Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) president Chauluka Muwake has said teachers will from Monday next week go on strike following a deadlock in a meeting held with Principal Secretary (PS) for Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Teachers across the country yesterday defied TUM’s earlier communication to stay away from class in protest over unpaid dues.
Speaking in an interview soon after the meeting with the PS, Muwake said government has failed to convince them that their grievances will be sorted out anytime soon.
He said: “The PS only showed us a letter where the Office of the President and Cabinet is instructing Treasury to pay the teachers. But we don’t want an instruction; we want to be told that teachers have started receiving their money,”
He said government owes teachers a lot of money such as invigilation and supervision allowances for the Malawi School Certificate of Education [MSCE] examinations, money for teachers who retired and money for teachers who were promoted.
“Government owes us K1.4 billion for MSCE supervision and invigilation alone, K246 million for teachers who were promoted and K103 million for retired teachers and those who died,” said Muwake
Asked whether the teachers’ defiance not to strike as planned was because of apparent differences between him and his secretary general Denis Kalekeni, he said: “The issue at hand concerns teachers. It is not up to me to tell the teachers to strike. If you saw them in class, I can assure you that they were just pretending, wait for Monday next week.
Attempts to get a comment from Kalekeni proved futile as his phone went unanswered despite several attempts.
A spot-check The Nation conducted on Monday revealed that teaching and learning went on normally in most public schools across the country.
Teachers, who refused to be named, said they had not received any formal communication from TUM informing them to effect the strike.
“I just heard on radio that teachers will go on strike. But I did not receive any official communication from either TUM or our district education manager [DEM], so we decided to open our school,” said a head teacher at a Blantyre-based primary school.
She said as far as they were concerned, all schools had opened because the number of teachers claiming for the arrears is minimal and it does not call for a strike.
She added: “Government owes me arrears following my promotion to head teacher level, but I am not striking. Unless we are communicated otherwise to support our friends, then we will strike to show solidarity.”
In the Central Region, classes were in full swing when we visited Biwi, Chimutu, Mwenyekondo and Lilongwe LEA primary schools in Lilongwe.
Lessons were also progressing without interruption in schools surrounding Malingunde and Nathenje trading centres.
A source in Dedza, Gladys Banda, also indicated that all teachers had reported for duties except for a few who absented themselves on unrelated reasons.
The situation was the same in the Northern Region where lessons were conducted as usual.
Teachers at Luwinga and Rumphi secondary schools who did not want to be identified said lessons were in progress.
Ministry of Education, Science and Technology spokesperson Manfred Ndovi yesterday said during the meeting with the PS, TUM officials expressed dissatisfaction with the progress the ministry has made to resolve their grievances.
He said: “They said since we have failed to meet, they will now go ahead with the strike. But since that was verbal, we expect them to issue official communication on their planned strike.”
Additional reporting by Watipaso Mzungu and John Chirwa