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What a loss

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Around this time of the year, many college students would have been celebrating the completion of another academic year. Instead, the year has seen the constant closure of colleges and further delays in the academic calendar. The force that was once to reckon with that is the University of Malawi now resembles a disoriented attention-seeking schizophrenic.

Academic institutions are supposed to be the backbone of order and progress in the development of society from both social and technical fronts. But this is not the case in the country. Instead, chaos is emanating from the very walls and corridors of our great universities. And this chaos did not start in 2016; it started some years back and is only getting worse. If chaos was an art, we would say we have produced a skilled artist in the University of Malawi, skilled at fomenting artistic chaos.

Although it remains understandable that there are always processes and protocols to be followed when certain activities are taking place, there is also always an exception to the rule. This exception to the rule can be approved by the powers that be when necessary. This is because there are things in life that should not be compromised, and one such thing is education. At this point, we are gravely compromising education and this will come back to bite us really hard. And leave a wound that will bleed and reek and fester more than the wound of poverty we are currently nursing.

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Refusing to compromise on education is even more important in a country like ours, a country that is desperately trying to dig itself out of the pit of poverty and the global condescension it receives in return. We also desperately in need of intellectuals who will, among other pertinent things, devise and implement solutions to the water shortage problems, electricity shortage problems and inadequate produce from the land to feed the population due to climate change. Desperate times really do call for desperate measures and these measures are needed pronto!

Now, it is rather concerning when the universities in the country keep closing because of unresolved problems. And yet the powers that be, within whose powers, is to do something about it, bury their heads in the sand. Why, for God’s sake, are they doing this to the nation they purport to lead? Why are we taking education for granted?

Did the Malawi University of Science and Technology need to close first for a solution to be implemented? How long is The Polytechnic going to remain in a retrogressive academic year? These are questions that wreck concerned brains constantly. We should not have a myopic attitude when we engage in such important endeavours as providing education. We should not settle for mediocrity either. We should give it our best shot, secure it, insure it and protect it at all costs.

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For those who demand cheaper education, we should remember that education comes at a cost but this cost is an investment for the future of the individuals involved and the country at large. A university degree takes four years to complete but will improve your livelihood for 30, 40, 50, 60 years to come and one will earn a million-fold of the initial investment by the end of the day, both for the individual and for the nation. This is something we need to keep in mind when we sometimes make unrealistic demands on the facilitators and providers of education.

Remember, by 1964, only 28 Malawians had ever set foot in a university in the 72 years of colonial rule. Now we probably have a thousand times that number but then the population has shot up from 3.9 million at independence to 17 million today, which calls for more experts to be trained by our universities to keep the ship called Malawi afloat.

Everything has changed, and just like the population, the price of education has also gone higher. We need to fasten our seatbelts and keep up with massive effort needed to maintain good standards of education and not allow for the sector to be diluted into an institution without meaningful progress. 2016 was not a good year for the education sector; the plea is for the powers that be to make a difference in 2017. We do not need another loss.

I rest my case.

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