Commentators continue giving mixed views on a Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) resolution to resume their strike following government’s failure to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) allowances.
TUM president Willie Malimba last week announced in a statement addressed to principal secretaries for ministries of Education and Local Government that the union had given government seven days notice for the resumption of the strike as prescribed by law.
The decision was made after Parliamentary Committee on Education chairperson Brainex Kaise told TUM that the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 rejected their proposal for teachers to get a cash equivalent of PPE for three months.
But giving their views on the Sunday Roundtable programme aired by privately-owned Capital Radio monitored by The Nation, some people felt TUM’s position was unjustifiable while others supported the teachers.
In his contribution, social and political commentator Victor Chipofya Jnr said it was sad that while other countries were focusing on fighting Covid-19, TUM was inconsiderate of learners.
“We haven’t heard of strikes over allowances in other countries. TUM should fight for long-term incentives that would change teachers’ status than a once-off allowance,’’ he said.
Another contributor identified as Parry Chinyama also wondered why TUM insisted that teachers were at risk of contracting Covid-19 like other frontline health workers when they do not handle patients.
But an anonymous caller from Chiradzulu faulted government’s handling of the teachers’ demands, asking President Lazarus Chakwera to intervene and find lasting solutions to the teachers challenges.
“If another strike by teachers indeed begins, learners will be the victims. They are already heavily affected after several weeks of no lessons due to the Covid-19-induced closures. Authorities need to be considerate because these strikes can be avoided,” he said.
But defending their position, Malimba, who was part of the programme’s guests, maintained that teachers deserved the allowances that were proposed by government during a deal that ended the stand-off.
“This suggestion of providing us cash instead of PPEs came from government representatives, not the union. It is unfortunate that the task force decided to change tune over the matter; hence, our decision to resume the sit-in.”
Last year, government ordered schools closure in March for five months to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Early this year, schools were closed for another five weeks in the second wave of the pandemic. When government announced the re-opening of schools in February, TUM went on strike for two weeks demanding a Covid-19 risk allowance.