'Taskforce has no mandate to approve teachers' demands'

Khumbize Chiponda Health Minister

The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 says it does not have the mandate to approve teachers' demands on the provision of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)’s in cash as a once off payment to cover for the next three months.

Co-chairperson of the Taskforce Khumbize Kandodo disclosed this during ZBS’s Tiwuzeni Zoona’s programme on Sunday.

This comes against a background of teacher’s intention to resume the industrial action which was suspended as a consequence of the mutual understanding that was signed on 8th March, 2021.

While acknowledging teachers' contribution to the country’s education sector, she indicated that the Taskforce's, mandate is to ensure the respective clusters get the necessary funding in response to the pandemic.

“So as the Presidential Taskforce, we cannot overstretch our mandate as we don’t have such powers. For instance in the education sector, our mandate ends where they are supposed to provide us with their budget.

“They gave us their budget totaling to K5 billion which included provision of PPEs, drilling of boreholes, increasing the number of classes and we scrutinised their budget and we gave them the K5 billion,” she clarified.

Teachers intend to resume their industrial action

Chiponda pointed out that by the time the discussion of the once off cash payment came into play; the money had already been disbursed and she suspected that by then PPEs were already procured.

A joint Parliamentary Committee of Education and social and community affairs facilitated a joint stakeholder’s engagement between Teachers Union of Malawi and Ministry of Education to resolve the impasse which led to their stay away from their duties at a meeting took place on 8th March, 2021 in Lilongwe.

However, the Taskforce through a letter dated 24th March 2021, rebuffed the teachers demands.

“Noting that funding for, and procurement of various equipment and materials for addressing  COVID-19 response, including PPEs, for all manner of beneficiaries are managed, through established clusters and local councils on the basis of approved and following standard government procurement and financial accountability procedures and guidelines

“The Taskforce wishes to advise that it cannot support the resolutions,” read the letter.