By Rebecca Chimjeka:
Civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the education sector have threatened to sue the government if it does not re-open Malawi College of Health Sciences (MCHS) by August 12 2019.
Youth and Society (Yas) and Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) issued the warning during a press conference they hosted in Lilongwe Thursday.
The CSOs said students have lost a full academic year due to the closure of the college, a development they say is a violation of the learners’ right to education.
Csec Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, said it was sad that funding to the education sector has always been a major problem, saying the country’s leadership does not care about education.
Yas Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka, said it was unfair for students at the three MCHS constituent colleges to spend eight months without learning simply because the government was failing to resolve issues surrounding the colleges’ closure.
“We cannot talk about the future of the education sector in the country while students are just staying at home.
“The fact that the students have been writing the Ministry of Health and the Office of the President and Cabinet without getting responses means that the leadership has failed to intervene,” Kajoloweka said.
Last week, Ministry of Health told the striking MCHS lecturers that they risked being fired if they did not return to work by August 5 2019.
But the CSOs said threatening the lecturers would only aggravate the situation.
MCHS Students Union President, Iso Ken Bond, said the stalemate was affecting the students.
He said it was painful for students to study for a diploma course in six years.
“It is not fair to keep us at home for eight months. We want to go back to school and finish our courses,” Bond said.
The colleges are closed due to a strike by workers who are pushing for better working conditions, including implementation of a new salary structure, remittance of pension arrears to Nico Company as well as to be put on life cover.
Ministry of Heath spokesperson, Joshua Malango, said ministry officials held discussions with MCHS board over the strike but the workers, after their initial demands were met, made fresh demands.
“The lecturers were demanding salary increment, a life group cover and pension, so we had a discussion with the board of directors of the institution, and the government accepted to the lecturers’ demand but, after that, the lecturers came with a fresh demand of salary increase of 40 percent, but we told them to wait for the next national budget.
“This did not go well with them and they continued shunning classes. However, we sought the Attorney General’s intervention and he said the lecturers should go back to their respective colleges and if they are not reporting for work within the next few days, then we would have no option but advertise their positions,” Malango said.
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