Good people, curriculum makers at Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) have approved new books for secondary schools.
What students learn is supposed to evolve with time and must teach them to cope with realities around them.
However, there is something disturbing about a Chichewa literature textbook recently rolled out.
Kusintha Maganizo ndi Nkhani Zina, edited by Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Mike Sambalikagwa Mvona, contains a short story that should not be prescribed for young learners in any diverse society built on freedom of worship and tolerance.
The case in point is Mdalitso Wabodza by Bridget Mang’umbi which supposedly lifts the lid on hypocrisy, sex scandals and abortions within the Catholic Church—and the author calls it by its name.
Mang’umbi’s entry is about Sister Rosaline who returns to her convent frail, vomiting and with no appetite. Two pregnancy tests confirm she is expecting a baby much to the astonishment of Mai Mkulu, the mother general, who drops dead in shock.
Rosaline later confesses to an archbishop that she was impregnated by a parish priest and he wanted her to abort.
The church has ordained thousands if not millions of defenders of faith and it has had a fair share of sex scandals reported to Vatican.
But there is nothing spectacular about the short story’s plot, characterisation style and perspectives to justify its place in the curriculum.
Here is some plain salad truly Mvona-sque: loaded with characters too numerous to mean anything in a storyline so threadbare that it should not be taught to any student thirsting for a read to stimulate a desire and style for writing better.
Apart from misinforming learners that any tale told in six pages is a short story, the article is likely to indoctrinate them to think all priests and nuns are promiscuous.
The author had every licence to write whatever he could. Writers are not essentially respecters of dos and don’ts.
Except that someone at MIE slept on the job and thought this story is fit to be taught in school.
It should not be. Its setting, characterisation and theme blatantly defames one church and portray its leaders in bad light. Not all priests and nuns are sexual hypocrites.
What message and values does the story propagate to the learners apart from the hateful, hastily generalised theme that buries scanty positives in plain sight.
Malawi is a diverse society where literature that demeans one inherent sector of the population, including minorities, should not be tolerated and promoted in school.
Mdalitso wa Bodza must be struck down for what it really does—teaching our children to hate others.
But repeating this content in a class comprising adolescent minds is divisive.
What goes into the curriculum is rigorously censored by political thought police.
Were there any worthwhile consultations with other relevant sectors on the prescribed textbooks for secondary schools?
This book takes us back to 1999 when government introduced a religious studies syllabus with little or no respect for some religions.
When framers of the Constitution recognised freedom of worship instead of explicitly naming Malawi a religious or single-denomination nation, they wanted all religious groups to be treated equally and the faithful to co-exist peacefully.
Mvona’s book is too sensitive or insensitive for a national curriculum. What message is it sending to the learners about the Catholic Church?
What will the church think about MIE and the Ministry of Education?
This hateful book needs to go back to the drawing board and the shoddy story should be truncated because it is less about inculcating positive values and the beauty of literature in learners, but offering other denominations ammunition to ridicule Catholics who oppose condoms, contraceptives and abortion.n