Malawi ‘varsity students and the K40, 000 they will live to remember!

I come from a very poor family. And that does not mean I do not want better things, a better life, and a better everything. So, when I was young, my parents were the junior management type that, unfortunately, stayed in the compound alongside or aside the well-to-do senior bosses.

Some companies will have to learn to ‘segregate’ some things so that people are not reminded of the lowly ranks their parents hold everyday they wake up. And that has been the painful truth about my upbringing.

We ate rice mostly during the Christmas festivity period and I thought rice and chicken with a deep great gravy were created only for such occasions, until I wondered into my dad’s boss house at the ‘coercion’ of their daughter who wanted to make friends with me.

Though she tried hard, my parents kept reminding me to avoid that house… “What if you break their China?” insisted my mother, a mere primary school teacher.

“You never know what could happen to us…” chirped in my daddy, referring to perhaps losing his job should anything like that happen, or should the ‘rich boss’ neighbor suddenly say or believe I stole something from their house, worse, their always nice scented pots. Full of sausage, roast chicken, braai chambo, etc aroma.

Those days I did not understand why, unlike my rich neighbor girl, I was told to wait till Christmas to get a new dress and some new but cheap shoes. some of your will remember those little girl dresses and white socks. Hey, a year felt longer than a decade!

I became so annoyed with my parents and sometimes refused to do any chores. All I cared about was why I could not get what I wanted, simply because I did not understand that money or cash does not grow on trees and does not come easy, like manna. I thought they were being mean and at some point prayed to God to give me a new set of parents – new rich parents that could understand and get me what I wanted all the time.

It just did not add up how some could get what they wanted and I could not. Something was damn wrong and it was making me mad.

Now that I live alone and have a sibling to help my parents with primary school needs, I am now fully aware how tough it is to get by in life.

Now I know what it means to budget, and my take home is somewhere less MWK40,000. There is breakfast, lunch and supper, along with transportation to office and back for each day. And devaluation has taught us some straight and important lessons, albeit the pain that it has brought with it. And now, am peeping back into my past and realize I was not been so nice to my poor parents.

This brings me to the situation at mainly Chancellor College and of course the Polytechnic, where students through their union have decided to ground arms. They have reached a not so favorable agreement not to attend classes till government, or whoever, hikes their allowances. The demand more than the forty pin at the moment.

Nothing wrong with that, but there are some very important questions perhaps that need to be answered and quickly so. There is some serious soul-searching than needs to be done and hastily so, and there are some serious decisions that need to be arrived, and quickly so.

To start with, I have a good friend who is still doing first year of her studies at Chancol despite having been selected into college two or three years ago. You are all quite aware of the infamous Academic Freedom matter – where Lady Kabwila led a gallant fight against the DPP leadership when they tried to to put spanners into the free and eloquent teachings of Dr. Blessings Chimsinga at the feet of the Arab Uprising or what you may call it, Arab Spring.

Schools closed, understandably needed to close? And students selected into college ‘skipped’ that year. The following year saw some different strikes and hey, them students again did not get to do their first year. And now that they were in their first year the third year since selection, they are going back home again!

I fail to understand why all of a sudden college has unanimously agreed to extend one’s study time-span. Four year courses have turned into five or six or even seven year study stints if we are not careful. Those that should have graduated a few years back and gotten themselves some good employment are still in collage – because people on both sides of the coin, students and the administration, thin k it is normal not to be serious with tertiary education anymore.

Kamuzu must be ….. in his grave, looking at how education at high level has become a yo-yo or some game that is not only bringing more suffering on poor parents and guardian footing college bills, but is also retarding education and employment opportunities that the people and the nation so much require.

Strictly speaking, students must realize that MWK40,000 is a lot of money and that a good number of their parents and guardians, ably but painfully paying for their education, are getting each month end. And they have other pressing issues to look into too, including younger children who need also to have their education needs catered for at primary and secondary levels.

College students should also realize that most of them, and parents/guardians, and even government, is aware, spend the allowances of what has come to be termed ‘Malswitch’ on parties, hustling, beer, sex, and all the unmentionables that campus life can unfortunately accommodate. Those days they called it ‘Stationery’ and day it was issued, there were braai and parties and hell around campus and neighboring communities.

The following day people were as bloke as they had been and had not used the money for their study needs. Nothing much has changed today – and it is even worse.

And when student unions rush to refuse to go back in class it saddens me because they are only wasting their important study time, they are draining their energies to nothing, they are creating longer school calendar years, they are denying their younger siblings a chance at adequate support from their parents and guardians, and most of all, they are ruining their future and life’s opportunities.

The ‘world’ or workplace today demands young, energetic people to join the force. If you are 18 years now and still doing first year (uYearo) in three years, think how old you are going to be when you finally graduate at the end of your course. And vacancies have age marks – staff that sounds like ‘those above 25 need not apply’!

I pity you chums, and I fear that this nation is becoming a nation of people who do not take their future seriously.

Not to forget though, government need to ensure that they bring students needs to the core of their hearts so that all is well and Malawi’s education standards revert to the normal expectations that it has been known for under the Ngwazi (real Ngwazi).

Again, students need to learn to balance responsibility and their rights. They need to ask themselves soul-searching questions about their future. They need to learn to cut throu8gh conflict with understanding and a some dose of compromise.

This is a 50 – 50 scenario and requires a win-win end.

Koma inuyo, makolo anu amalandira zingati? Akuvutika ndi ngongole and katapira to send you to school and you turn down MWK40,0000? Kodi inuyo muzalandira zingati msogolomu? Will you be happy your kids playing around with their and your precious time, money, and an opportunity to high education?

Grow up students and own up government! This amount will be remembered in future as an opportunity lost, am sure!Masinga HA  HA HA

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