Malawi schools re-open … without teachers

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Blantyre - Schools in Malawi reopened February 22, 2021 after being closed for five weeks as a pandemic control measure – but in many instances teachers did not show up.

Educators have said they will only resume work if they are paid a risk allowance and provided with personal protective equipment.

The Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 last Wednesday said the decision to reopen schools was reached after considering that cases and deaths were declining.

“We have put in place measures to ensure that we decongest classes of which among them include shift-learning by students and construction of temporary classrooms where other students will be learning,” said Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, co-chairperson of the Presidential Task Force COVDI-19.

But a memo signed by Teachers Union of Malawi president Willie Wills asked all public school teachers and lecturers at teacher training colleges not to report for duty.

“Teachers will call off the strike upon the government's commitment to provide risk allowances and personal protective equipment to all teachers,” the unionist said.

The strike has drawn the ire of learners and their parents/guardians, who say teachers are trying to hold the nation at ransom.

“I expected to start catching up once the schools reopened but what we have found today is very disappointing,” said one pupil.

The visit by The Southern Times to some schools in Blantyre showed learners were not unsupervised, with some roaming the streets and others heading home.

In Lilongwe and Blantyre, demonstrating teachers were dispersed by police officers who said their gatherings were illegal.

A representative of the teachers, Azeez Losa, said of the police action: “We see this as an injustice to the welfare of teachers because the best what the law enforcers could do was just to allow them proceed with the demonstrations.”

Education Ministry spokesperson Chikondi Chimala assured teachers of the government's commitment to safeguarding their welfare.

“We are currently discussing with teachers on how we can deal with this problem but let me assure them that the government will protect them,” Chimala said.

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