A government negotiating team will continue to have talks with Teacher’s Union of Malawi (TUM) officials to reach an understanding and is hopeful the discussion will be amicable and not a protracted one.
In an interview monitored on Capital Radio, Information Minister Gospel Kazako was upbeat a solution will be reached as the issue is not just about government talking to TUM but about what can be achieved in the end.
He called for a realistic approach on the matter to see if government can really afford what the teachers are demanding, and if there is any semblance of affordability how much can it afford.
“It’s not that when government has taken a position it is doing that out of carelessness or out of lack of interest. No! When we take a position, we take a position that is informed, a position that we believe will be sustainable.
“So we are banking on TUM to understand our position as government; but at the same time, we are also very willing to continue talking to TUM because education is very key and I also don’t think that we will be breeding anything positive out of our discussion if we are going to be very addicted to giving each other ultimatums. We need to have adequate time to talk about this, interrogate the issue, create an understanding so that we are able to move forward as government and as TUM.
“We all have the same objective and that’s to educate our people. But I do not think that we need to use ultimatums and others,” said the Minister.
Kazako indicated that government does listen to the teacher’s complaints, appreciates their problems and respects them as a key apparatus to the country’s development.
“We want to construct a totally new way of doing things and approaching matters that are to do with teachers to ensure that pride of a teacher must come back. Teachers must be respected and live a decent life.
“So it’s not a question of just allowances today and tomorrow because we are in a situation of COVID for example. Let’s look at this so that the changes should be once and for all."
The government spokesperson faulted the approach of using ultimatums and expecting government to respond within seven days.
“Now when they gave us seven days I do not know how they calibrated their expectation that within seven days we should be able to come up with an answer; but that notwithstanding, we did not want to go into other details because we believe that TUM means well they’ll be able to understand.
“Whatever position that government will take, be assured that we are taking that position because that’s reality. You see there are times in life that we deal with realism as a government that believes in fulfilling what we have promised.“
He bemoaned the current state of affairs and believes that when they get back to negotiations, teachers will be able to understand and move forward.
Malawi’s public-school teachers resumed their nation-wide strike on Tuesday after the government did not honour a promise to pay risk a once-off allowance for the purchase of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
President of the Teachers Union of Malawi, Willy Malimba, said they began their action after authorities failed to meet a seven-day notice.
"We felt cheated on this one because we agreed and at that time it was a high-level meeting. We did that one at parliament," said Malimba. "We had Presidential Task Force [on COVID-19], we had committee of education, when we were making that agreement.”
Malimba said teachers take risks when working in packed classrooms during the pandemic and will not resume work until the government gives them the promised bonus.
Malawi first closed schools in March 2020, even before confirming its first cases of COVID-19.
The government reopened schools in September only to suspend them again in January after a surge in infections, including among some teachers and students.
Malawi’s teachers first began striking in January when schools reopened. They later suspended their strike after the government promised to give them money to buy PPEs.