With three days to go before schools re-open amid the coronavirus pandemic, government is unclear on its position on teachers’ demand for risk allowances.
The Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), in April this year, demanded that once schools re-open, they will need Covid-19 risk allowances similar to those provided to healthcare workers.
Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje in an interview yesterday said the issue cannot be handled in isolation, but centrally under the Department of Human Resource Management and Development which falls under the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC).
She said the ministry’s role is to present the issues as they are to the central level within the system and wait for a determination on the way forward, adding the matter was already presented.
Said the minister: “Issues of allowances are dealt with at central level by the human resource department which is under OPC. That is one of the issues the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 has, for the past two weeks, been deliberating on. The discussions are ongoing.”
Nyalonje said the decision has to be made at the central level as it may have implications across the civil service.
In a separate telephone interview, TUM secretarygeneral Charles Kumchenga confirmed that they are yet to be communicated to by the minister.
He said TUM will be meeting with the Government Negotiating Team (GNT) today alongside the Civil Servants Trade Union (CSTU) to discuss the risk allowance issue, among others.
Said Kumchenga: “So after this meeting, TUM will meet on Saturday. So, tomorrow’s [today] meeting will shape the agenda of our meeting on Saturday.”
He said TUM will come up with a way forward after their Saturday meeting.
In a telephone interview, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) executive director Benedicto Kondowe said both TUM and government must resolve the issues at the soonest time possible.
“As an organisation, we feel this matter needs to be resolved amicably by both sides. The discussions must not be with emotions but rather mature and professional,” he said, adding the matter could disrupt reopening of schools.
Meanwhile, the Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) says it is set to administer this year’s Primary School Leaving Certificate of Education (PSLCE) and Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
In an interview yesterday, Maneb spokesperson Mayamiko Chiwaya said prior to schools closing on March 23 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, preparations were already at an advanced stage to administer the exams; hence, they will proceed from where they left from.
She said: “Right now we are processing examination administrators’ allowances which we will pay out prior to examinations administration just like we have done for the past two years.”
Chiwaya said according to examinations regulations, candidates sit 1.4 metres apart, which is already beyond the one metre spacing recommended by health authorities.
This week, Maneb released examination timetables for both PSLCE and MSCE examinations following an announcement by the Ministry of Education that schools will re-open next week.
According to the timetables, PSLCE will be administered from September 30 to October 2 2020 while MSCE will be administered from October 27 to November 20 2020.
On March 20 this year, government directed that all schools including universities be closed as a precautionary measure to avoid the further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.