About 24 years after Malawians made a bold decision to allow multiparty politics and with it an all-inclusive beautifully crafted Constitution that advocated for freedom of assembly and the right for one to express themselves, primary school pupils shocked the nation when they took to the street making outrageous demands.
This not being the first time—at her peak Joyce Banda was left flustered with a similar incident—it is folly to think even for a second that teachers, or even parents and guardians of these pupils would intentionally send out their children to be teargassed or even arrested.
But from the events of this week, one lesson has come out: Malawi is raising a fearless and dangerous generation and every politician should be very afraid.
That primary school pupils can successfully overwhelm and beat up a police officer trained in combat and riot control speaks of the magnitude of lawlessness that is prevalent in this country.
But as usual, the response from the people that the pupils’ parents put in power is lukewarm.
A seemingly clueless former principal of Chancellor College and now Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano does not know what to do.
On the day that he came under heavy criticism from members of Parliament for doing little to resolve the primary and tertiary education crisis that has gripped the nation, Fabiano cowered behind the jackets of the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe who gladly welcomed the missiles from across the aisle.
In a rush, the hapless Minister of Education has called for a meeting between the Chanco staff union, the university council and government officials which by all indications will end in another impasse.
One would imagine that perhaps the minister has the lofty ambitions of beating the record of the number of months Chancellor College can remain closed ably set by the current president Peter Mutharika when he was Minister of Education. Then it was nine months when lecturers incensed by the actions of the government to plant spies in the lecture rooms refused to teach until there was assurance that this would not happen.
It is now almost four months since students at Chancellor College were told to stay home because their lecturers want to be paid as much as those teaching at College of Medicine and other constituent colleges of University of Malawi.
What the country is crying for at this moment is leadership and this is highly lacking in the manner in which the government has approached the crisis.
If only those in power and leadership would realise that the more time school children spend away from the classroom, the more mischief they enter into.
It is an unstable period for young university students to be loitering in a country not known for a spirit of volunteerism.
If 38 girls at a secondary school attending classes can become pregnant, what do the leaders expect of college students idling their time away at home? How will these girls and boys resist the temptation to partake in drugs and unsafe sex? Has the Ministry of Health engaged an extra gear to reach out to these youths?
At a time when there is a nationwide campaignto vaccinate children against measles rubella, most of whom are school going, chances are high that the majority will not be reached which will be a recipe for measles outbreak in future.
Has the Ministry of Education’s divisions empowered school committees in rural areas to reach out to the striking teachers to relent and allow school children to learn while Goodall and the councils sort out the leave grant mess?
What are the chances that all children will go back to school to finish the term once this crisis is over?