Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kaliati deplores nepotism in govt. departments

Information and Civic Education Minister Patricia Kaliati has deplored the tendency of some civil servants who offer jobs to their children and relatives saying the behaviour brings inefficiency in many government departments.

Kaliati noted that such employees do not perform their duties with seriousness and sometimes offer substandard services, which costs the government of hard-earned resources and money.

She was speaking at Lakeside Hotel in Salima on Wednesday where she closed a five-day workshop on Strategic Planning for the Department of Information Systems and Technology Management Services, popularly known as DISTMS.

“You’re well equipped with all resources needed, but you don’t deliver. Why? If you are failing to perform, why don’t you bring in new people who can offer the services we’re looking for? Is it because you want your sons and daughters to graduate first so that you can employ them?” asked Kaliati.

“That is why we don’t have quality services in the department (DISTMS),” she concluded.

Kaliati also deplored the behaviour of holding workshops frequently whose profit or benefit to the nation does not come saying it was a waste of government resources because the workshops do not benefit the poor at the grassroots’ level.

“Government knows there are some people who are very interested in workshops in Salima, Mangochi and other places. The reason for such workshops is to claim allowances with which you can supplement your budgets. But that is wrong because you are just draining government of its resources without coming up with tangible development.

“People in the village are looking for the services, not unending strategic planning workshops every mid month just because you are broke and you think workshops are where you can get extra money for supplementing your budgets,” she schooled.

Kaliati challenged the Acting Director of DISTMS Grant Lupiya to take ICT to the rural masses saying every Malawian has a right to communicate.


Minister condemns officials for laxity


Minister of Information and Civic Education Patricia Kaliati has condemned officials at Department of Information Systems Technology Management Services (DISTMS) for lacking political will in developing ICT in the country.

Kaliati said it was surprising that her officials were holding strategic planning workshops now and then yet there nothing on the ground as far as information communication technology is concerned.

“We started talking about ICT (computers, internet services and phones) sometime back, yet years are going without seeing any improvement in ICT delivery. What are you people doing?” she queried.

“You are just sitting phwii at Capital Hill or organizing workshops where you’re claiming government allowances. Za boma zaphweka, eti?” wondered Kaliati who was looking directly into the eyes of the participants of the Strategic Planning workshop in Salima.

Kaliati intimated that that government would not entertain any excuses from DISTMS officials for the failure to roll out ICT programmes in the rural areas. She also criticised the planners for coming up with a long-time plans, which she said are tehn reviewed now and then before implementation saying such behaviour costs governemtn of its meagre resources.

“You are coming up with a three-year plan, for what? What are you waiting for? What are you going to be doing all this time? Organizing other training workshops in mid months for allowances? You have all the resources it takes to roll out ICT in the rural areas. We need ICT-led Malawi now, not in 2011.,” demanded Kaliati.

DISTMS has just come up with a three-year strategic planning, which runs from July this year to July 2011. But Minister of Information and Civic Education argued that there was no justification for DISTMS to delay ICT services to the people as if there were no resources available to roll out.



   Ufa umene anapereka a Khembo
Nduna yoona anthu olumala ndi okalamba a Clement Khembo apereka matumba a ufa wa soya opyola 500 ku gulu la achinyamata losamalira anthu osauka ndi ana amasiye.

Polankhula atapereka mphatsoyo, a Khembo anati boma likuyamikira ntchito imene gulu la Community of Sant’ Egidio likugwira m’dziko muno makamaka posamalira anthu osauka, okalamba ndi ana amasiye.

“Ndizosangalatsa kuti pamene boma likuyesetsa kuchepetsa mavuto amene anthu okalamba ndi ana amasiye akukumana nawo, palinso achinyamata ngati inu amene mwadzipereka kuti muthandizepo,” anatero a Khembo.

“Ntchito yosamalira ana amasiye ndi okalamba si yaboma lokha, koma tonse. Inuyo ndi amene m’madziwa anthu ovutika chifukwa m’makhala nawo m’madera anu. Choncho ndibwino kuti udindo woyamba osamalira anthu ovutika ukhale m’manja mwanu, boma pambuyo,” anatsindika chomwechi andunawa.

M’modzi mwa ogwira ntchito ya chifundo mu gulu la Community of Sant’ Egidio a Francisco Zuze adati gulu lawo likukumana ndi mavuto ochuluka pantchito yawo kamba kosowa zipangizo zothandizira anthu osowa.

