By Moses Michael-Phiri
Public school teachers in Malawi began a nationwide strike following government’s failure to address several issues affecting their welfare.
Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), a labour union representing over 40,000 teachers, announced the strike to press government meet their demands.
“We are not returning to work until government addresses our grievances. We are appealing to all public school teachers to join this action,” TUM president Willie Malimba told Anadolu Agency.
Students also condemned the government for what they call victimizing their teachers.
They also accused the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of deliberately “violating the right to education”.
A presidential aide and adviser on civil society organizations, Mavuto Bamusi, condemned the strike, asking the teachers to ignore the union's call.
But, the union insisted that the teachers would not back down.
“Of course, we share the pupils’ concerns. But there is nothing we can do now. We have had enough of government lies,” said Malimba.
The teachers union is battling the government over 24 grievances that included withdrawal of teachers' promotions, the government’s failure to effect salary adjustments for the teachers promoted in 2013, failure by the ministry to pay leave grants to secondary school teachers for the 2015-16 financial year ending June 30, 2016 and delayed payment of salary arrears for all primary school teachers.
A local education think tank -- Civil Society Education Coalition -- has backed the strike.
The think tank’s Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe told Anadolu Agency that the teachers, who are often underpaid, are merely demanding what is due to them.
Most teachers in the southern African nation get as low as $68 a month. The minimum wage in Malawi is $34.
TUM boasts the largest constituency of civil servants with a membership of over 37,000 in both public primary and secondary schools out of the estimated teacher population of 78,000.