We are in Ntcheu in preparation for the 2016 Independence Day Celebrations. We commiserate with the fact that the President, our President, the President of Malawi, has had to cancel or postpone the only national event outside Sanjika where ordinary Malawians dine, wine and vomit. Instead, Malawians have been asked to pray for the economy to improve or something to that effect.
We do not want to be misunderstood as agnosticists or atheists. So, we will not say much about the link between praying, saving national money and improving the economy. We just believe it is time we left God alone. We believe God must be very tired of our politicised and jingoistic prayers and our lack of seriousness about transforming ourselves. God has tried to help us koma ndife okanika! We repeat that we have enough natural resources and other endowments to individually and collectively, as a country, create wealth and prosperity.
We will be here to heed the presidential advice for us to eat mice, crocodiles, monkeys and other delicacies. Abiti Joyce Befu, also known as MG 66, has already arranged for a local brew at Kandeu. We will be there the whole week. Come and join us. Meanwhile, we are busy reading newspapers and catching up on issues we missed since we went away to Nthalire.
“You know what?” Jean-Philippe exclaimed as we sat down at a shop in Kandeu, which will be our base until July 6 2016.
“What is it?” Abiti asked.
“This guy really managed to walk in the streets naked!”Jean-Philippe went on.
“He was serious about undressing for the sake of albinos…!” the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela chipped in.
“And university students also marched!” Jean-Philippe said.
“About what?” I asked.
“They protested against fees hike,” Jean-Philippe said.
“I would have joined them,” I said.
“Why?” Abiti asked.
“Fees must fall. You see, our policy-makers have a problem. Hiking tuition fees will only result in rich people accessing university education. If Kamuzu Banda had similar ludicrous policies, very few of the current leaders would have gone to school?”
“But,” Jean-Philippe retorted, “back then the population was small and the country was somehow economically sound.
“Malawi’s economy has never been economically sound. The president of that time wanted to build a string civil service and prioritise training and education,” I explained.
“I see,” Jean-Philippe sighed as he took a sip on his fantakoko.
“There are many ways public universities can fund themselves. Student fees is one of them.
“First, the Student Loans Board must define higher education. To me higher education involves all post secondary school training. Our government has sponsored almost all higher education since 1965. The loans board should explain why only university college students have been targeted for loan recovery.
“Second, how will the loans board recover the money the governments spent on educating students from 1965 to 1985 when the University of Malawi (Unima) offered international standard teaching and learning facilities?
“Third, how will the Malawi Government recover the money it has spent on training people abroad and at the Kamuzu Academy?
“Fourth, how will the Malawi Government recover loans from former students who have since died?
“Fifth, have you ever wondered how a government without money, can offer loans at the same time?
“Sixth, why are employers being threatened with financial punishment for failing to reveal the names of their employees as though these employers guaranteed the university student’s loans in the first place?
“Lastly, for now, why can’t the Malawi government appreciate and dollarise the services higher graduates have made to the development of Malawi? In short, all former students have already paid their education loans through committed service in a country where salaries and conditions education of services are extremely poor. The Malawi Government owes the exploited graduates a lot of money and an apology.
“In fact, this nonsense about college fees must stop! In a developing country like Malawi higher education is not a luxury. It is part of human capital and nation building footed by the government. So, fees must fall. Student loans must fall. When we take over government, corporations, philanthropists and trusts such as Press will sponsor university education instead of wasting money on director’s car allowances and parties,” I said.
“I second. No former student should ever repay any loan,” Mandela said.
“I am also tempted to agree. Loans must fall,” Abiti echoed.
“Loan recovery must fall. Now!” sounded Jean-Philippe.n