A Zuze anati ndizonyaditsa kuti boma kudzera mu unduna wa anthu olumala ndi okalamba laganiza kuti lithandize gululi ndi ufa womwe a Khembo anati uthandizire ana amasiye okhaokha.

“Matenda a Edzi apangitsa kuti ana amasiye achuluke tsiku ndi tsiku. Pamene chiwerengero cha anawa chikukwera gulu lathu limakhala likuchepa mphamvu zowathandizira anawa,” anadandaula a Zuze.

Yemwe amayang’anira ana amasiye ndi okalamba mu gululi mu chigawo cha pakati a Kondwani Hema anadandaulira ndunayo kuti anthu ena akumawanyogodola ponena kuti ndi amfiti eti kamba koti amagwirizana ndi nkhalamba.

“Kulikonse tingapite kuti tikapereke thandizo kwa okalamba, anthu otiwona amati ndife ophunzira ufiti n’chifukwa chake timagwirizana ndi azigogo otha mano mkamwa,” adatero a Hema.

A Khembo analonjeza achinyamatawo kuti boma likhazikitsa mfundo zoti munthu aliyense onena anthu okalamba kuti ndi mfiti adzitengedwera ku bwalo lamilandu kuti adzikamangidwa ndi kukagwira ndende.


Man arrested, detained for reporting crime


Senior Chief Jubeki of Area 24 in Lilongwe says he will have no choice, but to advise his subjects not to report crime to police following the arrest and detention of one of his people June this year.

The emotionally-driven Jubeki told the reporter in an exclusive interview that he was very disturbed and confused with how the law-enforcers arrested and detained for months one Enekesi Bauleni Banda. The chief explained that Banda used to run a tailoring shop at Area 24 market before he met his fateful day, a day he will live to dread.

“While he was busy sewing, he received a lady customer who had brought a lace. This lady advised the tailor not to sew the lace until she brought its “lining”. The lady went and never returned,” Jubeki explained.

He added that for three months the woman did not come back to claim her cloth. However, Banda kept the lace intact hoping that one day his customer would show up.

At last she came demanding her lace because she would not have it sewn since she did not bring the “lining.”

“But the tailor asked the lady to pay him for keeping the lace for such long time. Instead of negotiating, the customer threatened Banda with unspecified action,” the chief said.

She left the lace and promised to bring someone who would rescue her from the tailor. A few hours later, the lady appeared with a man she introduced as her husband. The husband pleaded with the tailor to release the lace to the lady and that he would settle the bills later.

“He promised he would pay K300,” he recalled.

Dissatisfied, Banda asked the husband for a surety. This is when the said husband produced a plastic bag and handed it over to the tailor.

“Banda did not check the contents in the bag. At the fall of the day, he decided to see what lay inside the plastic bag he was made to keep. Lo and behold, there were car keys, identity card, and a driving licence. But what surprised Banda was that the face appearing on the id was of a certain man who had been killed by armed robbers previously,” Jubeki recounted.

His story was corroborated by Banda’s wife Staness Damiano who is living alone now at Area 24 (Ngwenya).

Damiano said it was his husband’s friends and the chief who had advised Banda to surrender the items to Area 24 Police who later detained him.

“The police detained him for three days. Then they granted him bail, but a few days later they called for him. We were told they (police) were under instructions not to release him until investigations are through,” narrated the seemingly-lacking and desperate Damiano.

Damiano also said she has been to different organizations over the issue, but salvation for her husband seems far from near.

Executive Director for Christian Agency of Responsible Democracy, Development and National Unity (CARDDENU) Pastor Moses Phiri confirmed to have received a complaint from the lady over the issue.

“We have been discussing this issue with other organizations. But as of now, I cannot say much on the progress,” said Phiri.

Lovemore Mwabumba from Police Headquarters in Lilongwe recently said the police would release Banda when investigations are through.

“Police has no reason to keep an innocent person. When investigations are through, he will surely be released,” he said.

The problem is that people want us to rush. But they should understand that investigations of such nature take. How do we know he is innocent as the chief is alleging?” asked.

But Jubeki challenged that he knows and can show the man who handed Banda the plastic bag that later came to be his gallows.


Priest conducts special Mass for ex-convict


There was jubilation at Msambaadzukulu Roman Catholic Church 25 kilometres away from Madisi Parish where Rev. Fr. Denis Paul-Hamelin conducted a special Mass for a man who had just finished serving his jail-term at Maula Prison.

The ex-convict, Thomas Moses Bwankhuku had asked Fr. Paul-Hamelin to conduct the Mass at his home church to thank God for keeping him (Bwankhuku) alive in the gallows for six years when others had kicked the bucket.

