BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)—Malawians across the country have expressed their disappointment with Mibawa Television presenter Steve Banda for uttering insensitive remarks against teachers’ demand for risk allowances as the government plans to reopen all schools amid covid-19 spike.
Government closed all schools, colleges and universities in March this year before registering any case as one way of containing the spread of the novel Coronavirus which has wreaked havoc across the world.
But after doing a cost-benefit analysis in regards to closure of schools, the government, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, has been forced to re-open schools though the covid-19 cases are currently on the rise.
In a press statement titled “Path to reopening of schools, universities and colleges”, the education ministry indicated risk allowances as one of the challenges as they plan resumption of classes in the country.
But during a popular talk-show programme called Gwede Gwede host Steve Banda with guest Chawezi Banda said the teachers do not deserve risk allowances arguing the demands are coming because the new administration of Lazarus Chakwera has set a bad precedence of bowing down to any demands.
“Where the risk is coming in for teachers? Unlike health workers who handle patients teachers will be handling healthy students. I think they are just taking advantage of the precedence of bowing down to any demands by the current government,” Steve Banda argued.
Reacting, Malawians have accused the Mibawa Television for being agents of teachers’ oppression considering that Malawi Prison Services workers are also receiving allowances though they are not handling patients as per Steve Banda’s ‘irrational’ argument.
“These journalists must read widely if they avoid making such embarrassing remarks. What I witnessed yesterday on Mibawa TV was one example of convoluted synthesis of information by our journalists in the country.
“I did not such insensitive remarks from Mibawa TV on that very important matter. If we are to reopen schools, teachers are the main stakeholders and jibing at their demands for risk allowances is one way of frustrating government efforts to have a safe reopening of the education institutions. Risk allowances is a matter between employer and employees so it is very strange for a third party to intervene in such a manner,” said one Blantyre resident who identified himself as Chifunda Mbinga.
He added: “If Chawezi Banda and Steve Banda say teachers are not at risk, I am sure they were in Mars when the governments across the world ordered closure of schools. If they were on planet earth by the time Peter Mutharika ordered a closure of schools they would know the reason why teachers deserve risk allowances when schools reopen.
“Unlike doctors, teachers are not trained to handle diseased people so any exposure to such an environment becomes a risk.”
In a statement circulating on social media, primary and secondary school teachers have demanded immediate apology from the two presenters and the management of Mibawa TV.
“MIBAWA TV must appologise teachers!!! Teachers are human beings who deserve good working conditions just like any other civil servants. The schools were among the closed institutions because teachers are always at risk of any infectious diseases that may come on their way from learners or visitors who may be of different healthy backgrounds.
“Now Mibawa TV is undermining the significance of paying teachers risk allowances through their program known as “Gwedegwede” presented by Steve Kondwa Banda and his guest. Don’t take teachers quietness for granted. We saw prison officers staging strikes in the process of forcing the previous government to give them risk allowances. Did your media condemned our fellow civil servants? What justification for their demonstrations convinced you? Are they health workers? reads the statement.
“We witnessed patients in various health centres and hospitals unattended due to strikes by health personnel demanding the then government to provide them PPEs and risk allowances. They demanded risk allowances yet they have PPEs at their disposal. What made you silent on the same? Now that schools are opening you expect teachers to be quite even though they will be exposed to different learners from different walks of life. And this is not risking their lives? Are you telling me that the life of the other civil servants is more precious than that of teachers? Do you hate teachers or you are among the ones promoting their hard working conditions? Do you feel happy seeing teachers kicking the backets due to TB caused by their exposure to chalk dusts and other numerous risks?” the statement reads further.
Responding, Mibawa TV management has indicated that it is addressing the issue.
“The issue about the teachers being challenged on their request for a risk allowance by our journalists is being addressed between Mibawa Management and the Teachers Union of Malawi. The teachers will be given a platform to make their case. If we stop people from giving their opinion, we stop the opportunity for debate and growth of our nation. We believe teachers will understand this more than anyone else,” reads the statement on their official facebook page.
However, one facebook user has described the Mibawa TV management statement as a display of arrogance and distorted meaning of freedom of opinion.
“Freedom of opinion is fine. …but whereby that opinion is aiming at discrediting other people or professionals I think that’s not fine . Government closed schools saying such work places could be more risky to both the staff and students and here we have a “professional ” journalist underrating the risk and say no need to compensate these teachers. Shame on the journalist. ..shame on the TV for being arrogant,” responded Fanuel Kachiwuondo.