Like all of us, a decent life is what we all want. Deprivation or poverty is not a good thing at all. Even a mere association with poverty is not that many want. The notion that the nation is the world poorest got many that live in abundance blazing their guns and put some spin to some online report. I wouldn’t blame them. Who said Malawians are not patriotic? At face value, you can see the normality. Having an overly obese bank account, but carrying a tag of coming from the poorest country is not demeaning especially if you have the ego of a triton. Unless, we do something about this tag, the reality remains many do not even have a thin or wasted account let alone a pillow to store anything. Do numbers lie?
This is 2015, two decades and some fast beginning the count for the third one. It is two decades gone since the poverty reduction programme was launched and evolved into all thoughts of things. It is also almost two decades since the vision 2020, untraceable document, was launched. Some of the kids born in 1994 are now out of university. Some never made it to secondary school. That’s how time flies. So where are we?
The folks that authored the report about the nation being poorest or those that “misreported” the facts may unknowingly be so close to the truth. I would believe that all the reaction we have seen is what in aviation is called “anti-collision beacons”. When two aircrafts are flying into each other the folks in the cockpit age a warning. Take it that way, but the idea is poverty is real and the noise or alarms, false or genuine do point to some dangerous path into a deep abyss.
Five years before reaching 2020, the year we set to rate ourselves as a middle income nation, blurred stories about chronic poverty should not be making news rounds and activating any loud mouths. Whether you want to believe any data that in the theory of poverty gives all those academic numbers, let us pay close attention to the basics.
The revolution, if I can call it, in education through free primary education has not yielded any positive results. If you dared visit Kauma primary school on the outskirts of Lilongwe’s affluent suburbs of Areas 10, 12, 43 and 44, you will be surprised to see a “wall less” grass thatched thing operating as a classroom. It is just one example but there are hundreds if not thousands of such facilities across the country where dreams of our people are killed instantly while we hope and believe in some wonder strategy plus bits of donor begging for a prosperous nation.
I don’t want to divulge into other sectors such as health or roads. The picture is no different. But the fact is, when information comes, in whatever form, it doesn’t lie and no matter how we might be tempted to dispute facts, the last two decades have seen the country stagnant. The wave of urbanisation has been rapid as the neglected rural Malawi has become unpleasant place to live. The city populations are rising fast and squatter townships are a norm and all the major four cities including district towns are fast giving rise to squatter settlements. It’s all the hallmarks of inequality.
Before 1994, it was normal to find a child of cabinet minister at a government primary and secondary school. Now it’s impossible and the same holds for the average middle class family living in the cities or districts. When one vice president nominee got all of us talking about the “gini coefficient” I was kind thrilled with my obsession with all things statistical, just like many others. It is inequality across families and a bit of geography that must get us to think seriously how we can un-shake the state of poverty.
Many times, they say it is very difficult to understand the truth if you are out of touch or have no experience in things “poverty”. If you can afford private health insurance and fly out to have a headache treated at Milpark Hospital, it is difficult to understand that thousands are laying hopeless to access basic care for treatable infections at remote health facilities. Similarly, if one can afford to send their children to high paying private schools, it is also difficult to appreciate the troubles of kids that walk five kilometres to learn at under some tree, now threaten by timber sharks. I don’t condemn success and progression in the life of individual citizens, but if policy making and execution is infiltrated by a philosophy of being out of touch with lives of ordinary lives, we should all get worried.
I believe the nation has become so urban minded in its ideology of prosperity across all sectors bit public or the civil society. Unless we sober up and think beyond utter selfishness and ignore what is in for me mentality, we should accept the tag of being poorest. The only way to fix poverty is to deal with issues that disadvantage the majority of the population living very miserable lives. Being branded a poor country, unfortunately has a lot of consequences for all citizens globally, not good ones for sure. n