Our evening at Zimatherapano was disappointing. The Black Missionary School Band came in good time, arranged and tested the music equipment before disappearing into the Madeko Village for a Rastafarian breather. As we waited for the band to play, Abiti Joyce Befu, also known as MG66, Native Authority Mandela, Sheikh Jean-Philippe SC and I sat in the bar watching European football matches, drinking fantakoko, discussing politics and predicting the outcome of the 2014 elections.
“Why do you call yourself Senior Counsel? Are you a lawyer?” MG66 asked Sheikh Jean-Philippe.
“I am Supreme Comptroller (SC).”
“I have never heard about such a title,” MG 66 said before sipping on her bottle of fantakoko.
As Sheikh Jean-Philippe, SC, and MG 66 dialogued, Native Authority Mandela and I looked on with one eye, literally, as half of our minds were watching European football on the plasma TV in the bar.
“There is something I wanted to ask you,” Native Authority Mandela started, drawing my attention away from the colonial time waster that is football.
“What is it?”I inquired.
“Why does the Malawi Government continue asking people to sit Junior Certificate of Education examinations when everybody knows JC is useless?”
“It is a screening process to ensure that only the best students continue to senior secondary school classes,” I said.
“How useful is the screening process? I know students who have gone on to sit and pass MSCE without passing JC examinations,” Native Authority Mandela asked.
Sheikh Jean-Philippe and MG 66 stopped their dialogue and turned to listen to what we were discussing.
“What is your view?” I asked the Native Authority.
“If I had the power to decide, I would do two things: Scrape off the Junior Certificate Examinations because the Junior Certificate is obsolete. Nobody can be employed based on JC accomplishments. Even the barman here has MSCE. Not so? “Native Authority Mandela said pointing at the barman, who agreed immediately.
“Here, the only people with any qualification below MSCE are the guards, the bouncers and bottle collectors,” the barman, who introduced himself as Ras Man U, said emphatically.
“The Army, Police, PTC and Teachers Training Colleges no longer recruit people with less than MSCE,” MG 66 said, “So, who needs JC and why does government continue wasting money on examinations whose certificate nobody needs?”
“The second thing I would do is disband Maneb,” Native Authority Mandela said.
“What’s Maneb?” Sheikh-Jean-Philippe asked.
“The Malawi National Examinations Board,” I explained.
“But what happens to Primary School Leaving Certificate Examinations and MSCE?” MG 66 wondered.
“The Ministry of Education should resume its responsibility of administering PSLC examinations because, after all, Maneb uses primary school teachers to set and mark the examinations. So what role does Maneb have?” Native Authority Mandela said.
“The University of Malawi or indeed the Ministry of Education should also take charge of the MSCE examinations because, after all, Maneb results are always questioned. Otherwise, why does the University of Malawi continue conducting university entrance examinations if the Maneb examinations are authoritative enough?”
“The Native Authority has a compelling argument,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe said, “Maneb must go immediately.”
“By disbanding Maneb, we’ll save money that will beef up the Ministry of Education to conduct proper examinations,” Native Authority Mandela said.
“I am with you. Only two public examinations are really important in Malawi. Standard Eight examinations screen candidates for secondary education while MSCE identifies who goes to university,” MG 66 summarised Native Authority Mandela’s ideas.
Suddenly, whistling and shouts: “Ma Blank! Ma Blank! Mr. School!” filled the bar. When we turned, we saw the Black Missionary School band members walking onto the stage. Then, power went off. And the patrons started swearing at everybody and everything that matter in Malawi
“I knew. In Escom, we can’t trust!” MG 66 said with a sense of déjà-vu.