Two days ago, I found myself among concerned parents who bemoaned an occurrence that might have tempted their ‘young sons’ in college to try a shot at alcohol.
An enormously potbellied man sat in a heap on a crate that reluctantly supported his weight, opened his mouth and, through his yellowing teeth, spoke like thunder:
‘Eti akuti andale anawatenga ana a sukulu kukawamwetsa mowa! [we hear some politicians took our little sons in college and treated them to a sea of alcohol!’]
He got quick support from the man sitting next to him, another fat belly whose shirt was extensively stretched, the buttons threatening to give way anytime:
“Kaya ndi kampeni, koma asationongere ana athu![let them campaign, but not at the expense of our wards’ morals.]
I wish some of these parents knew how sons and daughters survive in college campuses.
The college campus is sometimes a penniless and boring place to find oneself in —void of entertainment!
If politicians bring about entertainment, so be it! For instance, I can confidently talk about Poly students-in the runup to 2004 elections-‘falling in love’ with the windfall that usually came to campus under the auspices of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The NDA sponsored trips to Zomba for the students to spice up the party’s rallies.
Students would leave Poly on a hired bus, singing their ‘support’ to NDA all the kilometres to the Old Capital.
In Zomba, wasteful dishes of rice and nsima served with chicken or beef would be for the students to empty.
Then the students— their pocket soiled with stashes of local currency—would disappear to nearby taverns to join their colleagues from other colleges. Together, they would reappear singing praises in the direction of the ‘pockets-that-be.’
At Poly, it was almost the same faces attending to all political parties that visited. This is why the ‘clever ones’ would have heaps of branded T-shirts and cloth from all political parties of interest!
Sometimes students just have to find a way out of their boredom. Even during the Polytechnic Students Union elections, it was not uncommon for aspirants to buy beer for ‘prospective voters!’
So, I found the talk about politicians spoiling college kids a bit too exaggerated.
After all, free beer or not, a college student has a way of wrapping their hands around a beer! The ‘generosity’ of the political parties does not come with a concrete requirement that every student lays their hand on a beer!
Those that harbour intent to drink will always drink, no matter what.
One day had started like all normal ones. Students had made the religious trip to the cafeteria in good time so as not to compromise the starting time for classes.
But somewhere between breakfast and the start of classes, news of an impending fee hike from K1 500 to a proposed K46 000 had flown in to the campus.
It was the reason students had now gone into clusters to weigh the ramifications that would come with the fee hike.
Calls for action were soon in the air!
‘Kodokodo ayende basi! [let’s take to the streets/let’s stage a demonstration!]
In no time, trees around the campus had lost their branches to ranting learners.
With the branches hoisted high, and songs of protest pitched even higher, the scholars had taken to the nearby Kamuzu Highway in a show rebellion.
The then Minister of Finance, Mathews Chikaonda, had his name and that of then ruling party on the lyrical chopping board:
Ndimunthu monga ifeee!
Following this occurrence, the ‘listening’ ruling party organised consultations to which ‘clever’ student representatives would be called to attend.
‘Rumour’ was sky high at such meetings the people we sent to represent us discussed matters over a ‘drink!’ n