Blantyre, Malawi, Sept. 17 (Newstime Africa) – Things slowly but surely returned to normal on the campus of the Malawi Polytechnic, the Blantyre constituent college of the University of Malawi, as lecturers resumed classes ending their five-week strike over pay. The lecturers downed tools demanding a 113 per cent salary increase in the wake of the recent 49 per cent devaluation of the Malawi currency, the Kwacha. The government of President Joyce Banda also allowed the kwacha to float – to liberalise the kwacha so that its value should be determined by prevailing market forces – thereby weakening it even further.
Polytechnic Academic Staff on Welfare PASCOW) Secretary General Gift Khangamwa said the lecturers decided to end their strike after talks with the Council of the University of Malawi that oversees operations of public universities.
“Council convinced us it has no money to increase our perks beyond the 25 per cent they offered so we had no choice but to accept that,” he said.
Khangamwa, however, said Council agreed to be increasing their salaries periodically.
When the University Council offered public universities the 25 per cent pay hike all public university colleges accepted and shelved their plans to go on strike but the Malawi Polytechnic – which was already in the middle of a strike – refused, demanding more negotiations.
“Life is back to normal now at the Malawi Polytechnic,” said Khangamwa.
A lecturer, who did not want to be named because he was not a spokesman of the lecturers, said there will be a lot of catching up to do.
“We lost five weeks, we need to go into overdrive to cover the ground we lost,” he said.
At one point the students joined the fray to force the University Council to find a solution to the stand-off. They made their voice heard by holding rowdy demonstrations that poured into the main Masauko Chipembere Highway. They blocked the highway with boulders prompting police to use teargas to break the demonstration.
But the students vented their anger on a senior police officer who had to be treated for deep cuts in the face.
Since the devaluation of the kwacha, that came only weeks after President Banda assumed office following the death of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika in April, a number of both private and public institutions have gone on strike demanding more money to cushion the effects of the sharp increase in commodity prices.(rt)
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