“I felt the need to thank God for this wonderful gift of life he kept for me while in prison. Today, I am a very happy person my prayer has been answered,” said Bwankhuku to the reporter who had accompanied the priest from Lilongwe.

He also thanked the people accepting him back into the community saying: “I didn’t expect it. I thought the people could throw me with stones because of what I did to their daughter. i did not commit my crime in Mzuzu, but here. So I could not expect anything good from these villagers. But I am happy I have been forgiven and accepted back into the village.”

Chairman of Bowe Outstation Joseph Billiati said they felt honoured and humbled to receive Holy Eucharist courtesy of someone who had spent years in prison.

In his sermon, the priest said it was not his duty to judge people and that he values every Christian the same whether in free or enslaved.

“Some may wonder why I accepted to conduct a special Eucharistic celebration for Thomas who had been in prison for six years. I don’t think Thomas is worse than I am,” he said.

“It is possible I am worse than him only that I have not been caught. The same is true with you congregants. It may be possible you have been sinning but you have not been caught,” he emphasized.

Fr. Denis recalled that when he was first assigned to prison service, he was afraid thinking he would lose his life and property to inmates.

“But when I went there, I found very good people. They don’t bite nor do they rob me of my items. Since then I have made a number of friends in prisons and one of them is Thomas Moses Bwankhuku,” Fr. Denis said while women ululated.

Among notable people available on what the Father described as “the most remarkable day since I started my prisons’ ministry”, were Group Village Headman Ndayipanji Ntakuzi and Village Headman Kubwalo.

Thomas Moses Bwankhuku was arrested in 2003 by Mponela Police having raped a woman when he was coming back from Dambwe. He was sentenced to six years imprisonment with hard labour.


‘Amai a Chifundo’ donate to Bwaila Hospital


Catholic Women’s Charity group from Mtima Woyera Deanery in Lilongwe last weekend donated assorted goods to management and staff at Bwaila Hospital.

Chairperson of the group, mai Kalonga, said they felt the need to share what they have with those who don’t need.

“As women of charity, we feel duty-bound and responsible to assist those who don’t have. Patients are some of the needy hence the need to assist,” she said.

“This is our duty and responsibility entrusted to us by our Lord Jesus Christ,” continued Kalonga.

Kalonga observed that it was the wish of every patient to celebrate Christmas (birth of our Lord Jesus Christ) with full and health life, but circumstances don’t allow them to.

“That is why we decided to offer them early Christmas gifts and cheer them up. We also wanted to show them God cares even when they are on hospital beds,” she added.

Mtima Woyera deanery comprises parishes of Don Bosco, Utatu Woyera, Chilinde and Mtima Woyera itself.

Among the gifts, the charity donated sugar, salt, maize flour, fish, bath and laundry soap, body lotions and firewood.

“It was our message of merry Christmas, Happy New Year and quick recovery to the sick. We pray that they return to health so that they go back to their respective workplaces,” said Florence Chkwakwa, member of the charity from Don Bosco Woyera parish.

Management, staff and patients at the hospital thanked the women for the kind gesture.

“These gifts have come at the right time when as others will be celebrating, patients will be groaning with pain on hospital beds with no one to give them goodies. Some patients don’t have guardians, as such your gifts are very essential to the sick,” said the management when they were receiving the donation.


Gun-free zone campaign goes to Area 36


After successfully launching gun-free zone campaign in Lilongwe’s Area 24 also called Ngwenya, Christian Agency for Development, Democracy and National Unity (CARDDENU) will next Saturday launch the same in Area 36.

Breaking the news to the reporter, Executive Director of the agency Pastor Moses Phiri flanked by his Secretary Francis Antonio said his organisation has been receiving calls from the general public to the campaign launched in other parts of the country.

“We have been receiving numerous calls from the general public asking us to launch the campaign in their areas of residence,” said Pr. Phiri while his secretary nodded in agreement.

Antonio added that is the duty of their agency to see to it that by the year 2010, Malawi should be free from illegal fire arms and small weapons. He note that in country where there is lack of security, development retards.

“That is why we want to launch the campaign in Area 36 next week. After that we are going somewhere else. We want to sensitize the masses on the need to report anyone who possesses illegal firearms or any other dangerous weapons,” said Antonio.

CARDDENU is a Christian organisation which offers training skills to orphans; supports the needy and advocates for peaceful transition of leadership in every sector, according to Pastor Moses Phiri.


