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Stampede exposes unemployment levels

118 jobseekers injured in Mzuzu

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By Feston Malekezo, Audrey Kapalamula & Eric Msikiti:

At least 118 jobseekers, who had flocked to Katoto Secondary School in Mzuzu to be interviewed for positions of Disease Control and Surveillance Assistants, hospital attendants, ward clerks and six other roles, were injured in a stampede that occurred at the venue.

Mzimba North Deputy Director of Health and Social Services, Naomi Mulwafu, said most of the cases are mild to moderate and that only one jobseeker sustained a serious injury.

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Thousands of young people in desperate search of jobs rushed to Katoto, Kamuzu College of Nursing in Lilongwe and College of Medicine in Blantyre for the walk-in interviews which, once again, exposed glaring unemployment levels in the country.

Ministries of Health and Local Government, in collaboration with the Local Government Service Commission, is hiring 2,000 health workers across the country in compliance with President Peter Mutharika’s directive to beef up the health sector in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So far, 767 healthcare workers have been hired.

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At all the three venues, as early as 6am thousands of jobseekers had already arrived for the interviews which were set to start two hours later.

At Katoto, hell broke loose the moment the gates into the secondary school were opened as everyone fought for the front spot.

“The situation was worsened by the acts of a guard sprayed water on the people. It was that time that so many people fell down and were stepped on,” one of the jobseekers said.

Mulwafu said the interviews continued in Mzuzu as planned but he could not say if additional days will be provided since the chaos meant several jobseekers could not make it.

In Lilongwe, the walk-in interviews left many jobseekers frustrated and they accused authorities of not properly coordinating and planning the process.

Some of the interviewees said despite police presence, they had to scramble to have access to the premises as well as registration forms before participating in the actual interviews.

Meanwhile, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has condemned the manner in which the walk-in interviews were arranged.

MCTU Secretary General Denis Kalekeni described the interviews as unacceptable and unprofessional as they put lives of the jobseekers not only at risk of being injured but also contracting Covid-19.

The Society of Medical Doctors has also criticised the Ministry of Health over the way it is conducting the interviews and has called on the ministry to stop the process, saying it is exposing the jobseekers to Covid-19.

“As doctors, we believe the Ministry of Health is the champion for Malawi’s Covid-19 response, so it came as a surprise to us to see that the ministry is conducting the interviews in such a way,” Mithi said in an interview Tuesday.

He also complained that the injuries sustained during the stampede associated with the interviews have put unnecessary strain on some health facilities across the country “when more attention should have been given to the fight against Covid-19”.

Interviews similar to those conducted in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu were also conducted in other districts of the country. The entry requirements are Malawi School Certificate of Education and a Junior Certificate.

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