Teachers in public institutions start striking today as one way of pushing the government to address their concerns on a day schools were expected to open after a five-week suspension due to a surge in Covid cases.
Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) President Willy Malimba said the teachers have downed their tools because they want government officials to address issues related to Covid risks.
“We are starting the strike on Monday [today] and we will call it off once the government brings to the table something tangible,” Malimba said.
He added that the government has shown interest in having a roundtable with them but was yet to communicate on time and date.
However, the Ministry of Education told The Daily Times Sunday that it had formally submitted Tum’s request for risk allowances to the Presidential Taskforce on Covid.
Ministry spokesperson Chikondi Chimala said they had taken such action to show that they had taken steps to respond to teachers’ request.
‘‘The ministry has submitted the request to the Presidential Taskforce on Covid. As you might be aware, all issues to do with risk allowances are facilitated and handled by the Presidential Taskforce,” Chimala said.
He said, after learning about Tum’s position, ministry officials had engaged the teachers’ mother union to reach a common understanding.
Chimala said, in the meantime, the government had started responding to Tum’s grievances by, for instance, making personal protective equipment (PPE) available to teachers in all secondary schools.
This includes specialised PPE for those that will be taking care of students in isolation centres in the event of positive cases.
‘‘To help ease the problem of congestion in primary schools, the ministry sourced funds for the engagement of 3,270 IPTE 13 auxiliary teachers out of whom 3,220 were recruited and already reported to their work stations. The ministry expects to facilitate their formal recruitment in the new financial year. The ministry is also considering the IPTE 14 cohort in the same vein,’’ Chimala said.
He added that, to facilitate a safe working environment for teachers as well as ensure the safety of learners, other staff and the community at large, the ministry was constructing 383 low-cost classrooms, drilling 640 boreholes and providing 5,000 portable chalkboards.
Over 13,000 cartons of other materials had also been procured, he said, while K1,139,693,200 had been transferred to schools that are run by councils to facilitate safe learning and teaching.
“Additionally, we have arranged with the Ministry of Health to make sure that boarding students are screened and tested for Covid upon arrival at school; this means learners are not required to pay for the tests in testing centres after presentation on arrival at school,’’ Chimala added.
Last week, Tum members threatened to put down their tools in protest against the government’s reluctance to give them Covid risk allowances.
Meanwhile, Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) President Joseph Patel has said the planned strike has nothing to do with them.