In this interview, James Chavula finds out from Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator Chris Chisoni the status of civic education in Malawi ahead of the forthcoming 2014 tripartite elections.
How do you rate the state of civic education in the country?
Civic education, as a broader concept of empowering citizens with knowledge and skills on various issues affecting their lives, is going on well although with some challenges. The challenges being limited financial resources, ever-changing political and economic environment and predominant political rhetoric that sometimes halts proper internalisation of social values.
If civic education is directly linked with elections, then it is clear that many civil society organisations (CSOs) are not yet into it because the electoral calendar is not yet there. Furthermore, funds supporting electoral-related civic education are never available in between elections. This is a major challenge as oftentimes, civic education is done under pressure and within a short time.
What are the greatest emerging civic education challenges between 2009 and 2014?
Key to many of the challenges between 2009 and 2014 are lack of vertical accountability between elected representatives and citizens which is leading to frustrations among citizens as they see no relevance of participating in politics and elections when leaders behave as if citizens were only needed during voting time.
Failure to uphold Section 65 is also a burning issue as it appears political leaders go scot-free once elected and governments do not want to respect this legislation that allows citizens to claim their mandate. It bewilders many citizens as to what citizen participation is all about when political masters remain aloof of what concerns them.
The role of the youth and women as continuously marginalised sections of the society remains a critical challenge as well. There must be means of integrating these sections of society into mainstream processes of politics and civic engagement. Oftentimes, they are abused, used and later put in the peripheral or margins of civic engagement.
What are the most recurring challenges when it comes to civic education as we approach the 2014 general elections?
Late availability of resources for civic education, lack of clarity whether there will be tripartite elections or parliamentary and presidential elections, lack of manifestos and clearly-defined candidates from parties among others, are critical recurrent issues.
What opportunities can civic educators exploit to ensure a successful campaign towards 2014?
Goodwill from cooperating partners to support the civic education component, new Electoral Commission commissioners who can be of good will to have a clear and effective electoral process for the sake of their legacy,
Civic education agents have always complained about delays in funding when it comes to electoral funding. How are you forearming yourself on the road to 2014?
It is not easy on this road. We are planning in advance on the key interventions towards our provision of civic education. We are putting in place resource mobilisation strategies so that we bargain with our cooperating partners for early release of funds for the forthcoming civic education.