Mali teachers strike over Covid-19 fears as schools reopen
Members of seven teachers' unions refuse to return to work over inadequate protection against the virus
Bamako — Teachers in the West African state of Mali went on strike on Tuesday, the first day schools reopened after being closed for two months, over fears of inadequate protection against Covid-19.
Details of the number of students affected were unavailable, but seven teachers' unions went on strike, officials said, in a move that will affect public primary and secondary schools, as well as teacher-training colleges.
The government shut schools to curb coronavirus in late March. These reopened on Tuesday, but only for final year students who are preparing for exams.
Sambou Diadie Fofana, the general secretary of Mali's National Union of Secondary School Teachers, said the strike was triggered by a “lack of measures (taken) in schools to protect everyone”.
Authorities have recorded 1,351 coronavirus cases in the country to date, with 78 fatalities.
Mali's education ministry did not immediately respond about the number of students and teachers who returned to school on Tuesday.
In a meeting with education organisations on Monday, Mali's education minister Mahamadou Famanta promised that face masks and handwashing kits would be available in schools, local media reported.
Moussa Diallo, a union member and teacher in the capital, Bamako, said that soap and water had been made available in “several places” in his school.
Malian teachers also walked out of classrooms in January — before the Covid-19 pandemic — over a pay dispute.
Authorities had promised salary hikes in October 2016, which never transpired.