Teachers in public schools have vowed to start a nationwide strike today, when schools are scheduled to open after a five-week Covid-19 induced break, to force the Ministry of Education to introduce Covid-19 risk allowance.
Through their mother body Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), the teachers are also demanding the recruitment of Initial Primary Teacher Education (IPTE) 13 and 14 teachers to reduce the teacher/ learner ratio in classrooms, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to all teachers in public schools and erecting of tents in schools to reduce Covid-19 risk among both teachers and learners.
In a letter dated February 19 2021, addressed to principal secretaries for Education and Local Government and signed by TUM president Willie Malimba, the teachers state that they are starting the sit-in following government’s failure to address their grievances.
Reads the letter in part: “Following the Virtual National Executive Committee meeting of the Teachers Union of Malawi held on 18th February 2021, delegates resolved that all teachers in primary and secondary schools as well as lecturers in all teacher training colleges shall hold an industrial action in the form of STAY-AWAY with effect from 22nd February, 2021…
“Teachers Union of Malawi has done its best to engage government in negotiations as one way of avoiding industrial action, but government has taken these meetings for granted. Teachers Union of Malawi will only call off the strike upon government’s commitment to provide Covid-19 risk allowances and PPE to all teachers in public schools and teacher training colleges.”
In a written response yesterday, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said some of the teachers’ concerns have already been addressed.
He said: “On risk allowances, the ministry upon learning of TUM’s position, is actively engaging TUM to reach common understanding.
“That notwithstanding, the ministry has also formally submitted TUM’s request for risk allowances
Force on Covid-19 which facilitates all issues of risk allowances.” to the Presidential Task
T h e ministry spoke sper son s a id government is also constructing 383 low-cost classrooms, drilling 640 boreholes and procuring 5 000 portable chalkboards and 13 000 cartons of soap, among others.
But in a separate interview yesterday, Malimba said teachers will proceed with their sit-in until government introduces Covid-19 risk allowances.
He said: “We are maintaining our stand that tomorrow [today], teachers are not reporting for duties until government addresses this issue. This time around, the boarding secondary schools had so many Covid-19 cases and they kept students within the schools for about three weeks. Teachers turned out to be doctors. So, looking at these issues, we are saying we are in direct contact with the patients.”
At the peak of the first wave of Covid-19 last year, teachers demanded to be receiving Covid-19 risk allowances equivalent to amounts received by frontline healthcare, arguing they too were exposed to the virus in their line of duty.
However, after protracted discussions, government turned down the teachers request, saying they were not high-risk workers