BLANTYRE (Moses Michael-Phiri, AA) —Police on Monday fired tear gas at hundreds of Malawian schoolchildren, after they took to the streets of the commercial capital Blantyre, to protest a nationwide teacher’s strike.
Chanting “Pay our teachers; we want to go back to school!” the schoolchildren — some as young as six years — blocked roads with rocks and tree branches.
In some parts of the country, the students blocked main roads by setting tires on fire and pelting stones at cars passing by, police said.
James Kadadzera, national police spokesman confirmed that the security forces had used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
He said no one was injured. “All we wanted was to maintain law and order. Excessive force was not used,” he said.
The protesting students accused the Education Ministry of violating their right to education, because the children of politicians study in private schools, or abroad.
“We will not sit at home while their children are learning in private schools,” said 13-year-old Mada, who refused to give his surname.
Some 40,000 public school teachers in Malawi began a nationwide strike last week, following the government’s failure to address several issues affecting their welfare.
“We are not returning to work until the government addresses our grievances,” Teachers Union of Malawi president Willie Malimba told Anadolu Agency last Monday.
The teachers’ union is battling with the government over 24 demands, which include failure to make salary adjustments and pay leave grants.
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe last week told lawmakers, who are currently scrutinizing the upcoming national budget, that the teachers will be paid their leave grants soon.