Mutharika’s comments on University of Malawi wide of the mark

Dull, hackneyed and uninspiring is how the speech read by President Professor Peter Mutharika at the University of Malawi’s (Unima) fundraising dinner would have been described had it not included a comment that the institution’s academics should focus on research and “not waste time writing and commenting on trivial public issues”.

Mutharika,  Chancellor of Unima: Tells university lecturers not to comment on 'trivia'

Mutharika, Chancellor of Unima: Tells university lecturers not to comment on ‘trivia’

Dr Danwood Chirwa: Malawians have been fooled and believe Mutharika  is professorial material

Dr Danwood Chirwa: Malawians have been fooled and believe Mutharika is professorial material

The dinner was a major fundraising event in preparation for the University’s forthcoming golden jubilee cerebrations. It was opportunely primed for a major government policy speech on higher education. That opportunity was lost in the humdrum of formalistic presidential speeches.

To ‘encourage’ lecturers to do research and publish is the same as to encourage drivers to drive, a tailor to sew, or fisherman to fish. It is that ridiculous.

And to exhort lecturers in general terms to publish internationally is to ignore serious debates about the value of the pursuit of international publications for their own sake in a context where research on Africa by Africans remains largely inaccessible to researchers on the content, the general public and policy makers, issues of ownership and control over international publications, and the complexities involved in translating in-depth research on locally relevant issues into something that is universally intelligible.

The challenge on the continent lies in building self-sufficient scholarly communities that can engage freely at national, sub-regional and regional levels in cutting-edge research into problems that affect African peoples. It also lies in creating sufficient and rigorous research outlets where African issues and problems can be ventilated with greater specificity and at reasonable depth.

For various well-known reasons, African universities are also struggling to achieve the levels of excellence in teaching that would give their students a competitive edge on the international market.

To overcome these challenges requires one to understand the plight of universities in Africa. The history of African universities has been one of a constant tension between the State and higher education institutions, of a relationship of control and dependence that goes back to the very early days of independence.

Propelled by anti-colonialist and nationalistic agenda, independence governments rapidly established universities primarily as institutions for the production of skills needed to serve the new economies and governments. At the same time, seen as potential breeding ground for political dissent, independence governments felt obliged to control the agenda and operations of universities.

The acceptance of the structural adjustment programmes from the late 1980s as the economic dogma for developing countries saw the beginning of a period of more destructive marginalisation of higher education and research. The progressive cuts in financial support to universities led to loss of the much-needed resources by these young universities, which was not made up for by the fees accumulated from the rapid expansion of student numbers.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that most African universities have, practically speaking, been teaching universities. However, they have in large measure discharged that mandate with distinction and on top of that, engaged in notable research in a horribly hostile environment.

Unima, like many other universities in Africa, has been most adversely affected by decades of neglect and marginalisation. It is in this context that President’s comments were received and found wanting.

The President did not, even at the level of platitudes, demonstrate any awareness of the challenges that Unima and other universities face. Neither did he make a commitment to bringing higher education back on to the national agenda. What is more, the President did not demonstrate that his government has a constitutional responsibility to facilitate access to quality primary, secondary and higher education and to support research in particular.

Throughout the world, research remains largely sponsored by governments even though private organisations and companies have increasingly claimed a share. One disadvantage that private funding has over government funded-research is that it is often for specific, short-term, purposes and tends to limit the freedom of the researchers to choose what to research, with whom and how. Furthermore, private funding is something that is well established in the West and African based companies and wealthy people are yet to embrace the philanthropic culture.

To date, Malawi does not have a national research accreditation, rating and funding institution to promote, support and fund academic research in all fields of intellectual endeavour.

  • Danwood Chirwa is a Malawian professor of law and one of the legal commentators relied up by Nyasa Times and Malawi mainstream media.
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The president is right u academicians have to research according to ur career and avoide commenting on issues that never help our country to develop. Kuphunzira konseko koma mowa ndi mahule basi chitani manyazi. That is why malawi is still one of the poorest in the world. Wake up mukuposedwa ndi anthu amene mukuti ndi osaphunzira ma comment awo amakhala a nzeru

the north has sooo many so-called professors but has any of this academia made any noticeable contribution to the economic development of the north let alone Malawi as a whole???noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! why??? because an African academic is a semantic contradiction in terms!! African and academic are totally counter-indicationary state of affairs. Once an African gets a doctorate his next move is to start showing off to his dumb relatives and villagers that he is an educated man and then, start fxxxking schoolgirls and get credit drinking facilities at the local tavern, Research???? No African is interested in research- they just want… Read more »

Malawi universities are now irelvant.They are more of politicians than lecturers.Moti apeza nkhani .

Some people like this South African so called Professor thinks has monopoly of thinking such that he can discredit others as not professors. Just look at the levels of poverty this country is going through and yet there is much waters that is untapped to create something worth calling that Malawi can renown of. We say we depend on agriculture on our economy and yet we relay on rain fed can we not use the university researches on growing either rice or any crop that can outsmart the whole world with that. Even if you cling to political commentary how… Read more »
box13 bilila NU

Yes we need researches we have much water but we are hungered, coz irrigation equipment is being imported and it ends up being expensive ,why don’t we design our own solar wAter pumps so that we can at least grow and harvest three time a year. Hey my fellow electrical engineers work up and work out something, let’s fight hunger on this continent.

Some of you spitting venom here are doing so because of your stupid bootlicking of dpp and Peter, simply angry because Peter has been exposed as a failed and embarrassing academic. You can’t swallow that. Keep on being hoodwinked, being brainwashed and keep on clapping stupidly because you think Peter is a saint. I have never seen Stupid people like you worshipping Peter. And you Frustrated northerner, you are just showing your typical ignorance by thinking research is not part and parcel of a lecturer or an academic. Actually contradicting yourself somehow. Chirwa is 100% correct on what he says… Read more »
Prof Danwood Chirwa is well published. Only chicken-brain-sized people can question this. All comments about his abilities are by typically people with extremely low IQ, not versed in academia and highly politico-stupified mind. The president is known to have been a very bad lecturer. Ratings by students indicate that he has had problems with teaching and has a smidgin aptitude on language. Prof. Chirwa has highlighted the things the president should have touched on. He has provided background and for anyone to dispute this, only exposes the ultimate foolishness that ever existed. There are many lecturers who have published great… Read more »
The country will not go anywhere with poor thinking of the so called prof Danwood chirwa. What this chirwa should know is that our country need more research. Look chirwa, do we have to wait europian countries to come and take mosquitoes and brred them in europe so that they can have samples to get malaria drug. Don’t you think a cordinated research between faculties of science Chancellor college and college of Medicine can work together to come up with a solution. Don’t you think poly can come up with machines to help in our hospitals. Look at the poor… Read more »

Some comments like ’21’ will never differentiate wisdom from intelligence. Anything critical about what is true about the president has to be defended. Kikikikiki.

Eye witness
Stupid chirwa. What is your problem? Are you the lecture in malawi? Why is it that lectures from luanar, medicine, poly quite on this issue? You think we dont that universities are heavily funded by organisations like adb, world bank and many more so much so that funds are mostly not fully utilised? Your barking is just disturbing our ears and eyes and i think education is not doing you any good. If you want politics just join them but avoid doing it at the pretex of being a lecture. Find somewhere else to offload your frustrations otherwise stop wasting… Read more »

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