Prison’s gun-shot victim condition worsening


The condition of one Fredrick Banda who was shot in the head on by warders at Maula Prison on 2 December this year is said to be worsening.

Banda fell victim to the gun-shot after inmates and officials exchanged fire and stones having failed to agree on one thing regarding food rations.

Inmates purportedly staged a strike demanding to receive food rations on that day contrary to what the prison officials had told the slaves the previous day that there was no food in store for them.

Both hospital officials at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) and Malawi Human Rights Commission investigators have confirmed. However, Prisons’ Department spokesperson Tobias Noah told the reporter in a phone interview that the victim had been discharged and was now receiving treatment as an outpatient.

This development has angered Dorothy Nyasulu of Malawi Human Rights Commission who wondered why officials at Maula chose to cheat their own senior authority.

“What is their motive? Why do they feed their own superiors with false information? This is very ridiculous!” she said.

Our source, who has just been released from the institution having served ten-year sentence, said prisoners decided to stage a sit-in when they saw that management at the penitentiary did not value and respect inmates’ right to food.

The source said the management started denying them of their adequate nutritious meals from 26 November to 1 December 2007. This angered the slaves who demanded an explanation from the Officer in Charge a Mr. Makumba. But Makumba was sick on that fateful day.

Inmates could not relent, so they demanded the head of the Regional Prisons Officer L.D. Mtengano. When the RPO availed himself, he earned himself stone-throws having dissatisfied the inmates with his explanation.

The irate slaves beat up Sub-Inspector Phiri of Lingadzi Police who had gone there to release a prisoner on remand. In the process, Phiri lost a shoe from one foot, wrist watch and money.

When they had finished with the law enforcer form Kawale, they pounced on Mtengano. But Mtengano had a pistol loaded on him so he had no reason to be afraid. He pulled a trigger and started firing towards the direction where inmates had assembled. This is when Fredrick Banda paid his price.

The source continued to say that inmates could not understand why they were being starved when Parliament had just passed their budget and that there was enough maize in ADMARC markets according reports from the government.

At least 70 inmates who were thought to be ringleaders have been transferred to Mikuyu Prison.

A certain woman whose son is in the group of those transferred to Mikuyu expressed fear for his enslaved child saying: “I am afraid he will die there. I have heard a lot about Mikuyu during Kamuzu and I don’t know if he will ever come.”

The mother also said what pains her most is that her child was about to be released soon (he had two months remaining).

An official at KCH confided in the reporter that Banda has now been moved from Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to High Dependency Unit.

MHRC has said they are following up the matter with keen interest and would take an appropriate action against the officer who shot should something worse happen to the victim.

“We are mostly disappointed because very recently we conducted a workshop for Prison warders in Mangochi where we told them to respect the rights of the inmates. We also asked not to resort to shooting whenever there a slight disagreement with their wards,” Nyasulu recounted.


St. Egidio should invite Bingu officially--Kaliati


Information Minister Patricia Kaliati has urged Catholic Community of Sant’ Egidio to officially invite President Bingu wa Mutharika if he is to attend this year’s Prayer of Peace at Chancellor College organized by the Community. The Prayer of Peace will be held on November 3 at the Chanco’s Great Hall.

Mutharika had earlier on received an invitation to attend world religious summit in Naples, according to Mario Marazziti spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Naples.

Community of Sant’Egidio had organized a two-day spiritual gathering to be held from Monday next week where, among other things, religious and political leaders are expected to bang heads on issues of HIV/AIDS, plight of Africa, immigration and conflict resolution in the Middle East. Pope Benedict XVI will grace the prayers.

Mutharika had confirmed his participation at the gathering alongside Tanzanian leader Jakaya Murisho Kikwete according to the information from the organizers of the summit in Naples made available on the international networks (internet). But the president had to cancel his presence at the summit to attend to other important government business at the end of his holiday in Portugal.

When answering to a question whether the president would consider attending the same prayer at Chancellor College organized by the local Community of Sant’Egidio, Information Minister Patricia Kaliati who is also government spokesperson said failure of His Excellency to attend a world religious summit in Naples is due his busy schedules. Kaliati said the president is a very busy man and believes in hard working.

“If he failed to attend the summit in Naples at the eleventh hour, it means the president is very busy. As a head of state, he needs to be at home to do something for his people,” she said.

“But what I can advise the Community of Sant’Egidio to do is that they should invite him (Dr. Mutharika) officially. He is a spiritual and prayerful man. Maybe he can spare some time to attend the prayer in Zomba—Chancellor College,” she urged.

