At least 387 special needs education teachers have withdrawn their services and will from today revert to mainstream teaching due to government’s failure to promote them.
The move will affect learners with special education needs nationwide, whose population in 2020 was estimated to be 186 422, representing 3.4 percent of all learners.
The concerned teacher’s vice-chairperson Grace Kamanga said the affected teachers are in three cohorts of 2016, 2017 and 2020 that were trained at Montfort Special Needs Education College and have been demanding promotion from grades K and L to grade J without success.
She said: “The outcome of various meetings we have had with authorities has made us understand that there are no vacancies for special needs education
teachers, that there is no policy to accommodate special needs education service providers but the service itself.
“We have resolved to withdraw our services and revert to mainstream teaching. We understand that at present, there are no vacancies for our certificate and policy backup, therefore, no change of grade.”
On his part, the group’s chairperson McFerson Chalemera wondered why government provides funding, training, and posts specialist teachers yet it cannot recognise their achievements.
He said on March 9, the teachers wrote the Ministry of Education, indicating their desire to be promoted but the meetings have not yielded anything.
According to Chalemera, only the first cohort of 2012- 14 was promoted while the rest in primary schools, some posted to secondary schools and others to teachers training colleges remain in their old grades despite earning diplomas.
“The government wants to gain from the skills and knowledge we acquired at diploma level without honouring the certificate. We feel that this is a form of abuse and labour exploitation. The ministry is underpaying us and making specialist teachers work without any benefit,” he said.
While government has said the matter is being looked into, the situation has worried a special needs and education expert, who has called on Capital Hill to act quickly before the matter gets out of hand.
In an interview yesterday, Catholic University of Malawi head of Special Needs Department Jenipher Mbukwa Ngwira cautioned that the strike may have far-reaching consequences for special needs education learners.
She said: “There is need for the ministry to meet with the teachers and have a meaningful discussion. It is children with disabilities that will suffer the most, not government nor the teachers.”
Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said the ministry is studying the contents of the communication from the concerned teachers and will revert to them soon on its position.
He said: “However, we must state that teachers will be promoted following all laid-down processes and procedures. In this regard, some responsible offices like district councils have already started conducting promotions in their respective districts.”
The 2019/20 Education Sector Performance Report estimates that the number of special education needs learners is 186 422, representing 3.4 percent of all learners in the country and higher than the 3.2 percent reported in 2019.