By Joseph Loga:
Malawi clocked 55 years of independence from British, making an assessment of the present situation necessary.
According to the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census, Malawi has an estimated population of 17.5 million people, up from 13 million in 2008.
In the past decades, Malawi has instituted some economic and structural reforms and sustained economic growth.
However, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The question is:
Will Malawi develop?
However, according to my line of thinking, all systems which are used to run this country must be revised. This is because, in 1964, we began a new journey. In this new journey, we must, for example, amend our electoral laws which, if the May 21 Tripartite Elections are anything to go by, have proved to be outdated.
Next on the ‘amendments’ table should be our education system. This is because almost all students from institutions of higher learning in Malawi know that our schools are for show-off, and not for learning.
I have proved this through the first phase of my research into Malawian colleges (2018-2025).
When our parents enroll their wards in schools, they enroll them into a never ending sequence of competitions; to see who the best is and who can get the best grades.
The highest ‘scorers’ on standardised tests, notably Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations, win the most respect. Successful students make it into public colleges such as University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic, Chancellor College, Kamuzu College of Nursing and College of Medicine; Mzuzu University; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar); and Malawi University of Science and Technology.
All this has nothing to do with learning. Actually, guardians hardly even bother to think of what we are actually learning in school; they only care about our grades.
In my research, the hypothesis is ‘Pass and Proceed Theory’, which states that:
Exams never test intelligence, they just weigh memory. We read, memorise, write and forget’
It sounds jokey and unconstructive but this is what is happening in our institutions of higher learning and you might also be one of the victims, as a resident of Malawi, one of the most undeveloped countries in the world.
Students from most colleges in Malawi were, and are, still welcome to criticise or comment on this observation. Here is part of the feedback I received:
“Societies are suffering because of the ‘educated’ man that got the paper and forgot what they were taught.” This is according to Aaron Mboma, an education studies graduate from the University of Livingstonia.
Joel Dzinkambani, third-year student at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, agrees.
“The reason behind this is that our curriculum leaves out things that really matter out there, like time management, money management, relationship management which are crucial for someone to survive in this world. Three quarters of the things we learn in school are useless out there. It’s like the more we learn, the less we know”.
Natalia Kachoka Bukalia, third-year year student of law at Catholic University of Malawi, puts it bluntly.
“We ‘pass and proceed’ to get the degree and make our parents happy,” she said.
Another student, Comfort Indunduzo Chauluka, who is Chancellor College Students Union Director of Academic Affairs (2018/19) weighs in. “The system of education used in colleges might be the problem. There is a lot of pressure put on students to survive tertiary education in institutions of higher learning,” Chauluka said.
I f the Ministry of Education of Malawi truly wants to reduce the gap between the educated and non-educated, the education system must be designed in such a way that it responds to the needs of society. Designing it as a show-off tool will take Malawi nowhere.
Education institutions should be places where students pursue studies that are in their best interests by learning what they want to learn and prepare the ground for the future they want.
Policymakers must understand that people must have a chance to do different things at different times; as such, there would be no basis for comparison (highest-scoring student, lowest-scoring student). People should also learn how to read and write when they want to. Learning is not a competition!
“Genius is an acronym for ‘Geni-in-us’-the genie or magician in each of us”.
*The author is a Public Health student at University of Livingstonia.