Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke—-William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers-American stage and motion picture actor, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator.
This just ending week was, politically, an eventful week. One of the interesting event is that our good First Lady Madam Gertrude Mutharika has just been conferred an honorary professorship in Global Health by one Chinese Peking University School of Public Health (PKUSPH), apparently in recognition of her commitment towards advancing public health issues in Malawi and Africa.
First of all, let me not steal the ‘shine’ from the First Lady, as the demands of our tradition. I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Madam Mutharika. It is undisputable fact that the First Lady has been working tirelessly, mainly through the Beautify Malawi Trust (Beam), to ensure that our surroundings are ever clean and tidy. Yes, there are some under hand activities associated with Beam such as the never ending fund raising binges whose proceeds have never been declared or registered anywhere (in as far as my knowledge is concerned) to give Malawians and those who come forward as benefactors an indication of how the raised resources are being used.
All we hear instead is of further sponsorship to various projects which Beam is undertaking; leaving us wondering where the raised money go. In other instances Beam has made attempts to claim financial sponsorship of projects which behind the scenes the Trust has not even spent a cent on the referred projects. A case in question are the two roundabouts in City Centre in Lilongwe where Beam took all the credit yet behind the scenes it was somebody else footing the bill. And a parastatal for that matter but this would be a story for another day.
During the event to decorate the First Lady with this professorship, Chinese Ambassador to Malawi Shi Ting Wang applauded the first lady for her devotion to education, sanitation, public health for the wellbeing of all Malawians and for standing out as a role model. Nothing to be disputed here, but, where the problem starts is when a whole reputable university like Peking University, which records show that it is among the top 100 world universities would want to throw all caution to the wind, cut corners and acts like a zombie in pursuit of pleasing the First Lady with such highest ‘academic’ accolade.
Just to fill each other a Professor is “an academic rank, in fact a highest academic rank” conferred onto a person being usually an expert in arts or sciences. Marriam Webster online dictionary defines a Professor as one who professes, avows, or declares; or a faculty member of the highest academic rank at an institution of higher education; a teacher at a university, college, or sometimes secondary school; and one that teaches or professes special knowledge of an art, sport, or occupation requiring skill. A doctoral degree is typically required to work as a full-time, tenure-track university professor. One should be prepared to earn an undergraduate degree in a chosen subject area, go to graduate school, complete a Ph.D. program, conduct independent research, and write and publish articles in scholarly journals.Professor or informally also known as full professor is the highest academic rank at universities and other institutions of higher education in most parts of the world. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a “person who professes” being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of the highest rank.
Now, this does not mean one cannot be an Honorary Professor. Just like we have Honorary Doctorate degrees or any other honorary degree, an individual can also be conferred an Honorary Professorship. But there is a catch to this and a big difference between these ‘ordinary’ honorary accolades and an honorary professorship. Basically, an honorary doctorate or any other honorary degree is an academic degree for which a university (or other degree-awarding institution) has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, a dissertation and the passing of comprehensive examinations. The degree is typically a doctorate or, less commonly, a master’s degree. Please hear this. This honorary doctorate or master’s degree may be awarded to someone who has no prior connection with the academic institution or no previous postsecondary education. The degree is often conferred as a way of honoring contributions to a specific field or to society in general of a distinguished visitor to an institution.
Now, the University of Glasgow states as follows on an honorary professorship. This is an honorary accolade that can be conferred on individuals whose academic contribution to the ‘University’ is at an appropriate level to justify such an award. The University further says that those conferred with honorary professorships will not normally be career academics, nor will they hold honorary or part-time appointments in higher education but (mark this one as well) the expectation is that individuals conferred with honorary professorship will be working or active in the sectors where their contribution will present a clear benefit to students and staff within the University.
Normally, honorary professorships have a duration. Like in the case of Glasgow, the duration of an honorary professorship will normally be 5 years or such lesser period determined by the duration of the Honorary Professor’s office outside the University and Honorary Professors (mark this one as well) will be expected to have a significant presence within the University, for example, by delivering lectures, conducting seminars, and participating in discussions.
On the other hand, University of Sheffield says the title Honorary Professor is equivalent in standing to Professor and the title may be conferred upon those who are able to demonstrate a national/international profile for innovation, publication and enterprise in teaching supplemented by a record of research achievement or highly ranked scholarly publications.
Now when I say this Chinese accolade is just another joke of the highest order, I am not just kidding. I am sure that one way or the other, there is some fools’ game being played here. Either, China would want to make a fool of us or the First Lady is the one fooling the Chinese in her bid to fulfil some political ambitions. Mind you, most often these ‘dubious’ honorary degrees or recognition are not offered on a silver platter. The Chinese might have their own sinister agenda. What makes this honorary professorship sounding even more dubious is the decision for such a reputable university to confer the professorship at a ceremony held in Malawi and not at their own university campus in China. This justifies how fake the whole process is.
Mark my words. The shenanigans in Zimbabwe started as innocent as this, with that country’s University of Zimbabwe conferring a doctorate degree on Grace Mugabe after only two months of work and without filing any research work in support of her qualification. Zimbabweans only realized later that all that Mrs Mugabe wanted was to add a Dr. to her name for her to shove through the political hierarchy with an ambition to one day take over from her husband Robert Mugabe. Fortunately, the odds have not been on her side.
At the rate our own Madam Mutharika is cruising, it would not be surprising to see her name in the hat for a run for the presidency of this country. Anyway, as a Malawian she has the right to go all the way in pursuit of her ambitions but what pains some of us is where the whole nation is pulled along to be part of some of these idiotic jokes and low down dirty shame. Ironically this accolade comes just soon after the happenings in Zimbabwe with all the weird stories about Grace Mugabe there. This, as much as it might be dismissed as sheer coincidence, it shows one thing; there is lack of proper intelligence within government machinery to analyze situations and know the best time to do certain things.
This is but one of the many shameful jokes of our nation. As a country we are never short of such jokes. On this, I am reminded of the new catches in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the names of Lilongwe City Mayor Dr. Desmond Bikoko, former Minister of Justice Fahad Assan and some members of Democratic People’s Congress (Depeco). If this is a new strategy for the DPP to win back the lost trust from the people following the defeat during the recent bye-elections, to some of us it sounds like another bad joke, as I do not see these people bring any change to the way the DPP is conducting its business.
I do not see these people contributing anything to end the current electricity blackouts. Certainly, I do not see Dr. Bikoko or our seasoned lawyer Fahad Assan contributing towards the heartless corruption that has become part and parcel of the everyday DPP life. I do not see these new faces helping the DPP to stop being insensitive to the concerns of Malawians or stop being arrogant in the way it governs. I do not see the Mayor and his colleagues advising President Arthur Peter Mutharika constructively and telling him in the face to stop dozing on the job. These, in essence, are the areas that Malawians would want to see the DPP work on, rather than keeping itself busy parading new entrants to its stealing spree. Showcasing, new entrants who would not add value to the party or government but just burden us even more as a country as they join their colleagues in plundering our resources.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :