COVID-19 Risk Allowance Debacle Refuses to Die

COVID-19 Risk Allowance Debacle Refuses to Die

Some education stakeholders have expressed concern over continued conflicting statements coming from Ministry of Education and Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM) on possible resumption of school, describing them as confusing.

The Association of Christian Education in Malawi (ACEM) has noted with “deep concern” the deadlock between government and TUM over teachers’ demand for risk allowances.

In a statement jointly signed by ACEM Chairperson Bishop Luke Msusa and Dr Fanuel Emmanuel Magangani, the organisation observed that much as education has been disrupted on several occassions in a bid to reduce further spread of coronavirus, any further attempts to disrupt the process of education in the country are unacceptable and uncalled for regardless of the reasons being advanced.

Learners: Greatly Affected

Speaking in a continental virtual event organised by Save the Children, Plan Internaltional and the CSO Forum (on Child Rights) to mark this years’ International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) on Friday, fifteen-year-old Alertha Banda lamented the disregard for children’s views on matters that concern them, making reference to the ongoing debacle.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how children’s views are neglected on matters concerning them. Children are the invisible victims in all the disagreements regarding risk allowance as a result of the pandemic,” she said.

Malawi first closed schools in March 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.

Schools were reopened in September 2020 but classes were suspended again for five weeks in January because of a surge in another wave of COVID-19 that saw some teachers and students affected.

Government, on Friday, declared that the public teachers strike that has been going on for two weeks is now over saying parties had reached a consensus.

However, TUM President Willy Malimba made a U-turn barely hours after announcing that the stay away has been called off, maintaining that the strike is
continuing.

Malimba told us that the nationwide strike will continue until government addresses their grievances, including on Covid-19 risk allowances demand.

But the sentiments contradict those contained in a communique that went viral on social media on Thursday, where both Malimba and Kiswell Dakamau, Principal Secretary responsible for adminstration jointly signed, indicated that the two sides had agreed to end the strike.

However, Malimba told iHubOnline that he signed the letter under duress, when he was pressurised by the principal secretary and commissioner of labour to sign the letter calling off the industrial action.

“I was forced to sign that letter, it was not my intention. We are still maintaining our stand that teachers will go back into class until government release the funds. We need a provision of a minimum of K35 000 which is subject to change, as a risk allowance to every teacher per month for six week,” said Malimba.

When asked on whether this may not impact already ailing country’s education standards, the TUM President said: “We are equally concerned and we need public schools to resume. But that can only be done if government heeds to our voice.”

But recently, government through Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, made it clear that it will not pay teachers risk allowances saying this might have monetary and budgetary consequences on part of government.

Contradicting Malimba’s stand, Dakamau has announced that teachers will now resume work as the two parties have reached a consensus on resumption of schools.

Commenting on these two conflicting statements, Parliamentary Committee on Education Chairperson Blaise Kaisi said this is a sign that two parties are failing to find a solution to the matter.

Kaisi said the committee will intervene on the matter as it is now getting out of hand.

“Parliament is very concerned with this issue, this is now getting out of hand. Why can’t one party bow down to the other and see the way forward. Soon we will call both parties to parliament and hear their sides, to amicably resolve this,” said Kaisi.

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