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Brevities on terrorism recruitment, self-publishing

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On May 22 2017, men, women and children were coming out of a concert by US Singer Arian Grande in Manchester when a suicide bomber killed 22 of them and wounded 59.

How many of us who heard this news from radios experienced insomnia that night? Very likely most of us treated this as news dejavu. But suppose among the 22 killed were our sons, daughters, parents, would we have enjoyed normal sleep that day and the following two or three days?

Let us dismiss the equanimity that what happened in Manchester cannot happen here. The reasoning of terrorists is not the same as ours. After the London attack in the year 2005, when four British Muslims killed 52 people, Britain ceased intervening in the wars of the Middle East alias Muslim countries. There arose the feeling that only France was the target of suicide bombers. Perhaps England relaxed its security measures, hence the surprise attack.

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The world has shrunk and is infested with terrorists. Our government should be on the alert. Visits of people from countries which breed and export terrorists should be restricted. Whether they say they come to do business, distribute charity or preach religion, they should be viewed with suspicion. They may be Trojan horses. How do people from the horn of Africa manage to reach Malawi when there are countries in between which should send them back to their countries or offer them asylum if indeed they are refugees?

The African Union should coordinate measures for combating terrorists. People who are tired of their lives should not endanger the lives of those who have something useful to do on this earth.

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On Recruitment

During the colonial days, the first to produce high quality primary school-leavers were the twin church of Scotland missions of Blantyre and Livingstonia.

The certificates they issued to their students were trusted by civil service recruiters. When other missions started producing their own Standard Six men it became difficult for the government to tell whether these qualifications were of equal quality. It therefore introduced civil service exams for all applicants. This went on until 1940 when the government started conducting primary school exams in the matter it does to this day. At that stage, only government certificates were valid for entry into the civil service.

A similar situation has arisen. There was a time when only one university in Malawi awarded degrees which the government automatically recognised. Now there are so many private universities and colleges one even forgets their numbers. They offer degrees from bachelor up to doctorate.

In advertisements of vacancies, the government and other employers say they want only those with degrees from recognised universities. Since now there are so many recognised institutions, how do employers judge the quality of the various degree qualifications? The mere fact that two universities are recognised does not guarantee equality of quality. For many years government officials have treated with scorn any candidate who has produced a diploma or certificate from a correspondence school, saying they recognise only documents issued by a public examining body. Yet for most vocational courses, there are no public exam bodies in Malawi. Such officials have rebuffed applicants for jobs or promotions out of mere jealousy and prejudice.

To assume that someone with a diploma or degree from a correspondence school is invariably inferior to that by residence is mere warped reasoning. In case of doubts, interview the candidates and expose them to tests.

For more than a century, correspondence schools the world over have helped to spread knowledge and have enabled working people to engage in continuous learning. Some of the world’s great leaders studied by correspondence either before going to university or after graduating. The famous Kwame Nkrumah first took a correspondence course for the London matriculation before he went to the United States. Gorbachev, President of the defunct Soviet Union, Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe took postgraduate degrees by correspondence.

Who are you to despise this form of education. Let us not forget that St. Paul spread Christianity among gentiles by distance learning. The epistles he sent were photocopies of scripts that modern distance learning institutions send all over the world.

Now that the government has established its own distance learning institutions, we hope there will be less official prejudice against diplomas from similar schools.

When so many institutions offer what seem to be identical qualifications candidates applying for jobs in the civil service should be given exams, and not be admitted or rejected by mere pride and prejudice. The idea of using public exams the British learned from the government of China during the second half of the 19th century. Entry into the federal Government service in the United States is by exams. Democracy entails equality of opportunity not patronage.

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The Malawi Writers Union (MAWU) is very successful at soliciting funds to cater for budding writers. It conducts competitions, and gets winners manuscripts published by donors’ money.

Mawu should advisably organise a conference of those who want to engage in self-publishing whether they are budding or established ones. The publishing industry in Malawi is still in its infancy, and is risk-averse. Publishers seem to have a preference for manuscripts that would be accepted as textbooks. Would England have produced Shakespeare and Russia Tolstoy if publishers just wanted textbook manuscripts.

The conference should also discuss how Mawu will sustain its activities when Norway and other donors decide to discontinue. What donors have done to the budgetary support should be warning enough. There is too much taking things for granted in Mawu circles.

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