“Critics are like robots at a Level Crossing; while they are able to stop other road users, they cannot stop the train” -Peter Arthur Mutharika
In this analogy President Peter Mutharika takes himself as an unstoppable juggernaut that, like the train, cannot be stopped by robots (critics) because, according to him, he is “focused and knows his destination”.
Well, well, today Peter is not in the Muckraker’s sights. Suffice to say, however, like the robots at the Level Crossing, by checking him, critics – at least the Muckraker – do not want him to stop; rather they want him to stick to the right lane so that he does not crash under the weight of misplaced ego like his departed big brother.
That said, today I would like to call to order the 193 honourable men and women who are supposed to represent the interests of the 15 million of us.
The issue at hand is qualification.
Look, the political undertones notwithstanding, Paul Kanyama was likely to be denied confirmation as the Inspector General of Police ostensibly because of his education or lack there-of. Most opposition MPs have come in the open to say they could not confirm a guy in such top position who does not even have a first university degree.
Education, of course, is key – no doubt. But let us face critical facts. Kanyama joined the Malawi Police Force (as it was known then) in 1978.
Compare a Form 4 then and a Form 4 now. During that time, those who would make it to Form 4 were regarded as the crème la crème. They could pretty much qualify for all manner of jobs. But most Form 4 ‘graduates’ these days can hardly speak English.
I would guess that in 1978, the police was hiring the bulk of its recruits from Standard 8. Those with a Junior Certificate would be looked at with envy, to say nothing about those with a Malawi School Certificate of Education.
And, again, there is that delicate balance between academic qualifications and professional experience. In Malawi we seem to worship academic accolades almost blindly. We seem oblivious of the fact that education is no more than a key with which to open doors of opportunities. What you do beyond those doors has to do with a critical balance of what you learnt theoretically in class and what you can practically do.
So a young man who passed through the Police Training College in 1978 armed with whatever qualification and rose through the ranks to the highest professional position of Commissioner of Police is qualified to head the now-rebranded Malawi Police Service. Commissioners are to the police service what cardinals are to the Catholic Church…legitimate heirs to the Throne of St. Peter – the papacy.
So Kanyama was one such individual who would make it to the political office of IG.
But then we talked about some of these issues last week. Why I am bringing up this issue again this week is to laugh at the hypocrisy of Parliament as the panacea of academic excellence.
Look, if truth be told, pretty much any Jim and Jane can qualify to be an MP. Ok, prospective MPs must have a Malawi School Certificate of Education but there is a proviso that in the absence of that magic paper you can still qualify if you can prove to someone that you can speak English and can write intelligibly in the same.
Now I know people who have never been inside the four walls of a classroom long enough to learn ABCDE but have worked as cooks for white men who ended up mastering the Queen’s Language. Indeed you cannot work as a barman at a club frequented by the English-speaking elite and fail to pick up the language.
And you do not have to be fluent, by the way. In fact, if fluency was key some PhD holders would fail the proficiency test. Look, my good friend Lucius Banda was thrown out of the august House because he had cheated on his formal education qualifications. But surely the self-styled ‘Soldier of the Poor Man’ speaks (and sings in) English far much better than some academics.
Now, how can such a motley crew of characters stand on a moral high ground and start questioning the academic qualifications of certain cadres who have a proven track record in their given professions?
In any case if we were a serious country we should have been having tough qualification requirements for MPs because these folks have the very life of the country in their hands. I will explain how.
Look, these folks have to legislate whether Malawi should accept Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), for example. We have proven farmers like Felix Jumbe and agriculturists like Dr. Allan Chiyembekeza in the august House who can make well-informed contributions to the debate. But how do you expect someone who does not even begin to understand what ‘genetics’ are to make a meaningful contribution to such a highly technical debate?
Dr. Jean Kalirani and Juliana Lunguzi, for example, can argue intelligibly on the dangers of allowing TBAs (some MPs are even asking, ‘who are TBAs?’) to continue delivering babies, so can Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano and Dr. Jesse Kabwila on legislating against the ‘quota’ system of university selection because they have ‘been there, done that’.
People like Patrick Makina, for example, have run state companies and can make sense of the wisdom – or lack of it – of making someone like Friday Jumbe run a government development bank.
Of course, there are many others in the House who are qualified lawyers, bankers, medics et cetera. But, if truth be told, the only qualification of the bulk of our honourable MPs is that they can transact business in some English.
Now you expect people like these to intelligently scrutinise the résumé of a veteran of more 30 years as a professional cop?
Perhaps we should have a national conversation about who should qualify to become an MP. If formal education matters for heads of the police or foreign missions, for example, why should it not matter for someone who will do the vetting of the proposed candidates for such positions?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :