“The quota system is bad– Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President, Republic of Malawi.
For a long time, Malawi has had a systemic education policy of enrolling students in public universities on the basis of a quota system.
The quota system, which is based on students’ district of origin, rather than merit alone, has been in use for almost a decade now and acts as a form of affirmative action for students in the central and central regions. from the south of the country due to their perceived regional under-representation. in universities.
Malawi’s first president, Kamuzu Banda, introduced the quota system in the 1960s to address what the government viewed as a disproportionate number of student admissions from northern parts of the country.
North Malawians are seen as advantaged because of the establishment by missionaries of good schools such as the Livingstonia Mission named after Scottish explorer David Livingstone.
However, those who oppose the policy say Banda introduced it to settle political scores because most of his political opponents came from this region.
Naturally, in 2008, University World News reported that in 1993 the High Court of Malawi overturned the government’s decision to implement the policy and the courts upheld the decision in 2008 following an appeal. The court argued that the policy “was discriminatory and in violation of the basic rights of Malawian citizens”.
In 2009, the government of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika reintroduced what he called the “equitable access to higher education” policy, also based on regional quotas.
Bingu wa Mutharika’s brother Arthur Peter Mutharika, when he came to power in 2014, continued to apply it until 2019 and this is one of the main reasons why he and his political friends were dismissed.
In the 2019 and 2020 elections respectively, one of the themes of Tonse Alliance’s campaign songbook was ending the quota system, a seemingly outright evil that was intentionally brought into our education system by misguided people. .
Intentional? Absolutely right!
Yes, it was more political than the fairness argument that the framers of that policy would have us believe.
Previous DPP oligarchs and some of the old MCP had sought to use a popular strategy like quota to distort and distort the truth about the aspect of justice within constitutional standards of fairness and equality.
They only did this to leverage power and gain political momentum under the disguise of fair access and fair play.
In a typical move of benevolent dictators, they have carefully chosen a potentially conflicting and jarring issue to unnecessarily pit people against each other.
This was in a manner similar to how Hitler and Nazi Germany took advantage of the existing prejudice that linked Jews to monetary power and financial domination over the majority of Germans.
Let’s not forget to remember that anti-Semitism was a very popular policy because the Nazis effectively used negative stereotypes of Jews as subversive and why Germany was failing.
Instead of finding lasting solutions, they took advantage of the ever-present furious jousting of competing narratives that already existed and added fuel to kindle the flames.
When the dissonance between groups of people has reached a certain level, it creates a perfect mismatch condition for mistrust, misinformation and suspicion among rival groups.
This is where politicians and lobbyists find their social capital and this is where their perverted agendas and ambitions thrive.
It is a perfect catalyst for identity politics of tribalism and regionalism.
All it takes is a popular grievance to pit the groups against each other.
It is the “us versus them” or divide and conquer that is used to bait.
Let’s be honest, we all harbor a natural propensity for prejudice to some extent within ourselves.
And, in these times, when we are vulnerable and made to believe the opposite against others, it is easy to start showing hatred and unwarranted anger towards each other – we lose sobriety.
We simply become victims of lies and manipulation.
We tend to forget that what can unite us is more powerful than what divides us.
It’s fair to say that the quota or affirmative action was not inherently bad.
It was meant to be used by the government to address the effects of long-standing discrimination against marginalized groups at all levels, period.
However, the way it was presented, especially during the one-party regime of the DPP and MCP, was simply evil.
It was never designed to achieve the objective of leveling the rules of the game within the framework of the norms and standards of fairness and equality.
The methodology of such a policy was supposed to be best suited to analyze other disparities, gaps and obstacles that exist for disabled, socially disadvantaged people, including girls and women as a priority.
None of that was taken into account and what was introduced instead was something sinister.
They intentionally and carefully chose a potentially conflicting and jarring issue to unnecessarily pit people against each other.
It was used as red meat which was casually hung up to lure those in the south and center into a toxic distrust of their northern counterparts.
In the worst case, it could easily have sparked ethnic cleansing and genocide.
So, in my opinion, it is right that we abolished the policy.
There may have been some good things isolated in the whole of politics, but the politics around it made it very toxic.
It’s like forcing people to preserve the symbols and emblems of the oppressors just to keep a piece of history.
It was a dark chapter in our history, especially for those of us in the North and now we don’t have to pretend anymore.
The architects of this policy, especially during the DPP, did not even bother to hide their intentions and were open about their objective.
They were determined to prevent poor children in the northern region from accessing higher education.
So on that note, I would like to congratulate the Tonse government for showing interest in abolishing the system completely.
That’s how a nation heals.
This, however, should be used as a reset button to a better solution and a greater good. It should not be reduced to a cheap political dashboard.
However, simply removing quotas without replacing them with a more appropriate and reasonable policy is just as ineffective.
Without getting too emotional, we need a sober approach on how best to diagnose inequalities and injustices and move forward with real lasting solutions.
It is time for our leaders to come up with a serious national policy different with a more nuanced approach for full redress of all social imperatives for people with disabilities, girls and socio-economic challenges.
However, this can only be a reality if we intentionally approach it from the bottom up.
Instead of focusing on who is coming from where and punishing some of our esteemed, hard-working students, we need to move beyond fair access to universities only.
The biggest problem and challenge has been how we select our children for high school.
This is why when some of the supporters of the Tonse government took the round a few days ago about the increase in the number of students from some of the affected regions in higher education institutions, I was a little skeptical of the idea of participating.
Most of these children who were selected at the secondary school in Chaminade for example could still be those who were selected under the PLR system and are not from the surrounding area.
This could give us a false indication until we know how many children from Karonga, Rumphi or Chitipa made this list.
I just used an example because it was the one all of Tonse’s apologists pointed out.
It will be in 2025 that we will be able to judge whether the Tonse government has succeeded in dismantling the quotas.
However, it would be fair to thank our President and his government for taking this issue seriously and making their position clear on this issue.
There must also be a consideration for those of the CDSS.
We cannot expect students in these under-equipped and under-resourced schools to compete with students in wealthy private schools and other well-funded public schools.
Most of the teachers in these community high schools are not well motivated and therefore remain less ambitious and uncompetitive.
We need to expand and improve the capacity of these educators by investing in their training and paying them well.
Nonetheless, we know the real issue is capacity.
I remember during the campaign, Vice President Rt Honorable Chilima constantly suggested that his plan to address capacity issues and provide equitable education to all students would include using a non-compliant and creative approach.
His idea of using fiber optic cables as a solution to removing and replacing barriers to student admission to university was what I thought could be the priority of this government.
Internet technology can connect students to distant professors in near real time at lightning speed with no connection lag.
This means that dozens of students could attend classes and access a speaker virtually without having to be physically on a campus.
That is why we are asking that Internet data costs be capped and that the government must do everything to intervene.
Let us not forget that education is not just a sector.
As such, education must be treated as an industry with the potential to affect our economy and shape the fate of our children’s future.
When President Chakwera said Malawians are on a date with fate, surely it had to start with making sure every child is not left behind.
From Nsanje to Chitipa, every child should be treated equally and should have access to education so that limitless possibilities can be released.
As I log out, let us examine with a sense of great responsibility and human integrity the wise words of Catholic Bishop Professor Ryan of the Mzuzu Diocese of the Catholic Church, who once told a local newspaper that the quota system has consequences for the brilliant students of the country.
“I have been a teacher for many years and it pains me to see a student who did well in his studies not reach higher education because of his home district, and I think the selection of students should be based on abilities and ability. “
Let’s fight this evil with all we have.
Together we can, as they say, United we stand and divided, we fall.
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