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Teachers demand K35,000 each monthly

K21.5 billion needed in 6 months

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EXCITED—Chiponda (right) and Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje

The on-going tussle between teachers and the government has taken another twist, with the civil servants demanding that they should be getting K35,000 as minimum monthly Covid risk allowance or else they will not resume work.

The teachers, through their mother body Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum), have further demanded that the Covid risk allowances should be continuously provided for six months, after which a review could be done based on the status of coronavirus infections in the country.

Ministry of Education statistics indicate that the government has 93,888 primary school teachers and

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8,686 secondary school teachers on its books.

This means, in a month, the teachers will need a minimum of K3,590,090,000 in allowances and, in six months, the bill will balloon to K21,540,540.000.

Ironically, the government has allocated about K23,700,000 to its Covid response programme from August last year to this day, starting with the K6.2 billion it allocated to clusters and councils through the Department for Disaster Management Affairs in August 2020, and then the K17.5 billion President Lazarus Chakwera directed the Treasury to release to Covid clusters and councils in January this year.

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The funds have, among other things, been spent on the erection of Covid isolation centres and well as the purchase of medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Tum President Willie Malimba said they have made a number of proposals to the government, including the provision of PPE, if they are to resume work.

“At first, we were bargaining without a base and we were telling the government that it can think of any figure and we discussed on that basis but, this time around, we have done that [set the figure] deliberately,” Malimba said.

On Thursday last week, Tum National Executive Committee members and district chairpersons had a meeting in Lilongwe to map the way forward.

They proposed that, if funds were not immediately available, there should be a commitment from the government to pay the allowances within a month after passing the 2021/22 national budget.

However, the teachers’ demand that Covid allowances should be paid continuously for six months is coming at a time the first consignment of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has arrived in the country.

On Friday, Ministry of Health officials received the consignment at Kamuzu International Airport and announced that it would take them five days to distribute vaccine doses across the country in readiness for vaccination roll-out campaign.

The arrival of 360,000 doses follows the coming in of 360,000 syringes and 3,625 safety boxes that arrived in the country eight days ago.

At least 3.8 million Malawians, starting with frontline healthcare workers, are earmarked for the vaccine.

Malawi secured AstraZeneca through the Covid Vaccines Global Access Facility, which is a mechanism that supports access to safe and effective vaccines for low-and-middle income countries.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Technology Brainax Kaise has informed the Presidential Taskforce on Covid, Ministry of Education and stakeholders that the committee would engage the taskforce, the ministry and Tum to mediate in the wrangle between the ministry and Tum.

In a communication that The Daily Times has seen, Kaise indicates that the meeting will take place at Parliament Building to “mediate wrangles between the Ministry of Education and teachers that has resulted in a strike by teachers in public schools”.

The government, through Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, announced the reopening of schools on February 21 this year, but teachers have refused to resume work since then, demanding Covid allowances.

Two weeks ago, Education Minister Agnes NyaLonje told Parliament that the Presidential Taskforce on Covid had rejected teachers’ demand for Covid allowances.

Over 1,000 people have succumbed to Covid in Malawi.

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