Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The truth about Unima fee hike: Economically insensitive, politically suicidal

TRUE, higher education has become, and will most surely continue to be, increasingly expensive to offer in this 21st century era. This is largely because offering of higher education is silently battling for competitiveness and relevance in this era. The need to balance low funding levels from government and the political calls to open up ‘access’ on one hand and the agitation for quality education coupled with rising costs of materials, and unsteady economies on the other has meant that administrators in higher education have got to seriously start thinking about lasting ways of mobilizing resources.

Chanco Students: No to Unima fee hike
To this end, administrators in higher education have resorted to fees hiking as a measureof mobilizing resources. Such measures, as South Africa’s ‘FeesMustFall’ movement readily provides example, have met with angry anti-fees-hike calls owing to the fact that the economy in many of the world’s countries are less favorable as to welcome such measures with a smile. 

Malawi is no exception to this. The recent unpopular fee hike by University of Malawi (Unima) Council pretty much seems to be justified on the grounds above, though, sadly, the anti-fee-hike here will not be as fervent as that of our South African neighbors owing to unpalatable levels of individualism on part of students and pathetic dormancy on part of both guardians and education interest groups. Again, the lack of litigation culture and the rising levels of ‘new wisdom’—the bandwagon thinking that it’s about time Malawians stopped being used to freebies—will also add its fair share of the lack of fervency in the anti-fee-hike campaign.

For some enlightened social commentators, the Unima fee hike from K55,000 to K400,00(727%) and from K275,000 to K400,00 (154%) for the normal entry students and from K275,000 to K900,000 (327%) for the mature entry students is both economically insensitive and politically suicidal unless either there happens to be guarantees of loans for every student or the hike gets implemented incrementally.

Looking at the Unima fee hike from the lens of competitiveness and relevance, one can conclude that there is no doubt that the hike is every inch justifiable. In fact, the hike is long overdue if worries about lack of relevance as echoed by business gurus in the private business enterprises and the nation’s cries over Unima being on the lowest rung of the Africa University Ranking ladder are anything to go by. Indeed, as if echoing the language of competitiveness and relevance, in just less than a month ago the World Bank Report on the state of higher education in Malawi bemoaned Unima’s lack of relevance and competitiveness.

However, in as much as the fee hike is justifiable on the whole, it is nonetheless regrettable to raise the fees at such a time when the economy is in bad state. It would make sense if such a hike were a target to be achieved in, say, 4 years. In such kind of an arrangement, the fees would be hiked, for arguments’ purposes, from K55,000 and K275,000 to K300,000 starting next year and the remaining targeted K100,000 can be spread across three years to reach the targeted amount in the case of the normal entry students. In case of mature entry students, the fee hike would start, say at K500,000 and the remaining K400,000 be spread across three years to meet the targeted sum of K900,000. No doubt, such a fee hike as hypothesized here would most certainly be, at the risk of courting criticism, in accord with economic reality of Malawi as things are now.

It should be remembered that this incremental hike route is the same one Unima council adopted on the lecturers’ salary hike.  The story is like this: Unima Council and other interested parties commissioned an inquiry into the salaries of lecturers across the Southern African region. What emerged from this inquiry was that lecturers in Unima were the lowest paid and it was thus recommended that they get a 200% salary increment. The council was dodgy of this recommendation and the lecturers became pushy. What followed was a series of industrial strikes and threats of industrial strikes. The most notable industrial strike being in 2008 where the first years at Chancellor College at the time stayed for more than three months as orientation period because lecturers refused to allow continuing students to report on campus arguing that they would not teach. Sanity came back when Unima Council agreed with the lecturers to be raising their salaries incrementally until the targeted amount was reached. If Unima council, as some contemptuouslysay, “did it” then, they can also “did it”now.

Now given the raw truth that Unima has hiked the fees to the targeted K900,000 without regard to the current sickly state of our economy, one is only left with one and only one conclusion—that Unima wants university education to be for the rich only. With such fees as high as K900, 000 one can bet that no poor Malawian can realize his dream of stepping into the corridors of Unima colleges, never! Honestly speaking, as things are in our economy, the contestably best decision will be not to hike the fees at all.

