Teachers at Nasiyaya Primary School in Blantyre rural have threatened to leave their posts because a contractor removed some solar panels from their newly-constructed houses.
The contractor removed six solar panels from three teachers’ houses three days after the structures were handed over to the community, according to the school’s head teacher Susan Sitole.
She said the panels were removed on January 17 2013 allegedly on instructions from the contactor, Henry Shawa, who is also Member of Parliament for Bangwe.
“I was surprised by four men who came to remove the panels that caused an instant blackout to the three teachers’ houses. They said they were under instructions from Shawa to remove the solar panels and batteries.
“I resisted because they did not have any documentation. My understanding was that Shawa was contracted by Unicef to build three classroom blocks and the teachers’ houses with all accessories. It came as a big surprise when the panels were removed,” she said.
Sitole said she spoke to Shawa the same day and he told her to let the men remove the panels, but did not justify the decision.
Later, she also enquired from the district education manager who, she said, also confirmed the development after apparently speaking with the district commissioner.
Sitole said electricity has become erratic at the teachers’ houses, with one threatening to move back to Chilobwe from where he was operating.
One house has been occupied by Sitole while one is vacant because teachers are refusing to occupy it owing to the problem.
She said the houses would have served as an incentive for teachers to move to rural areas since operating from a distance poses problems of late coming as some teachers come from Chilobwe, Bangwe and Ndirande.
The school is located about 12 kilometres from Limbe Market.
Shawa referred the matter to a consultant contractor, Jaan Sonke, who, he said, instructed him to remove the solar panels.
Sonke said the three solar panels were not within Unicef’s specifications, but was an error on the part of the contractor.
Unicef construction officer Rodgers Banda said in an interview on Thursday that there are technical reasons the solar panels were removed. He refused to elaborate, saying he does not speak for the body.
Malawi’s Ministry of Education spokesperson Lindiwe Chide said on Thursday the original design of the houses had only one solar panel, not three.