As a heart-beat of a city, Lilongwe’s City Centre is perhaps the smallest in the world. You could jog through it in two or three hours. If you decide to drive 10Km outside the city by taking any direction, you will be welcomed by gut-wrenching poverty that is hidden from city life.
Scores of shabbily or half-dressed children will be staring at you, apparently mistaking you to be their day’s saviour. Looking at the children also tells you that a population boom bomb is ticking, but that’s a story for another day. But despite this pessimism and defeatist introduction of the city, Lilongwe City Centre looks attractive and impressive especially when summer starts to fade to give room to the rains to water the starving trees.
Driving from the Bingu National Stadium in Area 49, the trees along Area 14 are so tropical and healing, the Chinese funded parliament building looks imposing… and immediately you are welcomed by a well-designed Mausoleum where Malawi’s founding President, the late Ngwazi Dr. Kamuzu Banda rests.
Next, beautiful to everyone’s eyes, are the President’s Hotel and the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC), all thanks to Beijing again. And this is not all by the Chinese. As you continue down, taking the Presidential Drive further, the Chinese have completed their Embassy buildings, just five minutes to the State House. Security? Again that’s another discussion for another day.
If you decide to ignore the Presidential Drive and take left, that road will take you to Capitol Hill, the seat of Malawi’s government. In charge there is Justice Lloyd Muhara, the Chief Secretary to the government, a former Chevening scholar – a prestigious UK government funded scholarship. He is perhaps running the nerve centre of the Malawi government at the most difficult time.
As we speak the country is either burning, deserted or confused. A country living one day at a time for no-one is sure of what will happen tomorrow. Demonstrations have been the order of the day but now, thanks to the Supreme Court, a 14 day moratorium has been effected to find the way forward.
In all this combination of political drama and tragedy, the government has chosen to protect Jane Ansah, the chair of Malawi’s electoral body, whose blood Malawians are baying for, for allegedly abetting the ruling party to rig elections in May, 2019.
A court case is also under way that could either nullify the election or uphold the results. But for the Chevening scholar community, one of their own is in charge of Capital Hill, Muhara the Chief Secretary. To some extent, the buck stops with him.
Muhara is one but of the many Chevening scholarship alumni. At Times Group – the flagship news organisation , Editor-in-Chief George Kasakula, who studied for a Masters in Media Studies at Leeds University, has a huge task to make sense of what is happening for his television audience and readers for his newspaper column. Kasakula and his co-presenter Brian Banda (not a Chevener) are the national conversational currency as they strive to disentangle the political state of affairs and explain to the ordinary people what is at stake.
At Zodiak Broadcasting Station another former Chevening scholar is doing well. Joab Chakhaza studied Media Management at the prestigious London’s University of Westminster. His cross examination, oops – interview – with the beleaguered Ansah, the chairperson for the electoral body, was perhaps crucial in raising a number of unanswered questions depending on how she handled the interview.
But to a larger picture where are the Chevening Scholarship graduates? Can they stand up and be counted? Are the scholars using the education they obtained from the British top universities in any way helping in the social economic development of Malawi?
This question comes at a time when the Chevening Scholarship just celebrated its 35 year birthday in 2018 with the then British Prime Minister Teresa May, who tearfully resigned in the midst of Brexit circus (which I call a Frankenstein – creating a creature that you eventually fail to control), announcing that the British government will in future increase the number of scholars from African countries.
In other countries, Chevening scholars have done incredible and amazing transformations and achievements. These tail-blazers include Carlos Andrés Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica. He studied Development Studies at the University of Sussex. President Quesada is among 15 other Chevening scholars who ascended to the presidency in their countries.
Laura Alonso, heads the Anti-Corruption Office of Argentina and has been crucial in busting graft in that country. As a Chevener, she graduated with a MSc Public Administration and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science in the year 2000.
Igor PozakIgor Pozak became the youngest Croatian Ambassador to the UK at the age of 40. He graduated from Oxford University in 1998 and since then went on to carve out a distinguished diplomatic career.
In Botswana, Bogolo Kenewendo is the current Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry and graduated with a MSc International Economics from the University of Sussex in 2012. Appointed at age 30, she became the youngest minister in Botswana’s history.
Perhaps sooner or later in Malawi, Chevening scholars will leave their impact by ascending to higher offices and make the much needed change.
Meanwhile, many are trying and heading there. Chimwemwe Manyozo is one such young man who is making an impact in the youth sector through empowerment and passing knowledge to various youths through training and workshops.
As a development expert, Manyozo studied International Development at Sussex University. Asked what has been his impression of the Chevening scholarship, Manyozo says it is a programme that grooms the next generation of leaders.
“The people that Chevening has been picking in Malawi are young people moving towards leadership positions and Chevening comes in to give them the required academic background as well as exposure. It (Chevening) is beyond an academic programme, it is a leadership programme,” said Manyozo.
Talking of impact, Rachel Mhango a communication for development expert, graduating from the University of Sussex in Media Studies as a Chevening scholar says as she returns home she will strive to change the narrative portrayed by the western media which is full of representations of biasness and negativity.
“Therefore, I would like to contribute to an accountable and legitimate community engagement in different areas but mainly focusing on health issues and policy. It is undeniable fact that engaging communities is key in the delivery of effective and responsive services that can facilitate development and behaviour change in Malawi development and behaviour change in Malawi,” said Mhango.
Meanwhile, a new cohort leaves this September from Malawi while the 2018/2019 intake heads back to Malawi. Yes, to a country that is burning, facing acute electricity and water shortages, a seemingly clueless public service ransacked by the political elite. They will be called to duty as soon as they arrive.
Those returning include Pilirani Phiri, an accomplished journalist who achieved the same feat when he worked for former Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima as Public Relations Officer and spokesperson. Apparently a cunning and shrewd PR strategist who capitalised on silence to manage the fall out between Chilima and President Mutharika smoothly until UTM was born without any media or public relations damage on Chilima’s part. Phiri returns with a Masters in International Relations and Democratic Politics from London’s University of Westminster.
The returning group also includes Thom Khanje, a veteran media practioner who has been studying Media Studies at the University of Sussex. Stephen Mgalileya Hlovu, a good governance and quality education advocate, will be returning with an MA in Human Rights Law from London’s SOAS.
It is a fact that the impact by Chevening scholars is there and the scholarship has managed to pick the best cream of scholars but when is Malawi having its own Carlos Andrés Alvarado Quesada who rose up to become President of Costa Rica? Or Laura Alonso who waged a war on graft in Argentina and headed the Anti-Corruption Office? Or Bogolo Kenewendo who became Botswana’s Minister of Investment, Trade & Industry at the age 30?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :