Teachers in public primary and secondary schools, who constitute almost half of the 130 000 civil service workforce, have threatened to go on strike on Monday if government does not pay them their outstanding leave grants by then.
Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) secretary general Charles Kumchenga said in an interview yesterday the teachers were disappointed with the manner in which government has handled their issue as it lacked urgency.
He said the union engaged the Secretary to the Treasury (ST) Ben Botolo in writing on numerous occasions to process the leave grants.
Said Kumchenga: “We wrote the Secretary to the Treasury on 20 January this year reminding him to ensure that he provided funding for payment to teachers by 2017 March end. To our dismay, the ST or any government official never bothered to respond.”
But in an interview yesterday, Botolo said Treasury has processed all the requests by the union based on submissions made.
While distancing the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development from involvement in dealing with actual payments, Botolo said teachers to receive the leave grants were those who made the submissions and their payments were being processed.
He said: “Actually, we processed all of them [the submissions] last month. Depending on who is processing the final payments, then some may find that they are receiving a bit later than others.
“But otherwise, ife zonse tinapanga; zonse tinamaliza. Tinapanga zoti alipidwe [we did our part by processing the submissions ready for payments].”
The Nation has established that the leave grants vary depending on the grades of the teachers. The lowest amount is set at K28 000 and the highest K33 000.
Initially, the sit-in that is expected to involve around 63 000 primary school teachers and over 7 000 secondary school teachers was expected to start from tomorrow.
However, the teachers had opted to give government ample time to facilitate the payments to the teachers.
Reacting to the situation, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) executive director and education activist Benedicto Kondowe yesterday said the manner in which government through the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development is handling the issue has left a lot to be desired.
He faulted government for lacking commitment in meeting the welfare of teachers in the country, saying the whole scenario raises questions regarding how funds meant for the teachers’ leave grants were spent.
Said Kondowe: “In the context of Malawi, why does it have to always be about teachers? If it is about salaries, teachers have to suffer; if it is about fighting for promotions, teachers have to suffer.
“Clearly, government is taking teachers for granted. I even thought that with the Minister of Education being an academician, he would come in to solve issues, but that is not the case.”
He said the teachers were justified to go on strike because they are fighting for a good cause as government continues not to show any commitment to their welfare that is not appreciating their good works. n