Meetings between Government Negotiating Team (GNT) and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) leadership on Thursday and Friday ended in a stalemate as government failed to convince teachers not to down tools today when schools open for the 2016/17 academic calendar.
Last Monday, TUM president Chauluka Muwake threatened that teachers in public secondary and primary schools would withhold their services effective September 5 2016 because Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) was dilly-dallying to resolve their grievances.
Muwake said government has failed to demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling promises it made at a meeting GNT held with the leadership of the union in May 2016.
GNT invited TUM leaders to Capital Hill on Thursday where a number of issues were raised and discussed, including the progress government has made in resolving teachers’ grievances.
However, the meeting did not achieve its intended purpose, prompting MoEST to schedule a follow-up meeting on Friday.
Said Muwake in an interview after the meeting: “Our meeting with GNT has indicated that they have no solutions to our grievances; hence, we are going ahead with the strike on Monday. I am just coming out of the meeting, and I can inform you that TUM is very disappointed. Government is not resolving our grievances.”
In a separate interview, the union’s secretary general (SG) Dennis Kalekeni said the two parties did not make progress in their discussions except for the ministry submitting a report on what it has done, so far.
He said there are still a number of grey areas which need to be sorted out before teachers can commit to providing their services to the nation.
Said Kalekeni: “We gave them enough time to resolve our grievances. But unfortunately, this has not been done. Thus, we’re meeting the executive committee of the union on Monday to brief them on what transpired at our meeting with the team from the ministry.”
MoEST spokesperson Manfred Ndovi confirmed the stalemate in a telephone interview on Friday afternoon.
He said the ministry does not know the course of action teachers will take following the stalemate.
“Of course, we have requested for another meeting on Monday [today]. But we don’t know whether they will go ahead with the planned strike or not,” he explained.
Ndovi could not state if government has enough resources to enable it meet the teachers’ demands.
“I don’t think I can comment on that. Maybe let us wait until we meet [the teachers] again,” he said.
TUM first scheduled their strike for May 9 2016, but cancelled it twice to give government time to resolve the teachers’ grievances as spelt out in their April 1 2016 petition.
Last Monday, Ndovi told The Nation that government was helpless as it did not know how best to handle the teachers’ grievances.
He also criticised the teachers for choosing to withhold their services every time they have a burning issue with their employer.
Said Ndovi: “The moment we are trying to address one grievance, another one crops up. It is like every day they are bringing in new grievances.
“For instance, a new grievance that has just cropped up is that of unpaid examination invigilation fees. So, how can we resolve them at once, and also when they keep changing goal posts?”
TUM called for the sit-in to force government to reverse unprocedural withdrawal of teachers’ promotions and adjust salaries of teachers who had been promoted or upgraded themselves.
The teachers also want the ministry to immediately pay leave grants to secondary school teachers for the 2015/16 financial year expiring on June 30 and delayed payment of salary arrears for primary school teachers.