Francisco Zuze, Community of Sant’Egidio member in Malawi, who is also National Administrator for Egidio’s Drug Resource Enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition (DREAM Programme), said he would be very happy if the president attended the same prayer locally having failed to make it in Naples.

“We believe the president is a very busy person, but if he can have time, it would be very nice if he graced the occasion. We know him to be a prayerful Catholic and would be more than willing to attend,” he said.

“I do understand that he has failed to attend the meeting in Naples due to demanding tasks he had here at home. Otherwise he could not afford to lose the opportunity to meet the Pope and other world leaders in Italy besides leaders of Community of Sant’Egidio,” he observed.

On its part, Malawi Congress Party says it is ready to meet the head of state at the prayer of peace in Zomba if the Community of Sant’Egidio extends the invitation to the party. MCP spokesperson Ishmael Chafukira said Thursday in a telephone interview the party would make itself available if officially invited.

“As MCP, we are always ready to attend that religious gathering. Actually, we have been attending such prayers for a long time. There is nothing that can stop us from attending this one,” he said adding: “We are a God-fearing party.”

Efforts to talk to Sam Mpasu of the United Democratic Front failed due to network problems.

Zuze, however, did not indicate the day when the Community would contact the president and other political leaders for the Prayer of Peace as he (Zuze) was out of office. He is attending another important meeting in Blantyre.


North lacks capacity to contain HIV/AIDS

DREAM Program boss Francisco Zuze
"Thank you very much, Mr. Simwera for taking a wise decision. It is important for everybody nowadays to go for voluntary counselling and testing. This will help you plan for the future," says John Mwalwanda (not real name) medical officer at Chitipa Rural Clinic.

"Now, I am going to take your blood samples for analysis," he adds.

This is how the journey began for Simwera. He got tested and diagnosed HIV positive. His health continued deteriorating drastically despite the fact that he had been going to the clinic for treatment whenever he felt ill. But things never changed.

This is when the clinician thought of diagnosing Simwera again to detect whether the patient could start taking the life-prolonging drugs--ARVs. Unfortunately for Simwera, the clinic close to him does not have essential equipment that can analyse the blood samples. So to fulfil his duties, the clinician collects the blood samples and keeps them for some days waiting for transport to Mzuzu Central Hospital where there CD4 count machines which can screen the viroload in the patient.

It is only after screening the blood samples that the right medication or the type of the ARVs that can be administered on a particular patient. Such is the situation in the whole northern region where only Mzuzu Central Hospital (MCH) has the most needed equipment in the fight against HIV/AIDS. All the districts in the north rely on MCH equipment for analysing blood samples which is essential in the administration of ARVs on each patient.

According to Mrs RC Ng’ambi, HIV/AIDS Coordinator for St. John’s Hospital in Mzuzu, the situation is so pathetic that very few patients are put on ARVs because their blood samples have not been returned to their respective district hospitals and clinics for consideration on antiretroviral therapy.

Ng’ambi explained that in normal circumstances, every patient is tested and his blood analysed to detect the viral load (the amount of viruses in the body) so that right prescription can be given. She said CD4 count machines are very essential in the fight against HIV/AIDS everywhere in the world.

“Special laboratory equipment, that is, CD4 count machines, are very important in the fight against the scourge. Otherwise we would be fighting a losing battle,” she said.

“What we do is that when we collect the blood samples, we put them into special filter papers, and this blood collection is known as Dried Blood Specimen. And this blood has to be analysed to detect whether a particular patient has reached a stage where he can start taking ARVs. Unfortunately, the whole of north, it is only Mzuzu Central Hospitals with such facilities,” she explained.

Ng’ambi added: “You can imagine how big the job is for staff at MCH! All blood from Chitipa, Karonga, Nkhata Bay, Mzimba and Rumphi flooding to MCH. Do you think people can get the services in time? I doubt. Because what I know is that it also takes time for the results to reach Chitipa or Karonga due to transport problems. Sometimes the results get to the clinics when the clients had died already.”

Ng’ambi also said there is need for speedy provision of the equipment in district hospitals and clinics so that all patients stage1 and 2 on World Health Organisation’s Staging System and cannot qualify for ARVs can be considered for the therapy.

“This is only possible if there are CD4 count machines. Otherwise these patients will miss the opportunity to ARVs, and this would cause unnecessary and untimely deaths among Malawians especially villages who cannot afford even a transport money to MCH to get the services. It is easy for these people in town with cars. They can just drive to a clinic of their choice to get the services. But what about rural poor people?” she asked.

