Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) has given government up to March to address issues affecting teachers who constitute almost half of the 130 000 civil service workforce.
Among the issues TUM wants addressed are clearing of outstanding arrears amounting to K1.7 billion that have arisen due to promotions, deployments and failure to reconcile bank details, recognition of self-upgraded teachers and provision of textbooks for the new curriculum.
TUM has also called on teachers from Mbelwa District Council, which comprises Mzuzu, Mzimba North and South, to stage a sit-in from March 5 following government’s failure to pay 588 teachers their leave grants for the 2016/17 financial year.
The leave grant ranges from K28 000 to K33 000, depending on the teacher’s grade.
In a telephone interview yesterday, TUM secretary general Charles Kumchenga said the issues were discussed with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) whom initially were issued an ultimatum for end February which was shifted to March end following a plea from MoEST officials.
He said failure by government to provide textbooks for the new curriculum is crippling delivery of lessons as teachers to continue using old textbooks.
The warning comes barely a day after TUM wrote MoEST and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development principal secretaries reminding them of their concerns and the ultimatum.
According to the letter which The Nation has seen, TUM says for some time, it has tried to resolve the issue of leave grants amicably but to not avail.
“It is for this reason that TUM has been left with no option but to call for the industrial action which shall be called off only after all said teachers have been fully paid,” reads in part the letter.
But in an interview, MoEST principal secretary Justin Saidi said the ministry is looking into the issues.
“Like the issue of textbooks, some have arrived in the country while some are still on their way and distribution to secondary schools will start soon. It is the wish of the government to see all these issues put to rest,” he said.
Saidi also said government has recruited about 1 200 teachers who upgraded.
But in separate interviews, education activists Benedicto Kondowe and Steve Sharra, described government’s failure to supply the books to all schools as lack of preparedness in the implementation of curriculum reforms.
On leave grants, Sharra said: “When there is such a perennial issue, we wonder if teachers are considered to be important in our country. There is need for teachers’ needs to be met and I think this is a big issue.”
Last year, teachers also went on a nationwide strike to force government pay them leave grants for the 2016/17 financial year which paralysed both primary and secondary education learning.