From a distance, a regular teacher can think and assume that special needs education is a well-paying profession. Actually, most regular teachers pray for an opportunity to undergo special needs training to become specialist teachers.
However, what these regular teachers presume and how they look at a specialist teacher contradicts the reality on the ground. Specialist teachers are not as honoured as people think.
In December 2017, Montfort Special Needs Education College graduated 190 diploma teachers who were deployed to various duty-stations as specialist teachers in recognition of the special skills they acquired at the college.
As per tradition, these specialist teachers anticipated the Ministry of Education to promote them to grade J which is equivalent of the diploma they were awarded. The graduates have left no stone unturned in search of their promotion since 2018. They lodged their concern with all offices concerned with education. These included Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), Special Needs Directorate, the Secretary for Education, Local Government Service Commission, Teaching Service Commission and Department of Human Resources and Management.
People in these offices gave varied instructions as requirements for promotion which the teachers fulfilled. However, when the Ministry of Education in 2019 promoted over 20 000 teachers, no specialist teacher was promoted. Several meetings held with TUM officials and Secretary for Education since 2018 have yielded nothing.
As 2020 is coming to an end, specialist teachers are still lamenting over government’s tactics to delay or deny promotion to those who rightfully deserve to be promoted.
It should be noted that these teachers are not self-upgraded. They responded to the ministry’s call made following an observation that there was an acute shortage of specialist teachers. Following that, a vacancy was released and the government, through Ministry of Education, provided full scholarships for them.
However, today it is surprising to note that the same government is failing to promote the teachers it trained. What was the essence of the training? Specialist teachers have fought for their promotion for three years now without negatively affecting their work or compromising on service delivery.
It is on record that an employee is posted to a duty station where their services are required. This means the government posted the special needs educators to the duty stations after being satisfied that their certificates are worth for that job.
To the dismay of special needs educators, Ministry of Education recognises them only when it comes to the services they offer in handling the most neglected group of learners who a regular teacher cannot meet their learning styles. The government is able to proudly stand tall to talk about the positive strides it is making in inclusive education and special needs education because there are special needs educators who are spending much of their efforts to assist these neglected learners.
Having tried all other means to have their promotions given but to no avail, the betrayed teachers will soon regroup to use other means to force the ministry to promote them. As observed, prison officers were promoted with the use of force, this entails that the government responds timely where there is a demonstration of anger. Peaceful demonstrations, vigils and tools down are some of the means to be used in the fight for promotion if the government continues with the tactics.