The Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) says it will hold the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology responsible for any fracas that may occur if their outstanding grievances are not met by October 19.
In a letter to the PrincipalÂ Secretary (PS) in the ministry, dated September 24 2012, TUM is asking the ministry to reintroduce the personal-to-holder policy to promote teachers who have remained on one grade for eight years or more.
TUM president Chauluka Muwake said in an interview on Monday there are many teachers who have not been promoted for over eight years, singling out grades L (PT4) for primary teachers and J (POE) for secondary school teachers.
â€œThe union wants government to clear the backlog and create space for some teachers on these grades thereby reducing the teacher-to-pupil ratio in the country,â€ said Muwake.
He said if government will not respond by October 19, the union will declare a dispute to be followed by unspecified action.
TUM secretary general Denis Kalekeni is on record as saying the last time teachers were promoted was in 2003 when former president Bakili Muluzi ordered that all those who had been on one grade for over eight years be upgraded.
Reads in part the letter signed by Kalekeni: â€œYou will appreciate, Sir, that several meetings have taken place between TUM and MoEST over this issue and nothing tangible has been realised due to the fact that the ministry is also tied up with policy matters.
â€œIn our last meeting, MoEST commended TUM for forwarding the request for promotional on personal-to-holder to Department of Public Service Management as these were the right people to handle our request, that was according to MoEST.
â€œRegrettably, the Secretary for Public Service Management has referred us back to you, Sir, claiming your ministry is responsible for promoting teachers and that you can ably handle our request.â€
Kalekeni and Muwake told a press conference in Lilongwe last week that TUM has done all it could to influence government to promote teachers who have been on the same grade for eight years or more.
PS for educationÂ John Bisika was not available for comment on Tuesday, but is on record to have saidÂ in July that it is the Teaching Service Commission which has mandate to promote teachers after undergoing interviews.
Meanwhile, TUM has also demanded reintroduction of professional and housing allowances on top of teachersâ€™ salaries as one way of addressing the long standing outcry over their poor pay.
Speaking during a press briefing in Lilongwe on the October 5 International Teachersâ€™ Day on Friday, Kalekeni said the allowances were introduced by the UDF administration, but the late Bingu wa Mutharika regime removed them.
Muwake also said delayed payment of salaries continues to frustrate teachers and subjecting them to more suffering. He added that government is yet to pay salary arrears for most teachers despite Treasury recently releasing about K153 million (about $510 000) for the same in about 10 districts.
â€œNonetheless, there are still more teachers that are yet to be paid, some waiting for as long as 12 years. Teachers continue to face a lot of challenges, making them so vulnerable in the society and completely put off,â€ said Muwake.
Said Kalekeni: â€œTeachersâ€™ salaries remain inadequate to meet basic needs. Teachers do not enjoy any allowances like their colleagues in the Civil Service as such they are subjected to katapira type of borrowing.â€Â
On fuel prices
I was surprised at the announcement that fuel prices in Malawi had been adjusted upwards last week. I was gripped with fear on how this would have affected commodity prices, especially considering that it was a third adjustment in just three months!
The following morning, I was shocked to learn that the adjustment was reversed. Shocked because it appeared to be simple to regulate the fuel prices, but yet the same [the reversal] did not happen when motorists complained about the two recent adjustments.
One wonders what kind of economics Malawi is following. Surely, we do not know where our country is heading.
LK/ Via e-mail