BLANTYRE--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 Pres Joyce Banda also allowed the kwacha to float – allowing the value of the currency to be determined by prevailing market forces - thereby weakening it even further.
Polytethchnic Academic Staff on Welfare Secretary General Gift Khangamwa said the lecturers decided to end their strike after talks with the University Council which 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 didn’t want to be named because he doesn’t speak for 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 set up barricades along the main highway that passes through the college and threw stones at police, hitting one senior officer who suffered facial injuries. Police used teargas to break the protest.
Since the devaluation of the kwacha, that came only weeks after Pres 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.