There is no denying that the Unima Council fee hike does reflect what Unima wants for its constituent colleges. More importantly, the fee hike decision also reflects the education policies of the government of the day—Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), so to say. For quite some time now and over the campaign period DPP has been promising to develop and implement pro-poor policies. Indeed, the DPP has gone the whole hog championing its budget as being pro-poor. Besides, the DPP-led government has defended the infamous quota system policy on the basis of giving the poor access to higher education. The real test of the pro-poorness of its budget and policies, in as much as this is not the only test, is the way its policies affect the poor especially in the education sector which is largely believed to be a surefire way of evening out inequalities.

That university education irons out inequalities in the different spheres of life is well-settled. The inequalities in agriculture, health and all those other areas of life are best and easily equalized through university education. This is the reason why the world over people are relentlessly pushing for widening of access to university education. The booming online university education, the scholarships, and the education trusts are some of the progressive moves in this respect. 

On the other hand, governments are also widening access through deliberate policies. For example, as elsewhere observed, the unpopular equitable access to higher education otherwise known as quota system is premised on the same principle of widening access. It is here that the Unima fee hike defeats the whole purpose of equitable access to higher education. If, as it is always said, the quota system of admission seeks to give the poor chances to access higher education then it necessarily follows that any unreasonable hiking of fees limits that access. Surely, it is of no meaning to be admitted and yet have no fees. That, truthfully speaking, is more or less giving with one hand and snatching it with the other.

The giving-snatching analogy will be the clear soon because the immediate fee hike from K55,000 to K275,000 has already seen a substantial number of needy students drop out of college. It was, for those that were still around attending classes despite the non-payment of fees, the directive of the president that gave a sigh of relief to most needy students.

In a nutshell, this Unima fee hike simply confirms the growing talk in town that DPP’s pro-poor policies are nothing but a lip-service. The opposition may be silent for now, but one can say for a fact that the opposition is keenly watching the events on the fee hike and seriously planning its 2019 elections campaign propaganda. And this fee hike will most obviously be a campaign issue in 2019 and some party will be made or broken on the basis of this issue. 

The point being driven home here is this: the Unima fee hike is good news overall, however, it is as economically insensitive as it is politically suicidal. As the Malawi economy currently is, the less controversial way to go on this will be to hike the fees incrementally, though, and this is the good part of it, the economic realities on the ground favor that there should be zero increment till the economy stabilizes, and,given the state of our affairs,no one knows, when.

Friday, June 17, 2016

An eye for an eye: a case for death penalty for albino-killers

GRANTED, the 21st century world is essentially an era of the triumph of human rights. Ostensibly dancing to the tune of this era, there have been calls for the abolishment of death penalty. Proponents of death penalty have always argued that killing a human being as punishment is primitive, barbaric, and costly.
Without doubt, the calls for the abolishment of death penalty are and continue to be persuasive. And, true to that, a good number of people have been persuaded to this fold. However, the recent spate of albino-butchering has changed the penal terrain and has weakened the anti-death penalty calls. It is for this reason that calls for the death penalty on albino-killers are justifiable. And here is why.

Killing albino-killers clears society of albino-killers
Elsewhere people have justified death penalty on the basis of deterrence. However, research has shown that death penalty does not sufficiently deter people from committing the offence. Whether death penalty sufficiently deters offenders or not is a problem for another day, the simple truth remains that when you kill the killers the society becomes clear of killers. 

It is an elementary fact of the social contract that people come together and form a society to run away from the brutal, cruel, and barbaric natural state of life. Society loses its meaning if people can experience the same brutality, cruelty, and barbarism life as happened in the state of nature. What will remain of a society if, after sacrificing some of their individual rights in exchange for security, all the people get is insecurity?

Again, it is a measure of a civilized nation that its citizens are accorded the fullest security. A nation is backward if its citizens live in perpetual insecurity. And the best guarantee of security is the meting out of punishment in full force to offenders. And this means, in case of the killing of albinos, giving death penalty.

