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National

A house divided

Some teachers say strike ‘irregular’

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ABANDONED—Learners

A group of concerned teachers has described as “irregular” Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum)’s demand for Covid risk allowances, further accusing the teachers’ mother body of bulldozing non-members to join the strike that started on Monday across the country.

Speaking on behalf of the teachers Wednesday, Mchinji Secondary School Head teacher Harry Kamwaza said not all teachers were in support of Tum’s call for risk allowances.

He also faulted Tum leaders for the manner in which they called for the strike.

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“The strike is irregular as it was declared on a weekend. There were no wider consultations between Tum [leaders] and members on the issue of sit-in,” he said, sentiments seven other teachers corroborated.

Kamwaza added that Tum leaders were at fault for extending the sit-in even to teachers that are not affiliated to the union.

The development came on a day the Presidential Taskforce on Covid rebuffed the proposal by the country’s teachers to consider giving them Covid risk allowances.

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Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje told Parliament Wednesday, when she presented a ministerial statement on the reopening of schools, that taskforce members felt that it would not be appropriate to give the teachers risk allowances.

NyaLonje was quick to point out that the government would prioritise the teachers when administering the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine which it has acquired with support from Covax Facility and the African Union.

The minister said her ministry’s records indicated that it had 100,000 teachers on its books and that, as such, risk allowances for the teachers could be in billions of Kwacha.

“My ministry has received communication from the Presidential Taskforce on Covid that it would not be appropriate to give the teachers risk allowances. The communication has since been relayed to the Teachers Union of Malawi,” NyaLonje said.

Meanwhile, Tum President Willie Malimba has said teachers in public schools would continue with their strike.

“We have not received the letter from the Presidential Taskforce on Covid yet but we have heard the message from the Minister of Education.

“We are planning a meeting for national executive members on Thursday [today] morning. However, it is an agreement amongst us that the strike should continue; so, teachers in public schools will abide by that. Nonetheless, we will come with an official statement after our meeting on Thursday morning,” he said.

Apart from Tum, teachers have over the years been attempting to form other unions to fill what they call the “gap” that Tum leaves.

For instance, over 2,000 secondary school teachers, under the umbrella of Secondary School Teachers’ Union of Malawi (Sestum), this week faulted the Registrar of Trade Unions for delaying to register them.

Sestum interim President Pilirani Kapolo said teachers were disappointed with registrar Zione Lungu, accusing her of flouting the regulatory requirement that her office register unions within 30 days of receiving an application.

However, Lungu said she referred Sestum officials to Tum after observing that the union’s objectives were similar to those of Tum.

According to Sestum statistics, the country has around 12,000 secondary school teachers.

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