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Subject in school

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The 21 gun-salute that accompanied Fidel Castro to his final resting place is probably the last significant exercise in the life of one of the most iconic figures in the history of Cuba.

As it has always been with the Western media, Castro is portrayed differently; a man who cared for himself more than the people he claimed to serve.

Despite the way Castro will be portrayed years after his death, he is highly regarded in Cuba for standing up against the United States of America. Not many people will challenge the United States and survive yet he did.

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Unsurprisingly, Castro’s wish – as told by his brother Raul – was to remain ordinary after his death. He told his family that his image must not be immortalised with statues and public places must not be named after him. I will care less if Castro becomes a subject in school.

In Africa, presidents are immortal beings and you will be called names if you suggested that they are just as vulnerable as any other man. If they are sick, no-one would be willing to confirm that a sitting president is sick. They are immortal.

Of course, most African leaders are comical, a good case being Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. Jammeh likes to hog the limelight for himself. Several years ago, he announced that he had found a cure for HIV and Aids which could only be administered on Thursdays.

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Despite their arrogance and their exaggerated importance, politicians are nothing but greedy individuals who thrive on the desperation of the people they govern. I would rather be in class learning about artists, other than politicians — for they are immortal.

Artists live forever through their work. They deserve some respect. I say now that art should be treated with respect and I am impressed by the many artists in Malawi who have worked so hard to create a positive image.

I learnt a lot about the old politicians in class. I mean arts should be taught in primary school where teachers can identify the talents and parents should support their children.

If we are complaining that artists in the country are not respected, it is because our children grow up without the knowledge of the people who have shaped this country. If they occupied important offices in the next 15 years, will they be able to appreciate arts?

I believe the relevance of education should be its ability to respond to the needs of the learners. The learners need to know about the former presidents, of course, but they should be taught about the local greats in arts. Let the children learn about Steve States Samangaya, Dr Daniel Kachamba, Michael Sauka, Robert Fumulani, Barry Paseli, Allan Namoko, Barton Hali, Flora Jolly Makonyola, Mjura Mkandawire, Giddes Chalamanda, Kalikokha Phuka, Saleta Phiri and Stonard Lungu.

Is that all? No, if I have forgotten a lot of them, the readers should know that this is how fast we are forgetting the people who should be remembered. When one spends several hours on TV, it is more likely to see the faces of politicians but none of the artists who have shaped this country. The artists’ commentary is what has kept us well informed. They talk more sense than SGs of political parties.

I am, therefore, not surprised that Ben Michael (not Mankhamba the chief) has decided to resurface. There are serious issues that artists must address. Welcome back Ben Michael.

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