Ministry of Education says it is working on a plan to start attaching hardship allowances to schools instead of individual teachers as has been the trend.
Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje said this in Mzuzu last week on the sidelines of an interaction with education officials from Mzimba North, Mzimba South, Likoma, Mzuzu City and Nkhata Bay education zones.
She said there was an anomaly in that when teachers leave rural areas, they still get the allowances.
Said NyaLonje: “Teachers’ welfare and development is one of the issues in our reforms. This looks at remunerations, qualifications and how we are taking care of them. We are now finalising discussions on rural hardship allowance.
“Initially, the money was being given to individual teachers and if the teachers were transferred, they would leave with the allowance. So, one reform area that we have done is to attach the allowance to hard-to-reach schools and shortly we will start doing that.”
The minister said education authorities in districts have been complaining that they are failing to retain teachers in rural areas where social amenities are lacking.
NyaLonje said: “For teachers, it is not just about what is happening in the Ministry of Education. If the area has no health facilities, teachers get affected too. So, it is much more than just one aspect. That is why we are also in the pipeline of coming up with a Teachers’ Council
“This will help in ensuring that teaching is an adorable and professional career. It will help deal with shoddy acts. So this will help to manage the profession as is the case in other professions.“
Meanwhile, the proposed reforms have excited the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM). However, the union has at the same time warned government to carefully select the schools to ensure that there is no feeling of being sidelined by others.
In an interview yesterday, TUM president Willie Malimba said the proposed arrangement will help save schools in rural areas that have always suffered when those receiving the allowance move to urban areas.
He said: “This is a welcome development because what was happening is that you have a teacher on an allowance but when they are leaving, they would leave with it and continue receiving in the city.
“With the new setup, if someone leaves, the money will remain and that will help rural areas. If you go in town, you have many teachers receiving hardship allowance yet those who replaced them in rural areas are failing to receive, it’s taking time to put them on the payroll.”
Malimba said what will happen now is that schools will be graded such that the farthest and hardest to reach will have teachers receiving the K35 000 hardship allowance.
“This is what donors, who are giving the money, want. Then the figure will be declining depending on how hard-to-reach an area is,” he said.
Quality education activist Benedicto Kondowe is on record as having faulted the disbursement of hardship allowance, saying the major challenge is the criteria used to identify beneficiaries as well as lack of systems to track teachers who continue getting the top-up after leaving rural areas.
Government introduced rural allowances in 2010 as an incentive to motivate and encourage teachers to work in rural areas where there was a shortage of teachers.
Initially, the monthly allowance was pegged at K5 000, but was raised to K10 000 effective January 2014.