“That is why we are saying we desperately need the CD4 count machines in the rural areas (hospitals/clinics)” stressed Ng’ambi.

Department of HIV/AIDS and Nutrition Principal Secretary Dr. Mary Shaba concurred with Ng’ambi that north lacks capacity in the fight agaist HIV/AIDS. However, she differed with Ng’ambi on the assertion that only northern region is hit by this problem. Dr. Shaba said in an interview the problem of CD4 count machines is countrywide saying currently the country has only 16 machines which are not enough to cater for the country ailing population.

Shaba, however, said people in the north should not panic because plans are already underway to install CD4 count machines at Mzimba Hospital. She said the advantage of this equipment at this hospital is that it will also have satellites and mobile clinics to reach out to rural Malawians who cannot afford transportation means to referrals.

“For example, in Karonga we have identified two places, i.e. Kameme and St. Anne’s Hospital. Services at these hospitals will cater for people around Karonga. But we cannot manage to provide every district with the equipment at one go because there are a lot of other factors that need to be considered,” she said.

“We need to train the staff who will run the equipment. The purchase of the equipment itself needs money. So people should not think that we are doing nothing on the problem, but that we cannot do it at once,” she observed.

Dr. Shaba hinted that currently the department has lined up two plans regarding the same problem. She explained that the first plan would be to install CD4 count machines in all district hospitals and then extend the service to the rural hospitals.

A Catholic non-profit making charity organisation, Community of Sant’Egidio through its Drug Resource Enhancement against Aids and Malnutrition (DREAM) Program said it realized the need for not only CD4 count machines but also Molecular Biology Laboratory which would also provide Viral Load Services in the north and will soon provide the same at one of the region’s hospital.

Community of Sant’Egidio National Administrator Francisco Zuze told the reporter in an interview DREAM Program through Project Malawi Network which is coordinated by the Department of HIV/AIDS and Nutrition in the OPC will establish the facility at Mzimba District Hospital which will also act as a referral for other rural hospitals and clinics.

Zuze said he believes Malawi cannot win the battle against HIV/AIDS without essential Laboratory equipment. He also said the Community of Sant’Egidio’s DREAM Program will continually support district hospitals across the country through training of Laboratory technicians and donation of equipment where possible.

“It is in this line that soon we will be donating CD4 count machine to Ntcheu District Hospital,” he announced.


Do we have to close eyes while praying?

Prayer is one element that makes up spiritual life for every human being that feels incapable without God’s help.

People pray and worship for different reasons. While we often still think of prayer primarily as asking God for something, prayer, properly understood, is a conversation with God or with the saints.

Just as we cannot hold a conversation with another person unless he can hear us, the very act of praying is an implicit recognition of the presence of God or the saints here with us. And in praying, believers strengthen that recognition of the presence of God, which draws us closer to Him. That is why the Church recommends that believers pray frequently and make prayer an important part of our everyday lives.

Prayer in Christian theology is all about talking to God. Prayer is not a set of rules that worshippers have to follow. There are no certain ritual steps that people have to do in order to pray to God.

Theologically speaking, prayer is our communication with God. With prayer, people can enter into a deep I-Thou relationship with God. So, it is all about relationship and not ritual.

Simply put, prayer is the place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made. Prayer is the place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God. It is the needful practice of the Christian; the exercise of faith and hope and privilege of touching the heart of the Father through the Son of God, Jesus our Lord.

However, the diversity of faiths and faith groups has brought with it different approaches to prayer; a vehicle which most worshippers will take them to their Maker. While some people believe communicating to God can only be done with closed eyes some denominations are of the view that sincerity is paramount if someone is in desperate need to be intercourse with the Creator.

But the questions that one may be tempted to ask are: do we have to close our eyes while praying? And why is it that Christians, especially evangelicals and Pentecostals, teach their children to have their eyes closed when they pray?

Is it a biblical requirement of a 'spiritual' prayer? Is a prayer with open eyes less spiritual? What is the historical background of this 'common' practice among Christians?

Rev. Canaan Phiri, General Secretary of the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) says he never studied any history relating to the birth of this Christian tradition, but gives two conflicting answers on the first question.

“No, we don’t need to close. At the same time, it is important that we close,” says Rev. Phiri.

“No because it is not recorded anywhere in the Bible says commanding believers to close their eyes during prayer. Therefore, the closing of eyes when one is praying solely depends on the predisposition of the faithful,” says Rev. Phiri.

