We have to thank our makhosikasi—the Queens—for their magnificent performance in netball. They get Malawi mentioned in international news for honourable reasons just when the foreign media speaks of Malawi as a nation of hungry people, Cashgate crooks, least developed third-rate educational institutions and other rot.
Such a litany can be demoralising, especially to those who have no interest in world history in general and that of Malawi in particular.
From world history we learn that civilisation started in West and East Asia almost at the same time. From civilisation of Western Asia or the Middle East, Greece borrowed and educated other European countries starting with Rome. Jointly, Rome and Greece created the scientific and cultural history of western Europe which has made this part of the world dominant on this planet for two or three centuries.
The decline and fall of the Roman Empire ushered in the period known as the Dark Ages. Secular learning stagnated, Greece no more produced Aristotles, Homers or Pericleses. Rome no longer produced Ciceros, Virgis or Caesars.
In the 14th Century, Italians, who are descendants of Romans, delved into ancient history of both Rome and Athens and decided to revive the spirit and efforts that had made ancient Greece and Rome leading lights of the world west of the Mediterranean Sea. It was in Northern Italy that the Europeans renaissance started. Their great artists like Michael Angelo. Leonardo da Vinci, scientists like Galileo, writer like Dante and Machiavelli lit the new lantern of civilization and the rest of Europe woke up from slumber.
While Italy has continued to breed great people, Greece seems to have given up completely. Italy has produced great explorers like Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci; great sociologists and economists like Vilfredo Pareto even Nobel Prize winners. Greece continues to rest on its laurels and we wonder why. Only lifetime students and analysts of ancient civilization like Professor Pericles, and professor Arnold Toynbe.
Malawi unfortunately is showing the same weakness as Greece in unwillingness to keep pace with those it once led in education and culture. In 1924 there lived in Malawi a commission of inquiry into African education in Eastern Africa. It was called the Phelps Stokes Commission. Its members included Americans, Britons, South Africans and the most popular revered Dr James Kwegyir Aggrey of Ghana.
The commission made the following observations inter alia about Malawians then known as Nyasas.
(a) The types of natives are equal to the best in part of Africa
(b) The native trained in handcrafts, in sanitation and hygiene dependable in character have been welcomed by governments and commercial undertakings in Tanganyika, Belgian Congo, the Rhodesias and Portuguese East Africa.
(c) Of them (Nyasas) it may be said other colonies they are serving but their own people they cannot serve.
(d) Blantyre Mission (HHI) is one of the notable educational institutions in Africa, while its immediate influence is extensively distributed throughout the Southern Province of Nyasaland andits pupils are known in the neighbouring colonies.
During the Phelps Stokes Commission, two Nyasas in South Africa were making or about to make history—, Clements Kadale from Chifira Village, Nkhata Bay was leading the most powerful trade union in Africa, south of Sahara called Industrial and Commercial Workers Union (ICU). In that year a young man from Kasungu who had been working as interpreter in Johannesburg left for the United States where he became the second African from Central Africa to take a medical degree at Moharry Medical College, the first Dr Daniel Malikebu from Chiradzulu had qualified there in 1919.
Southern Rhodesia produced its university graduate, Gideon Mhlanga in 1939, Northern Rhodesia in 1951 John Mwanakatwe.
Educationally, Malawi was ahead of its neighbours. Now in about everything educationally, economically it is at the bottom of the development ladder.
The devices of civilization are produced by a community’s elites. The elite of Malawi must engage in soul-searching and ask why are we letting our country down and then read biographies to try and discover clues to the greatness of nations. n