I read with keen interest what University of Malawi (Unima) Vice-Chancellor Professor John Saka said at Chancellor College during the graduation of 8 454 students from Unima’s constituent colleges. He said education is key to development and he principally cited tertiary education as an area government must seriously look into.
I do not entirely refute it. While he said Unima plans to establish new ways of promoting tertiary education, I also say something needs to be done for children from as early as pre-school age, as they are the foundation.
In his 1988 presidential campaign speeches, former United States of America (US) president George Bush continuously spoke of investing in children as the key to further economic development. I was a teenager then and had little or no serious thought about it until now when issues concerning the youth have taken centre stage in most discourses at home. Today, educators, child rights groups and politicians have embraced the same language of investing in the youth for a better tomorrow.
It has always been said that children are leaders of tomorrow. Indeed, the bulk of tomorrow’s workers are today’s youth and so children make up much of the stockpile of any nations potential human capital.
Malawi recently celebrated 50 years of independence. I have had opportunities to interviewing people for jobs in various companies. Most employers have worried about the quality of the English spoken by most interviewees, others complain about the failure of graduate employees to communicate properly.
The late Bingu wa Mutharika would urge Malawians to dream in colour. But what is a dream in colour without fulfillment or actualisation. There has been talk of Education for All. Several years down the line since this slogan was first pronounced, there is no significant change. People are still dying of treatable diseases.
In the area of education, government introduced Free Primary Education in the hope that it would relieve poor families that were unable to send their children to school. Then we have had school feeding programmes to ensure that pupils do not learn on an empty stomach. But still the country registers high school dropout.
The popular saying that you can take a donkey to a spring of water but you cannot force it to drink comes to mind here. At a workshops organised by Malawi Economic Justice Network in Mulanje recently, we learned that for one to commit themselves to doing something, there should be a motivator and or passion for that thing. There should be an urge, an appetite or hunger for one to do something.
Malawi needs to invest heavily in children. And the best investment in children is to send them to school and ensure they know why they need to go to school. If children do not know why they are in school, they cannot do well in class. They will take school as another playground.
And if we, as a nation, have to mould good leaders of tomorrow, it will require not only government but also the parents as well as the teachers.
Suppose the foundation at home was good but when the child goes to school, he or she is met by a teacher who is underqualified or worse still not qualified?
The quality of the teachers is also something that needs to be checked if our children are to turn into great leaders tomorrow.
–The author is a secondary school teacher, journalist and child rights and gender activist. He is a keen follower of social issues.