Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) president Willie Malimba has insisted that public school teachers will not return to work tomorrow unless government commits to pay them Covid-19 risk allowance.
His stand contradicts a statement some TUM executive committee members issued in Lilongwe on Friday, calling off the strike “following talks with the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19”.
After that declaration, the expectation was that teachers would resume work tomorrow, but in an interview yesterday, Malimba said: “That statement doesn’t mean anything. According to the TUM constitution, it is only the president and general secretary who can issue a statement calling off a strike”.
The TUM leader claimed he was in touch with the teachers’ representatives nationwide, pointing out that they are aware that the strike is continuing.
“The teachers will not follow what the other executive members communicated on Friday. I am communicating with the teachers and they are all behind the decision not to call off the strike,” he said.
“What you should know is that even if the teachers are not asked to stay away, they will still do it as long as their demands have not been met. They know they deserve better,” added Malimba.
Those that hosted the Friday’s conference included TUM second vice-president Raheme Harid, treasurer general Ernest Chirwa and his deputy Elton Chauluka.
Meanwhile, a group calling itself ‘Concerned Teachers of Malawi’ has called for the resignation of these officials “for betraying the already wounded teachers”.
In a statement, which Malimba acknowledged receiving, the group has warned that if the officials do not resign, it will organise “demonstrations nationwide, total closure of TUM offices and vigils in their homes”.
Government has been turning down teachers’ Covid-19 risk allowance demand, claiming “their work does not fall in the category of frontline workers and that it would not be economically sustainable as there are nearly 100 000 teachers”.
Told yesterday that TUM has vowed to continue with the strike, Ministry of Education spokesperson Chikondi Chimala reserved his comment.
“We don’t want to be commenting on TUM issues and their divisions. What I know is that we are providing Covid-19 protective equipment and all the required facilities to ensure schools resume,” he said.
President Lazarus Chakwera suspended schools for over a month to contain the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He ordered the schools to resume last Monday, only for TUM to launch the strike.
Meanwhile, the Association of Christian Educators in Malawi (Acem) has expressed concern over failure to resume classes in public schools.
A statement signed by Acem chairperson Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa and his second-in-command Bishop Fanuel Magangani, reads: “Since the coming of the coronavirus, education has been disrupted on several occasions in a bid to reduce the further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Therefore, any further attempts to disrupt the process of education in the country are unacceptable and uncalled for regardless of the reasons being advanced.”