About 500 schoolchildren broke classroom windows and damaged cars to protest a strike by their teachers in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre, on Wednesday.

The students, aged between six and 12, smashed at least 40 cars, according to police.

“We’re not learning,” the pupils chanted in the local Chichewa language as they blocked one of the city’s main roads with rocks and tree branches.

“We want the president to know we are angry,” said Thoko, a 12-year-old student, who would not give her last name for fear of retribution. “He must pay our teachers so that we can go back to class.”

Dressed in their school uniforms, the students marched toward President Peter Mutharika’s official home in the city. Mutharika was away, attending a graduation ceremony at the University of Malawi.

“Please tell Peter on our behalf to do his best to pay our teachers so that they resume teaching us,” said 11-year-old Vera, who also refused to give her last name. “We also want to be leaders in future. They should not kill our future.”

Police fired tear gas to disperse the children but none of them were injured according to police.

“These were just kids, police had to use minimum force,” said police spokesman Dave Chingwalu .

More than 1,000 teachers went on strike Monday after their salaries were not paid. This is one of a series of strikes by teachers. Malawi’s education ministry said at least 6,600 teachers have not been paid since May.

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