Culture is what gives individuals a personal identity. Ngonis, Chewas, Tumbukas, Senas and Mang’anjas behave the way they do because of their cultural influences. This is the major problem that contributes to nepotism and favoritism. In most cases what seem to matter most is the cultural origin. It is only when living in foreign countries that the national identity is considered. Global identity is what the Reunification Church of Rev Moon is striving. He believes it is only after people stop thinking about where they come from that there will be lasting peace in the world.
It is disheartening to note that people in modern times have unconsciously accepted to worship academic labels. Subsequently, the academic labels are setting class circles in which those who do not have them feel alienated. The other evening, there was a phone-in-program on whether the youth have a political space to rule Malawi or not. It was a very straight forward question but surprisingly, it had many different answers.
This is the dilemma haunting Malawians today. Alfred North Whitehead lamented that the greatest bore in the world is the one who only claims to have knowledge in the head which cannot be proved. What is the use of keeping knowledge in the head when ordinary citizens cannot benefit from it? There are people who call themselves educated but have never helped anyone with it.
Our major problem is that the education system in our country has roots to colonialism. With all due respect the system of education was not intended to develop critical thinking. It was only aimed at cultivating intellectual capabilities. This is because the colonialist wanted to use education was a passport for one to get a job and enjoy western life. Any educational system that does not include the study of culture as a subject is inadequate. It is the study of culture that improves cognitive abilities.
The study of culture helps one to discover oneself. It is culture that helps one to know one’s origins. It is the study of culture that helps one to know where one comes from. It is also the study of culture that helps one to know where one is and where one is going. Therefore, it is obvious that the colonial educational system was intended to make us think like foreigners and admire foreign things in our own country.
Unfortunately, the colonial educational system was based on imbibing and regurgitation of knowledge. Consequently, this made most of the educated people behave like tape recorders. Yoshiko Nomura argues that education speaks volumes about the state of society. The problem in Malawi is not about lowering of educational standards but lack of holistic approach to education. The education in Malawi is based on the spot examinations. Failure of one examination paper regardless of class performance is failure. While attempts have been made to change our school calendar and curriculum very little has been done to include the study of culture as a subject in our schools. This is what killing creativity in our children is.
Education on its own without the development of role models in which the schools are is useless. When a child finishes school, it is important for that child to find a job. This is how the colonialist succeeded in encouraging school attendance among poor families. Role models should be found in every home and every village. Need we get surprised at the high juvenile delinquency in our country? The Daily Nation of yesterday had a report on high school drop outs in our primary schools. Our educational system is lacking. It does not offer incentives for going to school.
The concept of selecting university students after they have passed with high grades is another disincentive. It is obvious that the idea of selecting students is intended to limit entrance to the university. It is therefore unfair regardless of how it is implemented. It is better to allow every student who passed the Malawi School Certificate to proceed with university education but get weeded after failing to perform in the university
Maybe what is needed are classrooms, lecture halls and the introduction of distance education. This is how UNISA in South Africa has contributed a great deal to the South African economy. Mzuzu University has also announced the introduction of distance learning. A university is a place for intelligent students to compete. What matters most is a match between motives and objectives of education.