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Malawi has come of age

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Government decision to accord Sam Mpasu, former Speaker of National Assembly and one of the opposition leaders, a State funeral is a clear indication that Malawi has finally come of age.

In the past, our politicians openly told us that ruling party and opposition party politicians were enemies.

Whatever politics one plays, from whichever party one plays politics from, Malawi should come first.

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That is what exactly came out last week when Mpasu, a distinguished politician of his era, was accorded a full State funeral attended by Vice- President Saulos Chilima.

The most interesting part of it was that all speakers gave eulogies to Mpasu without diverting to politics of character assassination, defamation and insults.

This is how politics in Malawi should be.

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It is pleasing that in Zimbabwe, late Morgan Tschangirai, the main opposition leader and the fierce critic of Robert Mugabe, was also accorded a State funeral.

This is a clear indication that Africa is slowly coming of age.

Away from politics, let me thank Lilongwe City district education manager (Dem) and a primary education adviser (Pea) who rushed to Mvama Primary School in Lilongwe’s Area 49, Dubai Area after disturbing reports that teachers were charging a fee to learners for afternoon classes.

A local television station reported last Thursday evening at its six o’clock news that teachers at the school are demanding K100 from each learner every day for extra classes.

The teachers were calling it remedial lessons but, in all fairness, the exercise was extortion.

Early last Friday, the Dem and the Pea were on the doors of the head teacher and with learners from Standard Five classes up to Standard Eight.

The majority learners, who cannot afford the K100 per-day fee, were not allowed to get the extra classes.

Teachers used the money to cook food for their lunch which is locally known as mmemo and share the extra money which amounts to K1, 200 or more per day per teacher.

This was wrong.

Primary education in public schools in Malawi is free. Teachers should not milk the unsuspecting poor learners in the name of remedial lessons.

The so-called remedial lessons must be done at no fee at all. After all, these learners pay K1,000 each term for development fund, so the K100 per day for each pupil for food for the teachers who are on government pay roll, is pure daylight robbery.

It is pleasing that the government acted swiftly just hours after learning of the issue and the school committee members had intervened too.

I am told teachers at the school did not put much effort during the morning classes which are free but work hard during the afternoon classes.

The most disturbing thing is that the teachers were using the public infrastructure at the school and government resources including chalk for an exercise which they are benefitting a lot.

Now, they have relocated to their homes or other private buildings where they are doing the private tuition out of their workplace. That is how things should be.

The government needs to find out where else this is done so that teachers are severely disciplined and head teachers and deputy head teachers who allow this to happen under their watch must be disciplined too.

This is a clear example of abuse of public office which must be condemned.

Now, let me turn to the mobile phone Sim card registration which the government halted.

I had twice gone to Game Complex in Lilongwe to register my three Sim cards as per the requirement just to come back home as I went because the phone operators were ill-prepared for the process.

There were long queues at all the mobile phone operators’ offices; people jostled and pushed each other as everyone wanted to register before the March 31 deadline.

There were only two or three officials registering the magnitude of people.

I stood aside and wondered why couldn’t the telephone operators mount more places in the city and hire temporary staff for the registration process.

Everyone here in Malawi welcomes the initiative because Malawi is the only country in southern Africa and probably one of the four countries in Africa which allows every Jim and Jack to have a Sim card without knowing who they are.

We have heard and read about how people have been duped of their hard-earned money through unscrupulous thieves who use mobile phones.

The police cannot fight terrorism if people do not register Sim cards.

Experience from elsewhere has shown that terrorists use mobile phones to plan and execute their missions.

This is just but a few advantages of Sim card registration.

However, there is anxiety in some section of society on the decision which has coincided with the decision by the government to finally use the so-called ‘spy machine’ after a long legal battle with phone operators.

I am not surprised that some people are suspicious of the government move to just wake up and register every Sim card in the country.

Whatever the reason or reasons might be behind the decision to register the Sim cards, the advantages far much outweigh the disadvantages.

However, the government, through Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Ministry of Information, and phone operators need to sit on a round table to discuss on how best to make the exercise a success.

We do not need the United Nations Development Programme or the European Union or any other donor to fund the Sim card registration project to make it a great success.

We just need officials from Macra and phone operators to make this a great success; otherwise, the suspension of the process is a clear indication that there was no planning before the execution of the project.

Otherwise, we have a right to know when the government will lift the suspension so that the majority of us, who failed to register last week, can do so comfortably.

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