Off the wall of Charles Simango: All learners wore shoes on Trump’s visit to Malawi school

It is on days like these that I get to remember how blessed I was to work with such remarkable and beautiful minds as Hardy Nyirenda’s and Dingi Chirwa’s.

And they all wore shoes
Helping hand: During the language lesson, Melania Trump leaned over to help one youngster with her reading

After an event like the one below, whoever we would send to cover the Melania Trump function would come back and share the usual banter of who did what, where – no notes, nothing, just chit-chat. Then the following day you would walk into the newsroom to find Hardy quietly hunched over on his chair, combing through the day’s newspapers. He would not say much but after he was done, he would walk over to me and throw the paper on my desk

“We got our lead. I knew they would miss it,” he would say, pointing at a particular page or picture. One look at the item and I would know exactly what he meant.

If it was Dingi’s find, you would walk in to find him punching away on that tiny 128 MB Mac LC Desktop (yap, we produced an entire paper on a meagre 128MB toy of a computer in those days!).

‘I have a lead Bwana,” he would say without much of a glance from the screen, pointing at the picture on the folded page beside him. One look and, yeah, we have a lead.

Being a weekly publication, keeping The Democrat attractive was hard work considering we had to compete and outdo two, daily publications that had the advantage of publishing stories as they happened. That meant we had to learn to find nuggets of diamond where others had already dug and dredged if we were to remain relevant. And somehow, we learnt to look at the same things and see what others could not see.

And so on this Friday, today, The Democrat’s story on Melania’s visit to this school would not be on the school or Melania. It would be on the shoes – all the children are wearing shoes. And that is odd. Nothing wrong with school children wearing shoes. But not these children. We know because we were these children, growing up, and we still see ourselves in this particular type of school children. Most of them do not wear shoes. Maybe it was a donation that was made a long time ago by some program that we did not know of. Or may be they just got them before this occasion. But whatever the circumstances, the fact remains that on this day, it is the shoes that are talking. Everything else in the picture looks normal. Except for the shoes.

And so we would follow the story of how ALL the children came to wear shoes for Melania Trump – or maybe not for her. But on this day, our headline would simply be AND THEY ALL WORE SHOES and the sub-text would read: ‘Thank You Melania’ (assuming they are wearing it for the first time).

There are times when people ask me ‘why can’t you restart The Democrat?’ And I am always like, ‘you don’t get it, it can’t be done’. And they’ll be like, ‘why not? Just put a team together and that’s it.’ No. That’s not it.

You see, The Democrat was not a paper, in the sense of a physical newspaper. It was an abstract of sorts, a convergence of minds. It was like the 1989 Malawi National Team. Kinnah Phiri would soar into the air amid the Zambian defenders, poised to head home that corner kick but, at the very last moment, he would duck his head and, somehow, the ball would find itself on the nimble feet of Barnett Gondwe, behind him, who would tap it into the far right corner of the net. Yet Kinnah never turned, not even once, to check where Barnet Gondwe was positioned. He just knew. Just as Barnet knew that Kinnah would not butt it in. It was a connection of minds.

Damn! I miss you guys, miss my team. Especially today. But as they say, there will always be days like these. I hate that saying.

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Che Wanimiliyoni
Che Wanimiliyoni
2 years ago

I know Simango from the Democrat days but I can bet my last coin such a mediocre story couldn’t find space in his tabloid. Charles, I know Malawi is very poor but to suggest that no single govt primary school class in the capital Lilongwe can afford the luxury of having all its students wearing shoes is taking our poverty to extreme levels. Even if indeed some wore it for the first time what is wrong with that if they were appearing before the most powerful first lady in the world? I am even at pains to believe that a… Read more »

Uyo Munkhungu
Uyo Munkhungu
2 years ago

Miss them too………and Raphael Tentani! When you lower standards of education and competition so every Jim and Jack can claim a certificate, a degree, a doctorate or a professorship, you shall have to accept serious levels of mediocrity! All you have to do is listen to articulation of issues and insistence to be called by our so-called titles and you know we are an embarrassment to ourselves.

Once again, Thank you Charles Simango.

ChigezeroD
ChigezeroD
2 years ago

Hardy, Dingi , Charles ……size yanu siyikupezekabe mMalawi

Former Malawi Democrat Reader at KIA
Former Malawi Democrat Reader at KIA
2 years ago

That’s what happens when you mix Malawians without looking at tribes, without bringing in quota. The best Malawians at the Democrat is all that you were. Miss reading articles like these.

If there is a minister who is daft in this stupid
If there is a minister who is daft in this stupid
2 years ago

Those guys were really genieus

Charlie Hebdo
Charlie Hebdo
2 years ago

True legends. Why is it that everything in Malawi seem to be sliding backwards? We need to accept that we have a very big problem. Only when we accept it, will we be able to mobilize ourselves to solve it. It is so disheartening that it is our leaders who see progress when there is none. We have a president who unashamedly claims to be taking Malawi from poverty to prosperity when it is himself, his wife and cronies who are experiencing that prosperity through looting and all sorts of dubious means. Where we had an enviable education system, we… Read more »

Malo A Maloto
Malo A Maloto
2 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Hebdo

Part of our problem is that most of us do not think beyond our borders. Malawi is a very small country, but it is part of a very large continent on which many inspiring activities are taking place. Most of us are unaware that Dr Denis Mukwege of Congo has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle to end rape as a weapon of war. His work has been acknowledged by the world. He is an African hero and a role model for all of us, and especially for our children. Our continent is full of heroes,… Read more »

If there is a minister who is daft in this stupid
If there is a minister who is daft in this stupid
2 years ago
Reply to  Charlie Hebdo

Very true indeed.

Chatsalira
Chatsalira
2 years ago

Oh yes, We miss the Democrat.
Whether it was newspaper, tabloid or whatever you call it. It was just the best in class.

It was in its own world. As you said the Hardy, Dingi and Charles Simango you rocked.
You gave us good time.

Hlabezulu Ngonoonda
Hlabezulu Ngonoonda
2 years ago
Reply to  Chatsalira

Those guys did gave us good time with the Malawi Democrat later known as The Democratic. Their feature articles or stories were woven in good English … with illustrations that left readers in stitches of laughter. Its editorial team referred the paper as the giant of the street. Nice that Charles Simango has surfaced here.

Njuki
Njuki
2 years ago

Genius of a writer, that’s you Charles Simango! And Hardy and Dingi were truly geniuses too! May their souls continue resting in eternal peace…

Fatchness
Fatchness
2 years ago

Nostalgic!!

Cant help it but laugh……befitting headline if you come to think of it.

Keep it on mkwasu……..you’ve made my day.

#DzukaniAmalawi
#DzukaniAmalawi
2 years ago

I don’t understand your angle Charles Simango. What is it that you’re communicating to the readers. On a different note, I find it odd that our president was condemning handouts from the West as stumbling block to Africas (and by extension Malawi) development. Here we have Melania visiting a school that US sponsored and built (it doesn’t look like the dollars were effectively spent though). The need for US intervention was made in the context of the govt failing to build enough schools for its children who desperately need decent classrooms. Mr President, my question is; if the US did… Read more »

Salome
Salome
2 years ago

Miss your writing and miss the departed Hardy, indeed those were the days when reading newspapers, especially The Democrat was exciting. And I can honestly say there has never been such another.

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