On yes, the MCC general secretary believes that although the Bible doesn't require Christians to close their eyes in order to have a more 'spiritual' prayer Jesus did say in Matthew 6:6 about the need for seclusion during prayers.

The cited chapter reads: "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Rev. Phiri states that note needs to be taken since Jesus is not teaching the disciples to close the door, and not the eyes.

“Doors have to be closed I think because Jesus wants the prayer to be sincere and not a self-performance in front of many people. Therefore the main reason why people close their eyes is that they want to be sincere and honest of heart, and not ritual eyes closed,” said the cleric.

Rev Fr. Bill Turnbull of the Roman Catholic (RC) says prayer is an important asset of Christian life, but argues that there is no need for believers to worry about how they can stand in the presence of God in prayer.

“The Bible speaks much of prayer. But, sometimes, too often, we ignore prayer and seek to accomplish in the strength of our own wills those things that we desire to have or happen,” says Fr. Turnbull, whose local name is Abambo Masina to his flock in Lilongwe.

“For those of us who are too often guilty of this, we need to bow our knees, confess our sin, receive God's forgiveness, and beg that the will of the Lord be done above our own. God is sovereign and loving and He knows what is best for us and others, even if it doesn't always seem to make the most sense,” he adds.

Bishop Mark Kambalazaza of the Charismatic Redeemed Ministries International (CRMI) concurs with the two saying closing of eyes during prayer is “just a question of common sense to avoid obstruction.”

Kambalazaza says there is nothing wrong for people to offer their supplications to God with eyes wide open.

“When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he did not close his eyes. Actually, he just looked up in the sky and a miracle happened. So whether one closes his eyes or not God will still hear and act on your prayers,” says he.

On his part, General Secretary of the Blantyre Synod of the CCAP, Rev. MacDonald Kadawati, states that although it is not a rule, the synod recommends that worshippers should close their eyes for them to concentrate on their communication with their Maker.

On whose prayer God can answer first between the one that closes eyes and the other that does not, Rev. Kadawati agrees with Rev. Phiri and Fr. Turnbull who believe that sincerity of the prayer is paramount to the physical disposition.

While Mrs. Uledi, a Living Waters faithful, too, shares the view, she thinks it is necessary to close eyes when in communion with God.

“The intention of closed eyes during prayer is to quiet the mind whereas the intention of two hands placed together during prayer is to quiet the physical body's activities. When the mind and hands are silenced the spirit is allowed a more focused communication with a place of knowing. Closing eyes is an act of departing from physical realm,” Mrs. Uledi explains.

She, however, sees no biblical justification for the tradition and, therefore, cannot be a base for judging one’s spiritual soundness.

But Rev. Canaan Phiri observed that the practice is only synonymous with protestant faith groups, an observation that all the interviewees shared.

What is funny, though, is that in most case those who do not close their eyes are viewed as “worshippers with shallow spirituality”. The explanation is that

As the journey goes to the Promised Land (Heaven) rages on one thing is for sure: one is free to pray with eyes open or closed. God is not going to judge our physical predispositions and posture while adoring Him. Rather, the sincerity of our hearts and minds during our tête-à-tête with our Maker is what matters most if we want our prayers answered. It is the determining factor for one to escape hell during Judgment Day.


DPP north to meet over quota system

Northern region Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says it will soon meet and discuss on what stand to take on the emotive quota system.

DPP First Deputy Publicity Secretary, Wyson Mkochi, disclosed this in an interview yesterday that his committee was concerned that some people had taken the issue of quota system as a regional issue.

This follows the firing of the DPP Deputy Director of Political Affairs Harry Mkandawire who criticized President Bingu wa Mutharika on some of his policies, a development that forced the party the party to summon him on 30 October this year.

In a telephone interview, Mkochi criticized Mezuwa Banda for what he disclosed as “unilateral decision on the issue of quota system”.

“I am a member of Livingstonia Synod and I can tell you that we have never met as a synod to discuss the issue of quota system. We were, therefore, surprised to read from press what stand Rev. Mezuwa Banda had taken on quota system,” said Mkochi.

“We are proposing a meeting next week as northern region DPP committee where we will discuss what stand as DPP north will take. Our understanding is that this issue [quota system] doesn’t affect northern region only although some people think it is.

“This is a national matter. As such, we need to take a sober stand before we start criticizing proponents of the system,” he added.

Mkochi explained that the Livingstonia Synod moderator did not consult “northerners on the issue before making a statement.”

