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Maturation: Individual and collective

In the days the teaching of anthropology was at its apogee, one of the most important topics was maturation among non-western societies or primitive people. Many anthropologies wrote books with titles beginning “growing up”. Thus Margaret Mead wrote “Growing up in Samoa” while Margaret Read wrote “The children of Their Fathers, Growing up Among the Ngoni of Nyasaland”.

Maturation means the process of growing up. It is a subject worth of study both at the individual and collective level. How individuals are brought up determines whether a nation is made up of brave or cowardly people, acquisitive or passive people.

Someone said every baby is born a barbarian. It enters the world with a few instincts. When its mouth is placed to the teats, it suckles without being taught. With its tiny fingers, it clasps whoever is holding it to preserve its life. When it is hungry it cries for attention. It speaks no language.

But from the day it is born, it begins growing in body, brain and intelligence. If an African woman who has just delivered a baby goes to Beijing and stays only with the Chinese in five years’ time, her baby will be speaking better Chinese than herself. The case and speed with which children learn languages is an enigma which has not yet been sufficiently decoded.

The acquisition of language is one of the first steps in the maturation of the child. It now begins to interact with other children. Through interaction with others, natural intelligence increases. A good deal of what a young person knows is affected by the home and external environments. Children brought up in middle class homes tend to do better in school than children brought up in poor working class home.

At first, female and male children play together apparently without realising that they are differed. But by the time they are five years old, girls prefer the company of fellow girls, boys also prefer the company of their fellow boys. Girls imitate what their mothers do while boys imitate what their fathers do, they choose different toys.

When they reach adolescence, boys and girls start taking interest in each other, dating. Because they spend many years in school most boys and girls these days marry at later ages than in the past. During adolescence, the youth tend to question the lessons they learned in the home.

Youthfulness continues until about the age of 40 when middle age sets in.While youthfulness is for some of casual behaviour others mature in wisdom, shouldering responsibilities normally expected of grown-ups. William Pitt the younger was Prime Minister of Britain at the age of 23; Alexander the Great and Napoleon were leading all-conquering armies while they were still under 30. At 21, Tom Mboya of Kenya was leading the powerful Kenya Federation of Labour while in Malawi at the same age Aleke K. Banda was the Secretary of the then mighty Malawi Congress Party and editor of the Malawi News.

Maturity brings with it conservative attitudes. Some people like to say that the youth are brave and daring while grown-ups are wise and cautious. A middle aged person who behaves and talks like a youth is despised while a youth who behaves and talks like a grown up is admired.

In 1964 new Malawi was born as a nation. In democracy, economic and social development, can we say Malawi as a nation has attained maturity? Obviously not. Our democracy still shows infantile traits. Voters are not guided by ideologies because political parties themselves are groups devoid of any ideologies. Economically Malawi is far below the middle income group of nations. What can we do to accelerate its maturation?

Since 1964 many events have taken place from which the nation ought to have gathered valuable experience. We have noted that conditions do not remain the same. Times of plenty alternate with years of scarcity due to inter alia droughts and flash floods. This year and last year are notable for riddles. Heavy rains and droughts have occurred at the same time but different parts of the country. As I write this article there is news that heavy rains in the Northern Region have displaced people causing losses of lives while in the Southern Region, rains have ruined chances of good harvests. How do we make lemonade out of these lemons?

A nation acquires maturity if it learns something from experiences both good and bad. Do we understand why our country is failing to emerge out of poverty? Have we fully understood why such scandals as the cashgate were able to exist over a long period without being detected? If we do not understand such things the days of national maturity are still far away. Keeping records is one method of ensuring that lessons of experience are not lost. These records must be available in schools as Dr. Robert Laws of Livingstonia used to say what you want to see in country first put it schools. Maturation is impossible without continuation.

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