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TUM suspends teachers’ strike

Students in government schools are expected to return to classes today, Tuesday, as the Teachers Union of Malawi – TUM has suspended strikes by teachers.

The development has come following discussions between the union and the joint parliamentary committee on education and social and community affairs, the Presidential Taskforce on Ccovid-19, ministry of labour and the ministry of education.

The meeting which took all day at Parliament in Lilongwe on Monday was also attended by representatives of TUM from several other districts who came in large numbers.

A document that has been signed after the meeting agrees that the suspension of the strike will only last for the period they have agreed to have their grievances on Covid-19 risk allowances settled. The union and others education stakeholders at the meeting further agreed that Personal Protective Equipment – PPE will be provided to teachers in cash for a period of three months.

A member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19, Innocencia Chirombo, points out that the taskforce will discuss the matter the moment it is presented by the concerned stakeholders and a resolution to the teachers will be provided thereafter.

“What we are saying is that instead of giving the teachers hand sanitizers and face masks, these will be given in cash that will go to their divisions for teachers to manage PPEs themselves.

“Now what we are waiting for is the education sector to submit the proposal to the Presidential Taskforce for review and approval,” indicated Chirombo.

She further added that presently, no commitment can be made on how much money each teacher will be getting out of the proposed provision.

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Innocencia Chirombo, a member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19
Innocencia Chirombo, a member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19

Chairperson for the parliamentary committee on education, Brainax Kaise, has on his part applauded the stakeholders for committing to resolve the matter which had heavily affected the education sector.

“As a committee, we will be following up on this issue and other issues that they signed before, including promotions, filling of vacancies and arrears for teachers to be implemented,” explained Kaise.

The strike which had been going on for two weeks was demanding the provision of risk allowances amounting to K35,000 for each teacher every month.

President for TUM, Willy Malimba, told the meeting that teachers are more at risk than earlier understood because even when a few teachers are oriented on how to handle Covid-19 suspected cases, they expertise cannot match that of medical personnel.

Malimba has therefore stressed that failure to get approval from the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 will force teachers to go back on strike.

“We have just suspended the strike, which means that if the taskforce or government does not approve what we have agreed here, the strike will start again, but we are happy that the proposal has been sent to government and we are sure it will be approved,” Malimba said.

At the onset of the meeting, the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 warned that if teachers are given money as risk allowances, other sectors that equally feel exposed to the pandemic will demand a payout equal to that which teachers get.

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