GOVERNMENT PARTIALLY BOWS DOWN TO TUM
On 18th February 2021, teachers through their mother body, Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) threatened to
go on strike demanding Government to provide teachers in the country with Covid-19 risk allowances saying they are at high risk of contracting Coronavirus in schools.
This came after the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 through its Co-Chairperson Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda – Minister of Health – announced that schools should reopen on Monday 22nd February 2021 following a five week break to prevent further spread of Coronavirus int he country.
The teachers claimed that they are being exposed to Covid-19 pandemic as they meet a lot of students who hail from different families.
Malawi first closed schools in March 2020 before it confirmed its first three cases during the first wave of the pandemic. It re-opened the schools in September same year, but classes were suspended again for five weeks in
January 2021 because of a surge in the pandemic that saw some teachers and students infected.
After the announcement to re-open schools, some teachers took to the streets to protest demanding
government’s commitment to pay them risk allowances, but police dispersed them claiming the teachers
had not sought permission to hold the demonstrations.
Government engaged the teachers to hold a discussion with the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 where they were told that government cannot provide risk allowances to the teachers as it does not have the funding.
“We will rather prioritize all teachers on the vaccine when it arrives in the country,” said Minister of Education,
TUM through its president, Willie Malimba lamented with disappointment saying it is an insult to teachers and that Government has shown disregard of teachers’ welfare.
“Despite several engagements and please by the teachers for government to address challenges teachers are facing,
nothing has been done. So, until they do so, we will continue boycotting work,” said Malimba.
TUM also met President Lazarus Chakwera on the same and they were told that the Taskforce will map a way
forward on the of risk allowances issue. As the strike was getting close to three weeks, TUM president announced
the calling off of the strike saying he was forced by the former Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Education
Kiswell Dakamawu and Commissioner of Labor to sign a letter calling off the strike to pave way for negotiations with authorities.
Despite that, the strike continued as teachers did not report for work due to lack of assurance on the allowances.
Different stakeholders and individuals commented on the demands by the teachers. Some said Government
should listen to their grievances and take necessary action while others said teachers did not deserve payment risk
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) said “Teachers are really facing challenges which need to be
addressed but they should not just demand allowances because that will be temporary, but they should focus
on asking government to increase their salaries so that it should be a lasting solution.”
A group of teachers from Lilongwe conducted a press Briefing during which they announced that the strike has
been called off but TUM President Willie Malimba distanced himself saying such an announcement can only come from his office and/or the General Secretary of TUM.
Teachers continued with their strike prompting some students to protest against the strike saying they needed to
be in class learning.
Parliamentary committees on Education and Social and Community Affairs summoned TUM for a meeting to
end the misunderstanding on the risk allowances. The outcome of the meeting persuaded TUM to suspend the strike on 8 March 2021, allowing teachers to resume work on March 9.
Among other things, TUM and the Ministry of Education signed an agreement for teachers to drop their initial demand for risk allowances and instead receive in cash funds meant for procurement of their personal protective equipment (PPEs).
They also agreed that once the proposal is endorsed by the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, the taskforce will release once off payment for three months effective March 8, 2021.
A member of Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 Inocencia Chirombo told the meeting that the Taskforce will discuss with relevant authorities to determine how much each teacher would get.
“Once the Taskforce does an Assessment, the money will be paid to the teachers in cash through the division office,” said Chirombo.
In his remarks, TUM president Willie Malimba said the development is a relief to the country as students will go back to school and resume classes.
“We ask the authorities to implement the resolutions because failure to do so will necessitate another strike until we get a positive response,” he said.
Chairperson for Parliamentary committee on Education, Brainex Kaise said the Committee is pleased that they
have had an understanding with the teachers adding that the committee will keep following up on the matter for
Commenting on the same, Principal Secretary responsible for Administration in the Ministry of Education Kiswell
Dakamawu assured TUM leadership of continued engagement to ensure that the welfare of teachers is well looked
However, teachers resumed strike on 6th April 2021 accusing government for failing to meet there demands.
Then later after two days of strike government called for a meeting with TUM to map way forward on solutions
that will make the teachers end there stay away.
Malimba TUM president said they agreed to the meeting with assumptions that government will agree to giving the teachers risk allowance. Whilst in the meeting government went to court to obtain an injunction to halt
the teachers stay way.