Mvona’s book ban: Who sleeps on duty?

Good people, it is pleasing that government has heeded the call to strike Kusintha Maganizo ndi Nkhani Zina off the list of books taught in secondary schools.

On Tuesday, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) Principal Secretary for Secondary Education Justin Saidi announced the withdrawal of the examinable Chichewa Literature textbook edited by Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) president Mike Sambalikagwa Mvona.

Tossed into the trash can with it is the threadbare short story by Madalitso Abodza which discusses hypocrisy, sex scandals and abortions in the Catholic Church through a  nun impregnated by a parish priest.

In his circular,  Saidi not just  retracts the controversial book in its entirety.

He calls the short story what it is—insensitive to the Catholic faith and not suitable for study purposes.

I dare add that it lacks the nuance to teach learners how to write vernacular fiction intelligently.

But that was quick!

Just on Monday, three days after we exposed how makers of the curriculum dosed off on duty, directors at MoEst had weighed in.

They asked the experts at Malawi Institute of Education (MIE) to submit evaluation forms illustrating  how this affront on freedom of worship ended in the curriculum.

Essentially, they had to determine  whether to kick out the whole anthology or to ask the publisher to remove the single entry deemed immoral and inappropriate for study purposes.

But Saidi and company are no censors.

They quickly leapfrogged the red tape that slows down civil service to release the verdict a day later.

Thanks for re-affirming that freedom of worship obliges government and its agencies to ensure all religious groups are treated equally and respectfully.

The scraping of the examinable book that startled the Catholic faithful,  schools,  teachers and parents is supposed to be victory of calls for tolerance over groupies of a culture of confrontation who want to expose children to text which teaches them to ridicule the religion portrayed in damaging light.

But the inquest must begin.

Those who slept on the job or benefitted from this raw deal should be held to account for not doing the right thing.

How did the discarded book gate-crash into the curriculum when the battalion of experts at MIE were fully paid to select, vet and approve texts suitable for secondary schools?

Surely it did not have to take Saidi or anyone at Capital Hill to do the job the ensemble resident in Domasi, Zomba, needed to do while the curriculum review was underway.

Reviewing any syllabus is costly,  a big drain on taxpayers’ money.

A myriad of experts, whether educationists or miscellaneous,  pocket allowances, fuel reimbursements, consultation fees and other sums on promise to shoot down any bit not fit to be taught in class.

It beats any measure  of imagination how the legion in a series of curriculum review meetings failed to see the irregularity  Saidi’s team at the helm spotted and crossed out in a day or two.

This is not loafing. It must be negligence.

How does MIE staff justify their paycheck when they slumber on duty?

How simple tales of kalulu brainwashed  generations to believe the hare is the  smartest animal in the bush exemplifies why the damaging portrayals of the Catholic clergy in Mvona’s book should have been turned down earlier.

A stitch in time saves nine.

The laissez-faire attitude tolerated at MIE has only helped Mvona’s shoddy anthology to sell a few copies on a market where only approved textbooks sell a pile.

This is a rip-off to government, schools, students and parents that bought the book.

Going back to the drawing board to nominate a replacement, MIE officials have a second chance to show the nation that they can work diligently. n


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