Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our water environment

Today I have been pondering what to write. Something kept piercing my mind like a pointed dagger like Macbeths solution to Duncans solution. I love Macbeth but hate the way we Malawians are running down our rivers.

Now consider what will happen to North Rukulu when Kayelekera swings into full swing. Consider what is happening to the lower states with the perennial . I hate the site of Mudi river. Convince my dead body to love Lilongwe river. Polluted. Why have we let the so called liberalisation/freedoms to pollute rivers/cutting trees go unpunished. Its not laughing matter but I tend to think that our seriousness is not only questionable but I doubt its own very existence.

The rate at which we are destroying our rivers lives alot to be desired. Is there any policy at all to protect biodivrsity?

I was brain storming about rivers. Check the next post as I think aloud about water management systems and biodiversity. Was earth hour today but i nevr switched off my lights for an hour! I forgot but I love the environment

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rural-Urban Migration and Malawi Poverty

It is not strange to see many people living their rural folks in search of the twon dream. I wonder what dream Blantyre, Mzuzu, Lilongwe and the new city of Zomba offers. It is also happening around districts as everyone is heading towards a district headquaters. Others are living very remote areas and coming close to booming trading centres.

Its all about trying to a get a high and perhaps a better quality of life. Othrs are heading it RSA, the UK...Zimbabwe????I wonder. For how long will this continue and perhaps stop? Our rural areas have become burying grounds for the town dead.

We have been let down somehow in this country since 1964. I think the British should colonise us again and maybe we can take it from there. I suspect we became independent too early. Infrastructre in the villag has crumbled even though it was well beyond average standard. No buses, no clinics and if ever they are, very far without public transport. Poorly staffed or not staffed at all. No medication, no syringes, no panadol/paracetamol, protective gloves for nurses. How come in the 21 century that our women still give birth aided by a traditional birth attendant? Will she be capable to tell that a ceasarian operation is required? Maternal deaths contniue to haunt us. Consider little John, hungry as he is, walking five kilometres to a school that has three teachers for 320 students! What is the purpose and what do we want to achieve? Perhaps our biggest achievemnt is poverty!

So what happens? Wel why not try city life with the promise of success that never comes. You need a good education first to get a good job. Secondly you need to know somebody or allign yourself with a particular nepostic group whose interests are selfish and corrupt.

Political regimes continue to fail us for so long. Especially thos of us in the village. We need houses with electricity. We need roads. We need banks. We need good roads and public transport. We need hospitals stuffed and staffed. We need good schools and teachers to secure the future of our children. We need clean water.

What are these poverty programmes that politicians often talk about? Why not just tackle issues that I highlight above and povrty will fade us? Personal enrichment and aggrandisement seems to prevail over altruism and reason.

God save Malawi.

I will not vote in 2009

Politics sucks and I will not waste my precious time rising from my bed to cast a vote. What for? Well i hear its my right but I also have a right to a beautiful sleep on an election morning. No matter what my dreams maybe..sleep is sleep and it is a biological and natural right. The only nice thing about an election is that I will get a day off at work.

Some might be wondering what I am up to. I reckon am up to nothing and sceptics may as well estimate apathy in me. No its not aparthy. I cast my first vote at Bumba Priamry school in 1993 and thought that democracy had come. But gosh I was mistaken. But it was a nice vote. After all walking to Bumba meant we could pass through town without Mr Chilowe and Ngwira punishing us for going out of bounds. It has never been the same and democracy remains a myth to me. I doubt if we have one. Nepotism, croynism and lack of tolerance are still lacking in our country. These are not aspects of democracy that I have seen real democracies!

Why should I vote then? Giving legitimacy to a flawed system masquarading democarcy? Over my dead body. Once beaten twice shy. Now can you hear me? The only real democracy that I have seen in our country is student politics in colleges! No regrets. The Junta was good and there dry cleaner may have been born!

Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Malawi

I am not alarming anybody but I feel we have a big alcohol problem in this country. No one wants to admit it but we know it is there.Those that drink alcohol have never liked the notion of the alcoholic banner. Such is what has become of the case. How does alcholism manifest itself? Well the starting point is that an alcoholic cannot just imagine life without the mind corrupting drink.

A typical alcholic will take ten beer bottles in a week or call them pints. Yet in our society, perhaps amongst beer consumers, this is not an issue. Unfortunately, in our denial state, we try to justify this. The costs are enormous. The main culprit is perhaps the mddle class and the poor. By middle class I refer to guys with a tertaially education with an averag source of income. It is heartening that such households spend a high proportion of income on alchol (consumed by the hubby) and little spent of welfare of the of children, health and reacreation that strengthens the family bonds. Just log into internet chat forums for middle aged Malawians and see how alcohol promotion activities dominate.

The costs have been huge. Alcohol induced divorces that traumatise our children and reduce their ability to become responsible citizens of Malawi. Alcohol induced road carnages have been on the rise and many prime lives are being lost. Children who had a promisng feature have their dreams shuttered in a matter of seconds because of an irresponsible drunk of a parent. Dangerous sexual encounters induced by alcohol in drinking places leading into contraction of diseases that cost the family lots of resources that could go into child care. Alcohol related complications that are costing lives.

Is this the way people aspiring to be rich spend their money and lives? I would love the Minister of Civic Education extend her militant approach to address this problem. But more important, it must be incumbent upon ourselves as individuals to put th interests of our families first when we make decisions about our lives. Alcohol is a big problem and we must join hands to fight it.

Do you want to know whether an alcholic? I have won an alchol fight atleast.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vocational Training

Somehow I fail to understand how we Techinical colleges have been neglected in this country. With limited University places and expensive private colleges, Technical Colleges provide an opportunity to advance their careers in various trades and contribute to the devlopment of our nation.

