Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano on Tuesday was taken to task by opposition members of Parliament (MPs) who demanded concrete answers on what his ministry is going to do to deal with the nationwide strike teachers are staging to compel government to address several issues affecting their welfare, including outstanding leave grants.
Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM), a labour union representing over 40,000 teachers, said in a statement that the other outstanding issues include failure by government to settle K353 million salary arrears (split in two categories of K103 million and K250 million) and delays by the ministry to issue letters of promotions.
The teachers union is battling the government over 24 grievances that included withdrawal of teachers’ promotions, the government’s failure to effect salary adjustments for the teachers promoted in 2013, failure by the ministry to pay leave grants to secondary school teachers for the 2015-16 financial year ending June 30, 2016 and delayed payment of salary arrears for all primary school teachers.
In parliament on Tuesday, learners who condemned the government for what they call victimizing their teachers and accused the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of deliberately “violating the right to education” were in attendance when opposition queried government on the matter.
Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga (People’s Party-PP) expressed concern over government silence over the mater, saying the nationwide sit-in was not healthy for the country whose education standards continue to dwindle each passing day.
But Minister Fabiano did not want to take responsibility, saying district councils were in a better position to tackle the issue ‘because the ministry no longer has mandate and/or jurisdiction over such payments’.
“And this is why the Teachers Union of Malawi approached the Ministry of Finance to facilitate the payment of the leave grants. And discussions have taken place and I believe that the district councils shall be in a position to pay the leave grants in due course,” he said.
He assured that the teachers would get their dues, saying the leave grants are for the current financial year, which is July 2016 that ends 30thJune 2017.
“So, the financial year is not over yet until probably 30th June . One cannot say that they have not been paid what they should have been paid in the current financial year,” Fabiano said.
But chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Elias Chakwera, demanded that Fabiano should disclose “when the Ministry of Finance will transfer money to the district councils and when the district councils will implement the payment” and get the schools re-opened.
“I want the Minister of Education to tell this House when the Ministry of Finance will transfer money to the district councils and when the district councils will implement the payment,” he demanded.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told members of Parliament (MPs) that the Treasury had transferred funds to the district councils and that it was now up to the councils to decide when to effect payments.
“As Minister of Education has said, there two people involved there, not himself, but Ministry of Finance and the district councils. Let me just say that, I think we may have to go into detail how this is supposed to be organised. As far as we are concerned, we have transferred funds to the district councils. Now it’s for each district council to actually pay the teachers,” he said.
“That is why he (Fabiano) is not able to tell you the date when the payments are to be made because district councils, not only one, but a number of them; have to decide how they are going to do it. As far as we are concerned, they ought to do it because we have the money now,” added Gondwe.
Meanwhile, District Commissioners (DCs) have since dismissed claims by Minister of Finance.
A local education think tank — Civil Society Education Coalition — has backed the strike.
The think tank’s Executive Director Benedicto Kondowe said the teachers, who are often underpaid, are merely demanding what is due to them.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :