Tear gas fired at Malawi school pupils' protest

File photo: Peter Mutharika Peter Mutharika promised Malawians a better life when he won elections in May

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Police in Malawi have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of school pupils protesting at the government's delay in paying their teachers' salaries.

The students, aged between six and 12, took to the streets of the main city, Blantyre, in an impromptu strike.

About 6,500 teachers in public schools have not been paid since May, and around 1,000 are boycotting classes.

Western donors froze aid worth around $150m (£95m) after Malawi's government was hit by a huge corruption scandal.

An audit last year found that about $60m had been skimmed from government funds.

About 40% of Malawi's budget is donor-funded.

Several government departments are running at barely a quarter of their monthly budgets, according to local media.

Chanting "We're not learning! We're not learning!" in the local Chichewa language, the pupils blocked the road leading to President Peter Mutharika's official residence with tree branches, rocks and boulders.

"We want the president to know we are angry. He must pay our teachers so that we go back to class," said one pupil.

"We also want to be leaders in future. They should not kill our future," another pupil commented.

President Mutharika was in the eastern city of Zomba conferring diplomas and degrees to university graduates.

Education ministry spokesman Manfred Ndovi confirmed that at least 6,600 teachers had not been paid since May.

"Of the 10,000 teachers recruited by our ministry in May, we managed to put about 2,800 on the pay-roll by September," he said.

Mr Ndovi added that it was proving to be "very cumbersome" to put the teachers on the government pay-roll.

"We have been let down by the process as it involves district offices, the Treasury, the Department of Human Resource and our ministry," he explained.

Map of Malawi showing the capital Lilongwe and the southern city of Blantyre - 19 November 2014

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