Our population is young and growing so fast but somehow we have not gotten the messege. This thing that we cannot do it now bcaus it is expensive or its difficult is killing our nation. I would love a massive program to build technical colleges in each district in Malawi. If each district has a secondary school why not a Technical college where our youth can localise their skills and get ready to participate in the economic process. We have never planned for the future and we seem illogically contented with the status quo that somehow continues to harm us. If you build a secondary school you have to think of where the high school graduates will go.

Countries like Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia, th so called East Asian tigers have made progress through massive investment in education includind Trades in the technical schools. If we mess around with education, this country will go nowhere but just stagnate as our neighbours overtake us.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Growth, Development: Malawi at odds

Over the weekend the IMF projected the Malawi economy to grow at 7%. We have also seen that since the current government took the reigns of power our economy has been growing at over 5% each year. Many factors have been attributed to this growth notably fiscal discipline, the subsidy programme and good weather. Such a wonderful story it sounds. There has been an excitement that now we can make a dent on poverty which requires a an average of 6%. I dont know whether this is true. We are a very poor country that sometimes in self denial and we are so economic with description of our true status. We still refer medical cases to Harare and Tanzania.

I must wish to say something about the origins of the 6% as it has become so popular in Malawi. World Bank Economist Martin Ravallion did a study that linked economic growth to reducing poverty in 2000 and argued that for global poverty to be reduced by 2015, economies need to grow by an average of 6%.

What we have not been told is at what rate Malawi needs to grow to cut th numbers of the poor. However, he did indicate that in Sub Saharan Africa we will need more than 7%. Are we on course? Perhaps Ravallion thinking was just anothr paper. I dont believ his hypothesis either because he just linked poverty and growth. So simple analysis but has become so popular. His study was highly biased by th booming Chinese economy. 6% may apply to China and India but not Malawi. We need 10% continously. Well, this is not to offer cricism to Ravallion but I want to make sense of Malawi's economic growth and the untold truths that have corrupted our minds about this 6%.

Is economic growth translating into improved welfare of our people? By the way, have their been a reduced number of admissions in hospitals? How many employees have been absent in a month because they were attending a funeral of person less than 40 years of age? Do you know of a friend who has not attended a funeral last year? Can we link this growth therefore to improved delivery of the health systems. How long does one now walk to access the nearest health centre? How long have I to wait to see a medic? Has the distance been reduced? What change have health service providers experienced? Are they still strained? Do they have all the basic equipment and essential drugs? Economic growth should be matched with answers to these questions.

These questions point to the fact that much as an economy might be growing, growth itself may not translate into improved welfare of the masses. Is Malawi on th right path of economic development? Why do we still have one Television Station? Has the number of students trained at Universties increased? How many Malawians are living the country every year? Are we really growing or it is some fluke in a couldron? What is the state of our rural people? Is this growth being driven by an educated labour force. There are many questions than answers.

Much as I marvel at the growth figures, I have doubts whether we are addressing equity issues. Why is there a rapid migration into cities? What opportunities are we denying our rural folks that account for 90% of our population? I am not surprised that in my Mzimba Village almost every household has a member who has trekked to South Africa to work.

In our country, despite the sweet growth tune, I dont have to show that urban places are being favoured. Of course we need good cities but the rural needs clean water, schools that are well staffed and at short distances. Lets us not reduce the villages to burial grounds for those of us who are enjoying the city life with its own hassles.

The point is, as long as we dont tackle the health crisis, the education catastrophe, rural road insfrastructure, electricity, water then what is the point of growth? Who is benefiting? Not a majority of old women with small undernourished innocent orphaned babies that have to walk five kilometres to fetch some unsafe drinking water on a well that bush animals also use.

Are we still in the Stone Age? I wonder!

University Office: What for?

Malawi has two public Universities. Mzuzu and University of Malawi with its five colleges and a central administration in Zomba. I have wondered why we still have the University Office. It is an example of how wasteful our policy makers can be. I can say they are not forward looking, a disease that most Malawians suffer from.

The University Office to my knowledge served its purpose and it is high time we dismantled it. Having two Universties with 12 million people is not healthy. The Constituent colleges must have the autonomy that they deserve. Establishing a new University is difficult. I reckon that Chanco, Poly, Bunda, College of Medicine& School of Nursing become independent Universities. We would have six Universities overnight with Mzuni. What about that? So simple. We can take it from there and let the Universties expand by drawing lessons from Mzuni growth. Somehow someone is making us believe that we still need University Office.An MP can move a private members bill seeking to change the University Act and propose bills establishing new Universities out of current colleges. We can silence the selfish cynics. Just because a few jobs will be on the line should not stop us in making decisions that are in the interest of the nation. University Office is a very big white elephant with a malignant tumor and must go.

I would rather the University Office was transformed into a regulatory and quality assurance organisation with mandate over all forms of tertially education just lik MACRA, Malawi Bureau of Standards etc. It should become an institution that works under the Minsitry of High education. Its current role is not necessary. The colleges have their own accounting systems, adminstrative structures that must be allowed to function independently and effectively.

On another note, I have wondered the role the various Research Centres play in the learaning process. Looks they like they are divorced from UNIMA lecture rooms. Centre for Social Research, Agriculture Policy Research unit, Language, Education Research. I would love to have them engaged in teaching and have research oriented degrees and admit students than is th current practice of just doing some surveys and publish th works. It would be intellectually enhancing to engage students directly in research training and enrich the learning process. This is the essence of modern learning. It values research and would bring that excitement in learning that currently lacks in our University classrooms.

What do you reckon? Take this to capital hill and state house please.