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Secondary school teachers trade union formation faces hitches

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Denis Kalekeni

Over 2,000 secondary school teachers, under the umbrella of Secondary School Teachers’ Union of Malawi (Sestum), have faulted officials at the Registrar of Trade Unions office for delaying to register them.

The teachers announced their intention to register the union last year but, 12 months down the line, their dream has not materialised.

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.

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“She [Lungu] advised our committee to engage the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), which has also not been supportive.

“We submitted all the necessary documents but, to our surprise, the registrar, who is the only one mandated to register us, has not done the needful. We are surprised that she is pushing us to MCTU. Our question is: Who is mandated to offer certificates between the Registrar of Trade Unions and MCTU?” Kapolo queried.

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

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Lungu said it becomes a problem for government officials to be discussing issues with unions that have similar roles, adding Sestum would have just formed chapters under Tum.

“We can give examples of water boards. They have chapters and members of chapters have representatives at the main board. This makes it easy for the government to work with [union members and leaders],” Lungu said.

In a twist to the issue, MCTU General Secretary Denis Kalekeni differed with Lungu, saying the power to issue licences is vested in the Registrar of Trade Unions and not MCTU.

Kalekeni said their role was to legalise unions after they have been given a licence and applied for MCTU membership.

“We do not have a say on Sestum’s decision to come up with their own union. It is only Ministry of Labour [officials], through the Registrar of Trade Unions, who can issue licences,” Kalekeni said.

Sestum interim General Secretary Druwen Moyo said their union wanted to fill the gap Tum leaves, citing its [Tum’s] failure to look into the welfare of secondary school teachers.

He said secondary school teachers had been suffering in silence by, among other things, working in acting capacity in situations where they are qualified for fulltime positions.

Moyo also said teachers in community day secondary schools located in rural areas were treated unfairly as compared to those in urban areas.

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

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