afrika aphukira

Midwiving the Afrikan rebirth. . . Views of Afrika and the world, on the path to the renaissance, from a social justice and an Afrikan epistemological perspective--uMunthu. Includes specific commentary on Malawi and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who let the kids out?

Did the primary school children who took to the streets of Blantyre and Lilongwe during the civil servants strike in February do this on their own? Or did someone organize them? Are Malawian school children capable or organizing themselves in this manner?

When I first learned of the development, my initial reaction was that the children had become concerned with the lack of progress in the salary negotiations, and how this was affecting their education. On social media, the news was received with both admiration and alarm. Some exclaimed that this was the first time ever in Malawi’s history that very young school children were expressing their right to free speech, and showing grown-ups that they took their schooling very seriously. Some saw rare heroism from the country’s youngest citizens, suggesting that these school children were “re-defining active citizenship,” in the words of Kondwani Farai Chikadza in a Facebook status update.

School children pose and make the ubiquitious peace sign
But others were very alarmed. They worried that something tragic could easily happen to the children, and there would be no one to be held accountable. Active facebooker Peter Kalua wrote: “Who is guiding these kids? What if they get run over, what if some of them go missing? If there is someone behind the protests of these kids, let him think properly. This is child abuse.” He spoke from a parent’s perspective and added, “I would not want to see my kid in this chaos.”

The children’s action raised several questions. How could they have left school by themselves without adult supervision? How could children from several schools have organised themselves in such an orderly way, knowing where to converge and where to head towards? But there were many others who could simply not buy the idea that Malawian primary school children could do this. There had to be someone who had organised them, for purely political gains. This was also the stand taken by the few children’s rights NGOs who spoke out on the issue.

One only hopes we will be able to get to the bottom of this and find out the truth. If it turns out that some grown-ups were indeed behind this, then it is extremely unfortunate and reprehensible. It will be frightening to see the extent to which some people can go, putting children in harm’s way just to score political points. It was already disturbing to hear one broadcasting house deliberately misrepresent and politicize the school children’s action as a protest against the teachers’ strike.

Regardless of whether these school children were organised by someone or not, there are lessons to be learned by all of us. The first lesson is that we must put in place measures for dealing with the safety and security of school children’s during strikes. Many school children understood why their teachers joined the strike, and stood with them in solidarity. But many schools left the children on their own, communicating nothing about the strike, and putting no measures in place for the children’s safety. This was a clear case of poor leadership at the school level and the strike’s organizing structures. A teachable moment was lost here.

The second lesson is that we need to become aware of the changing definitions of active citizenship and our understanding of childhood. A lot of Malawians point to the passivity and docility of us as citizens as the root causes of the socio-economic and political problems the country is facing. We have a history of expecting someone up there, be it “government” or even “God”, to solve our problems. But times have changed.

This ties into the third lesson. We need to view the discourse on leadership in our country in terms of what Malawi might look like when our school children become more actively engaged in social and political matters. Whether we like it or not, that day is fast approaching. The school curriculum teaches about civic engagement, although most schools handle this more as theory than practice. The best educational systems in the world involve school children in civic engagement and provide a safe environment for them to do so.

We cannot talk of active citizenship in the school curriculum while expecting that our children will remain aloof from and uninterested in the ills that afflict Malawian society. Children learn more than what the curriculum teaches. They learn by observing the grown-ups who surround them. We must always remember that the children are watching us, and are making their own judgments about how leaders lead. Knowing this should make us conscious about what we would like our children to learn, and what kind of Malawi we would like to bequeath to them. 

This article first appeared in the My Turn op-ed column of The Nation newspaper on Wednesday 27th February, 2013.

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View blog reactions posted by steve sharra @ Tuesday, March 19, 2013


At Thursday, May 02, 2013 8:00:00 PM, Anonymous Jawara Kampung said...

Nice Blog, thanks for sharing anything,,,,

At Sunday, December 18, 2016 9:52:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

تعد شركة الرحمة افضل شركات التنظيف ومكافحة الحشرات بالرياض والممكلة فهى توفر افضل عماله مدربة على جميع اعمال التنظيف للمنازل والفلل والشقق والخزانات بافضل المنظفات العالمية العالية الجودة وارسعارها في متناول الجميع
افضل شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض
شركة نقل عفش بالرياض

شركة جلى بلاط بالرياض

كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض

At Sunday, December 18, 2016 9:54:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

خدمات التنظيف تحتاج الى عماله ماهره لتقوم بها في اسرع وقت نوفر افضل العمالة الفلبينية والمصرية والهندية لتتم عمليات التنظيف وجلى البلاط على اتم صورة وباسرع وقت وبارخص الاسعار
افضل شركة تنظيف بالرياض

افضل شركة تنظيف شقق بالرياض
افضل شركة تنظيف فلل بالرياض
افضل شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض
شركة تسليك مجارى بالرياض


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