Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has resolved to resume their strike following government’s failure to provide teachers with allowances for personal protective equipment (PPE) as agreed earlier this month.
In a statement issued yesterday, signed by TUM president Willie Malimba and addressed to principal secretaries (PSs) for ministries of Education and Local Government, he indicated that the Parliamentary Committee on Education chairperson Brainax Kaise communicated to the union that the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 rejected the proposal to have teachers provided with cash equivalent to PPE for three months.
TUM has since given government seven days notice for the strike as prescribed by law.
Reads the statement in part: “We wish to warn government that once the stay-away resumes, it shall only be called-off after all the public primary and secondary school teachers, plus TTC [teachers training college] lecturers have been provided with the appropriate PPE in cash-costed package as a once-off payment covering three (3) months.”
However, TUM leadership says it remains committed to continued dialogue within the
Kaise did not pick up his phone when called for comment and the phone was later unreachable.
Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje also did not pick up her phone when called for comment, while her PS Chikondano Mussa referred the matter to the ministry’s spokesperson Chikondi Chimala.
Chimala, however, said the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 was better placed to comment on the issue as it is Covid-19-related.
Asked what the impact of the strike on schools would be, he said briefly: “It is too early to comment considering that TUM has said it is open to dialogue and has given a seven-day notice.”
When contacted, Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda who is also Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chair, said she was engaged in the daily Covid-19 updates.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) executive director Benedicto Kondowe has condemned the manner in which government is handling the teachers demands, saying government has been playing double standards in the discussions.
He called on President Lazarus Chakwera to intervene on the matter and provide guidance for the benefit learners.
Said Kondowe: “If another strike by teachers commences, it will heavily affect learners who have already missed classes due to the Covid-19-induced closures and the recent teachers strike.”
Last year, schools were closed in March for five months following government order to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 during the first wave.
Early this year, schools were also closed for five weeks following the second wave of the pandemic. When government announced the re-opening of schools in February, learners in public schools were further affected by the teachers’ strike, which went on for two weeks as TUM demanded a Covid-19 risk allowance.
On March 8, the parliamentary Joint Committee of Education and Social and Community Affairs engaged TUM and the Ministry of Education to resolve the impasse that resulted in the teachers’ strike.
In a statement issued by Parliament yesterday, addressed to TUM , Ministry of Education and the Presidential Task Force, Kaise reminds the parties that the meeting resolved that instead of providing PPE to teachers, government should give them money for three months to procure PPE themselves and that the proposal be reviewed and approved by the task force.
Following the resolution, TUM agreed to suspend the strike while the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 decided the amount to give the teachers.
However, Kaise stated, the Presidential Task Force did not approve that “teachers should be provided with appropriate PPE in Cash-Costed Package as a once off payment to cover the next three months,” hence TUM’s decision to resume the strike.