Killing albino-killers avenges victims’ death
Call it backward or what have you, it does make sense that the gap created by losing a family member in the calculated circumstances characteristic of the albino-killings will, to a certain satisfactory level, be filled by killing the killer. 

The justification here being that the loss of a relative in such barbaric circumstances causes too much grief and resentment and the same can be suppressed if the perpetrator gets the death penalty. It should be emphasized here that punishment loses its touch if the offender of such grievous offences as slicing a fellow human being goes to prison and comes to see the light of day.

Killing albino-killers shrinks peoples’ eagerness for mob justice
Call ourselves lucky to this moment that we have not heard of a mob justice on albino-killers. This is the case perhaps because no one has been caught in the act of killing an albino. Such mob justice will not be surprising given the fact that people are more than willing to kill suspected thieves.

Furthermore, people are not currently taking the law into their hands probably because they are pursuing the let’s-wait-and-see attitude—that is, waiting to see the government’s response. They may decide to act in the way they know best if they will not like the action taken by government. And it can only be speculated here that the people would not administer mob justice if they see government mete out death penalty to albino-killers. 

This therefore means that the passing of death penalty to albino-killers will be in line with the human rights dispensation. This will be the case because, unlike mob justice, the suspected albino-killers will be allowed to exercise their right to legal representation and all the legal safeguards accorded to an accused person.

Killing albino-killers lifts the moral torture of feeding killers
Imagine. That albino family member of yours was killed, say, last month. You have grieved enough and things are seemingly returning to normal. And now you are buying your usuals—sugar, soap, matches, lotion, salt etc.—and tax is deducted. That tax forms the subvention to prisons which is used to buy food for prisoners including that prisoner who murdered your family member. Now imagine the psychological and moral torture you have to endure upon that realization!

Honestly, you do not have to suffer that way and endure all that. That psychological and moral torture gets lifted the moment the death penalty is pronounced. It can thus be seen here that death penalty has the added advantage of lifting the moral burden of feeding killers.

Albino-killers have no rights because they are not human beings
It is common knowledge in the human rights world that human rights are entitlements for human beings only. Accepted, a human being in an imperfect being; he can steal, stab, mob, or even kill. However, in doing all these bad things, a human being is guided by some residual sense of humanness. A human being who maims a fellow human being loses his sense of humanness and automatically seizes to be human. Albino-killers maim albinos and are thus not human beings.
Albinos: hunted for their body parts

Albino-killers chop the bodies of albinos into parts. In all conscience, such people cannot claim to have rights. Defending such people is not only preposterous, it is also outright wicked. 

The foregoing may be outlandish. It may also be unthinkable or backward. That’s your take and this is a free world. But for some of us, the above case is progressive. For many of us are tired with the prevailing mentality on albino killing which, in all fairness, appears to take the side of the offender rather than that of the victim. So, next time you argue that albino-killers have a right to life, think about the victims whose lives they needlessly and mercilessly take away.

Malawi has not abolished the death penalty; it is there in our laws. So do the needful courts, implement it. When you think about exodus 21:24 and look at punishments our good courts mete out to albino-killers you cannot help but ask: “Are our courts really serious?” Judge Madise’s recent life imprisonment judgment starts the journey; let’s hope the entire justice machinery will join. But hey, no offence intended our courts, this is only a case for death penalty for albino-killers!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Does Malawi have a post turtle for a president? I beg to differ

In this era of freedom, even the seemingly free individual is unfree; the general outlook being that of a liberated man but inside he’s all chained to the infallibility of self: such is a person who thinks the only truth there is out there is what he says it is—and urges that everyone wholly buys it.

We have unfree individuals all around us—the self-styled critic who argues that Malawi has a post turtle for a president is such one; and there’s me who here argues that Malawi does not have a post turtle for a president. I’m no better than this critic for we both are unfree: we both hold that what we say is true and is the only truth there is out there.

