We, Ahajj Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD); Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66; the Most Paramount Native Authority Mzee Mandela and I, the Mohashoi, are extremely elated at the news that President Peter Arthur Mutharika (PAM), also popularly known as President Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM), has decided that all public university students who were unwarrantedly sent home for failure to pay tuition fees should return to their university colleges hic et nunc and the Federal Republic of Malawi will foot their academic study bills or provide loans. Uwutu ndiye utsogoleri.
We are happy that the President intervened at the right time to save future intellectuals, non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders, church leaders, politicians, economists, entrepreneurs and, of course, Cashgate experts and tribalists!
We are happy that the President of this federal republic has seen sense in our argument that higher education in Malawi is not a luxury but a priority because this federal republic is still in the process building its human resource base. It is our genuine wish, dream and vision that in the next 50 years, all Malawians shall be able to read in local and foreign languages to participate fully in the development discourse of this, their federal state. We dream that in the next 50 years every Malawi shall be able to calculate and argue logically.
As the great Brazilian educationist, Paolo Freire, put it in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, education empowers and delivers a people from the envelope of darkness, superstitions, witchcraft and other idiotic beliefs into the realm of scientific inquiry, innovation and creativity. Education takes people from the periphery of economic activity into the core of capitalism. Education builds the middle class, which, genuine political economists will tell you, the reason behind material consumption, which in turn, helps businesses to blossom.
This is why we have argued and we repeat it here today, that as long as it remains a hindrance, university fees must go. This we say boldly because we know that this federal republic has enough money and human resources to educate all those who genuinely pass the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE). The four colleges of the University of Malawi (Unima) survive on K5 billion annually. So, the $12 million or approximately K8.3 billion in today’s value that former president Bakili Muluzi is alleged to have swindled would have been enough to run Unima for one-and-a-half years. The approximately K100 billion allegedly stolen between 2009 and 2013 would have been enough to run Unima for 20 years.
Malawi has the money. Used carefully it can transform this federal republic into a prosperous nation and support the education of all Malawian children who genuinely pass the MSCE and qualify.
Our Retired PS (RPS) friend from Salima argued last week that by upgrading colleges into full public universities all students who pass and qualify will be absorbed and end this divisive quota policy.
Now that the President has demonstrated how powerful he is by reversing many backward policies, we count on him to reverse the tribe-based quota system of selecting qualified students into public universities and tuition. Like what South Africa does, the private and semi-government industry in Malawi, philanthropists, and others must be made to contribute instead to the promotion of higher education in Malawi. If need be the president should refine selection quota criteria.
After a thorough analysis of the facts on the ground, Ephraim Nyondo once proposed in the Nation on Sunday Exclusive Enquiry on the Great Education Divide that ‘university selection quota’ should consider the urban-rural divide and not tribe because currently the odds are against poorly resourced rural schools.
We hope that one day all Malawians and their children will be treated equally without regard to their parentage, geographical areas of birth, and their language. It is your time we reversed nonsense into sense and built our legacy now. Let’s ignore the advice of those who went through Malawi’s university free of fees and quota policies because most of them would not have been where they are today if Unima charged fees and Malawi used selection quotas.
It’s your time Mr President. Give us hope. End the university selection quota policy and abolish university tuition fees and build the human resource our national development needs. n