On the youth week, chiefs and quota system


At the rebirth of the multiparty era, I wrote in a newspaper column that organizing self-help schemes would be difficult if the party in power summoned people to turn up for community service, most likely the opposition parties would not respond.

Twenty two years have passed. Most people have no idea how the Youth Week operated. The term Youth Week gives the impression that only young people were involved in self-help work. Not at all.

All over the country, for a week, people of all ages took part in building school blocks, houses for teachers and bridges. The youth did anything that the local people needed. Where school buildings and clinics were concerned, the government provided free iron sheets and nails. Through self-help during the youth week, a good deal of what economists call capital formation took place, saving the government from excess budget deficit.


The self-help week endangered the spirit of cooperation between grown ups and the youth. The projects they undertook were their property, they were toiling for themselves, self-help project did not interfere much with people’s own work because it took place as the rainy season was coming to an end. The ground was moist and soft; digging did not involve too much sweating.

At the end of the Youth Week, there were youth, police and defence force rallies at the Kamuzu Stadium. Members of the young pioneers displayed the year’s harvest from various bases of the country from Nsanje to Chitipa. It was a splendid display. One felt that the youth of the country were indeed being prepared for future leadership through giving them responsibility for organising work at the bases and then for parades.

The work of the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) was divided into development and security. It was the security side that harassed the people. The development side definitely ought to be remembered .The discontinuation of MYP has been a loss to the development. They were contributing to attempt to feed the nation.


But how should the Youth Week be organised when our major political parties perpetually disagree with each other even on trivia matters? I suggest chiefs; group village headmen should be given leading roles. They should at the same time be advised to be politically neutral.

Chiefs and headmen are leaders of everyone irrespective of political or religious affiliation. Salaries of chiefs since the time of Bingu wa Mutharika have been raised to levels where the chiefs ought in return to work harder for the benefit of their people. Civic education will be required to overcome prejudices.

Self-help work is not thangata, the labour rent work which people in the districts of Thyolo, Mulanje and Zomba were compelled to do for the right to dwell on estates owned by the people for their own benefit.

In the Malawi News of March19, 2016 there was a news item headed ‘Students Cheat Quota System’. One of the paragraphs reads: “We managed to identify three students from three secondary schools from the North, Centre and South who changed not only their districts of origin but also surnames to stand better chance of selection”.

This revelation is timely and welcome. There is a saying in chiTumbuka “fumbanani mungakomana waka” discuss or ask each other questions in case you kill one another for nothing.

The quota system when it was introduced was seen as aiming at pruning entry of Northern Region students to public universities. Both those who advocated and opposed the Quota system saw it a Northern Region problem. Time and again, members of a certain denomination have fulminated against the system.

The article cited above shows that not only deserving students in the North suffer from the quota system but also students in the other regions. We should try to improve on the system by giving minimum quota on the basis of a district’s population. To give each district a minimum of 10 students is totally unfair to districts with large populations like Lilongwe, Mzimba, Kasungu and Mangochi.

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