgruntled self-upgraded teachers held a vigil at MoEST headquarters at Capital Hill in Lilongwe demanding promotions.
Their action followed a MoEST promise in September that teachers who upgraded themselves to diploma and degree levels would be promoted to positions matching their qualifications by the end of that month.
However, the teachers are yet to be promoted.
And last week, TUM gave government up to January end to settle teachers arrears and leave grants dating back to 2009. Government owed the teachers about K1.7 billion, but only settled about half of it last year.
Kondowe at the time accused government of ignoring the welfare of teachers.