Here we go;

First, the critic argues that some people made Peter Mutharika president. It is true and this is no secret that “Peter Mutharika did not get where he is by himself.” We all know that no man can run a one man’s show by himself in politics. You surely need a crony there for an advisor, a friend there for a campaign director, someone here for a political strategist, and someone up there for a propagandist. Such is politics the world over. Or is it the case that Malawi is different? I wonder.

Am yet to be convinced if getting somewhere by the help of others makes anyone deserve to be called a post turtle for anything, say, a post turtle for a CEO. Hahaha that sounds wonderful! You can try it in the offices. Isn’t it said that we climb on the shoulders of others to make meaningful achievements in life. Ahaaa! I also remember, it is said that no man is an island. All this, the way I see it (but I may be wrong), means that man does not progress all by himself, that he needs the help of others to reach somewhere.

Allan Ntata: Peter Mutharika is a post turtle for a president
Second, the critic asserts that Peter Mutharika is “absolutely” clueless as to governance. Accepted, it is true that Peter Mutharika, once in a while, shows tendencies that one tends to wonder if the president has a clue as to governance. That be true as it may, it smacks of ill-intentions to argue that “Mutharika has absolutely no clue as to what to do while perking there….”  Like really? Peter Mutharika has “absolutely” no clue? Oohh well, you readers are a better judge here. But, speaking for myself, absolutely is too strong a word.

Maybe, and this is just maybe, Peter Mutharika’s replacement of Ben with “farty” Goe as assistant, his positioning of “…his fellow geriatric, Dr. George Chaponda” for president, and the sidelining of vice president Dr. Saulos Chilima as potential successor are enough reasons to warrant arguing that Mutharika has “absolutely” no clue as to leadership. For the record, it is untrue that Peter Mutharika has never ever gotten one thing right ever since he ascended to the Malawi presidency. I have in mind the lean 20-person cabinet as one example where Peter Mutharika got it right.

Third, my good critic says, so I read, that we, the people, are “wondering” as to “what got into the heads”, ooohh no, “tummies” of the “Malawi Electoral Commission to put him there in the first place.” I suspect that the learned critic is putting things in the peoples’ mouth. He could be right that us, the people, are wondering about the way Peter Mutharika came to end up at Sanjika Palace given the do-or-die elections debacle.

However, I need a little convincing that the people think that it is the Malawi Electoral Commission which put Peter Mutharika “there”. Really? I take it that it is elementary knowledge (of course am speaking this from the little knowledge I have about elections) that we, the people, are the ones who put who we think is good on the government driving seat. Frankly speaking, I do not and will never understand that it is Malawi Electoral Commission which made Mutharika president.

Should he have blamed our courts? Maybe. All I know is that it is the courts which held that the Malawi Electoral Commission cannot extend the 8-day requirement for announcing election results. But can the courts be a proper entity of this blame? I don’t think so. The courts were simply doing their job in so holding.

Fourth, the colorful critic observes that Peter Mutharika has made a grave mistake in replacing Ben with Geo. I know very little about Ben to make a safe judgment that the under-the-radar man can be equated to a frying pan. Related to this, I don’t think the information I have about Dr. George Chaponda or his initiation of the anti-farting law makes him that bad as to be equated to “fire”. For these reasons, I modestly hesitate to respond to the assertion that Peter Mutharika has, in allegedly replacing Ben with “farty” Geo as his assistant, somersaulted “from the frying pan into the fire.”

Having read the critic’s criticism with an open mind, I have come to the conclusion that the good critic is wrong—the logic is wobbly, the instances hazy, and the flow gauche. In fact, he makes assertions and not reasoned arguments to say the least. It is here that I came to differ with this critic and thus argued that Malawi does not have a post turtle for a president.
Henry Chizimba: Peter Mutharika is not a post turtle for a president

The critic believes that the only truth there is out there is that Malawi has a post turtle for a president and he wants us, the people, to buy it. Here he’s free and unfree. And there’s me who believes that the only truth there is out there is that Malawi does not have a post turtle for a president and I want you, the people, to buy it. I’m too here free and unfree. But such is life.

But hey! I could be wrong and the critic right. But you readers are a better judge here, and I give you the chance to make the judgment here.