Teachers, government resolve disagreement
By Wezzie Gausi:
Millions of learners in public schools in the country are expected to resume learning today after government and Teachers Union of Malawi (Tum) representatives agreed— with the help of Parliament— to end the nationwide teachers’ strike.
It was, however, not easy as Tum was, on one hand, unrelenting on its demand for Covid risk allowances.
On the other hand, government representatives also refused to play ball, telling the teachers that they should instead push for improved salaries and promotions as the Covid risk allowance issue was a non-starter.
Presidential Taskforce on Covid representative Innocencia Chirombo said the taskforce may consider paying in cash the money that was supposed to go towards the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) for teachers.
Chirombo, however, emphasised that the cash was not meant to serve as Covid risk allowances, adding that it could be allocated during the first three months.
“This is what we, as a committee, are suggesting and it will only come into fruition once taskforce [members] meet this [Monday] evening and agree on the issue. So, for now, this stands out as our suggestion,” Chirombo said.
The package of PPE normally consists of a facemask and a bottle of hand sanitiser that would cost no more than K15,000.
Tum President Willie Malimba said they had suspended the strike, adding that this meant teachers would resume work today.
“We, as teachers, can now say that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. All we wanted was to be given something too. As they rightly put it, the name cannot be called risk allowance, but at least let us get some money at the end of the day,” Malimba said.
Joint Parliamentary Committee co-Chairperson Brainax Kaise said they decided to intervene, after observing that the issue was taking long to be resolved.
The committee, comprising the Education, Science and Technology Committee and Social and Community Affairs Committee, organised the meeting between Tum and government officials.
“We had time to listen to both parties involved and we are glad to announce that the teachers will resume their work, but that is upon agreement that whatever we discussed should be in written form,” Kaise said.
Education Ministry Secretary [Administration] Kiswell Dakamau said they were committed to addressing teachers’ problems.
Since the Presidential Taskforce on Covid announced that schools could re-open on February 22 this year, learners have not been attending classes after teachers downed their tools.
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