On January 5, Sambalikagwa Mvona, president of the Malawi Writers Union telephoned me to go and meet Kingsley Jika, Publishing Coordinator of Chancellor College Publications. Jika told me that his firm had translated my book Let Us Fight for Africa into Chichewa as Tiwombole Africa. He said further that they might put it in a bid for use as a Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) literature book.
Among the many books found in bookshops, they chose to translate Lets Us Fight for Africa because they saw some merit in it. It is sometimes embarrassing for an author to write about the qualities of his own book. Yet when a pharmaceucist has invented a new drug and they extort it through adverts, no one faults them for doing so. A person who wants to be elected to a council or Parliament talks of their virtues which they want voters to take note of. It is only when people are given correct information that they are able to decide whether something is worth their dollar or not. Private medical practitioner must indicate their qualification on the door outside their clinics.
In the year 2008, Mvona informed me that the Pan- African Writers Association (Pawa) whose headquarters were in Accra, Ghana had invited African writers to bid for membership of an exclusive club of great African writers. He asked me and three other Malawians to send three or four samples of the books we had written. Among the three I sent, Let US Fight for Africa was one of them. A year later, I learned that my name had been included in the club of 23 great African writers.
Of the three books, I believe it was Let Us Fight for Africa that had appealed most to the judges. It is a play in Shakespeare type of verse and Moliere type of rhyming. It has a pan-African tune about a revolutionary who is an object of study in universities in Africa and abroad.
Dr Robert Laws, Livingstonia’s pioneer missionary used to say what you want to see in the country first put it in its schools. An appeal has been made to Malawians to be patriotic. If there are to be patriots in Malawi, elements of patriotisms should be introduced in schools. Pupils and students should read and learn about the heroes of our nation. These heroes were the patriots of yesterday whose examples should be emulated. Let Us Fight for Africa is about John Chilembwe’s attempts to secure by peaceful means the better treatment of his people. He resorted to armed struggle after his peaceful attempts had failed. His willingness to risk all he had for the good of his compatriots was the essence of patriotism.
Not all MSCE students choose history for their examinations; hence, they are not exposed to lessons on Chilembwe. But Chichewa is a compulsory subject and Let Us Fight for Africa is a historical play. All students will thus be acquainted to Malawi’s national hero through Tiwombole Africa.
The University of Lynchburg in the US where Chilembwe graduated and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland have engaged in discussion, researches and writing about Chilembwe to a level our educational institutions have not marched. This book in translation will facilitate the reputation of Chilembwe. The nation has a duty to appreciate Chilembwe better than through radio broadcasts made once a year.
For the above reasons, let us hope that the bid to have Tiwombole Africa on MSCE syllabus will be favourably received. Equally important is the fact just as God helps those men and women who help themselves, so the authorities must help Chancellor College to help itself. Time and time again appeals have been to public universities to engage in activities that would generate income for their budgets instead of all the time going hay in hand to the Ministry of Education or the Chancellor.
One of the commonest methods for universities to raise funds is through their publications. Who has never come across books published by the universities of Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard? Besides university’s publications enhance its reputation. Such books are not the majority of cases written by staff members of the universities. Often established authors, professionals and academics are commissioned to write a book on a particular subject. Indeed, sometimes a university republishes books (with permission) published by others. In my private library, I have Harvard classics consisting of famous books from many parts of the world but mostly from Britain and continental Europe.
Should this Tiwombole Africa be adopted, thousands of MSCE students will be obliged to buy copies, thereby generating highly needed income for Chancellor College. Parents and the public in general find it painful to hear once more that the college has been closed over college fees or allowances. Once the college generates its own income from book sales, we shall be hearing fewer and fewer of these hiccups. Help Chancellor College to be semi-autonomous financially through book sales.
It has been said the best way to help a person who needs fish is not to give him fish but a net and let him do his own fishing. Help Chancellor College develop its own income-generating activities.