“The moderator did not consult anyone on the issue before making that statement. From what I know, we had to sit down as a synod and agree on what stand to take on the matter rather than just one person making a decision,” he stated.

According to Mkochi, all members of the DPP from the north will meet next week to strategize on what to do on the matter. He, however, doubted if the committee will discuss anything contrary to what Mutharika says on the issue.

“If we agree to disagree with what the President says on quota system, then all of us will have to resign from the party,” said Mkochi. He, however, did not indicate when the committee will meet.


Breaking the cycle of feminism

She is a girl but Juliana Sichunga admires Noel Ng’oma, a medical assistant at Kangolwa Health Centre in Traditional Authority Kasakula’s area in Ntchisi.

“I don’t admire him personally, but professionally,” Sichunga, 19, clarified. She knows it is abnormal for women in our society to declare their interest in a man.

Juliana comes from the area which for the past decades did not consider education as a key to socioeconomic development of every society.

“Marriage was considered the only destination for their sons and daughters. Education was a luxury for children of wealthy people,” said Kasakula Education Network (KEN), executive director, Jamison Kudzala.

KEN is a network of all the 14 schools in Kasakula’s area and was established in 2007 to promote quality education for all school-going children with emphasis on girls, orphans and vulnerable children.

A research that Action Aid International Malawi (AAIM) conducted in Ntchisi showed that the district was lagging behind in infrastructural and economic development both at household and community levels with Kasakula’s area topping the list.

AAIM Programme Coordinator for Ntchisi and Lilongwe, Chris Mhone, said that lack of development in the area was a direct result of high illiteracy among community members.

“Because most parents are illiterate in this area, they did not see, in the first place, what contribution education could make in transforming their social, infrastructural and economic development. Therefore, they could not see the importance of sending their children to school,” said Mhone when he officially closed a three-day Girls’ Conference that took place at Kasakula Secondary School last Thursday.

“Instead, these parents used to encourage their sons and daughters to marry as soon as they grow breasts. This has been one of the barriers to education for all children in Kasakula,” he explained.

Besides, the research discovered that female parents and guardians also contributed to girls’ school dropout. According to Mhone, female parents used to bombard their school-going daughters with responsibilities that made the children tired and left them with no time to study. They went to bed late and very exhausted.

In the end, such girls failed to perform to their best as most of the times they were sleeping while classes were in progress.

“Girls from this area rarely made it to secondary school,” explained Kudzala.

In order to break the cycle, AAIM entered into an agreement with KEN through which the former is funding the activities of the latter to promote and encourage all children to remain in school.

But efforts by the two organizations seem to be yielding positive results as enrolments in both primary and secondary have improved dramatically.

Although this may sound good news to those advocating for Education for All (EFA), the increase in numbers of pupils enrolling for basic education has its challenges such as lack of teachers, learning blocks and teachers’ houses.

In some instances, where girls make it to secondary school parents face the challenge to provide financial support to facilitate their learning. And these Kasakula education zone was not spared these challenges

To counter the problems, KEN with funding from AAIM is currently building teachers’ houses, paying school fees for girls, orphaned and vulnerable children at Kasakula Secondary and Chamalire Community Day Secondary School .

“I am happy that KEN is paying school fees for me. I am no longer worried. I am assured of my brighter future as I aim at reaching where Mr. Noel Ng’oma has reached.

“If he did it, I can do it as well because I am just as human as he is,” said Sichunga who is sitting for her Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) at Kasakula Secondary School this year.


Building contractor disappoints donor


Massimo Vigliar, a donor who funded the upgrading of Mangunda Health Centre in Thyolo, could not hide his disappointment on Monday when he opened told Ministry of Health officials, including the minister, that he felt let down by the building contractor who failed to complete work within the agreed period.

Thyolo District Assembly entered into an agreement with Rimos Building Contractor in which the latter was to build an outpatient department (OPD) structure at Mangunda Health Centre in the area of Sub Traditional Authority Nanseta in the district.

Under the agreement, the project was supposed to start in November last and be ready for handover by March this year. However, the building contractor beat the deadline, a development that angered the donor.

“I am very gland to help Malawians. However, I am disappointed that although I did my part others did not their part well,” said Vigliar during the official handover of the health centre.

“We agreed that the building would be ready for use by Mach this year, but up until now, the structure still has unfinished areas like water and electricity.

“Yet I paid for everything so that people should start accessing services from this facility, now the problem is to finish the work properly. I am really disappointed,” he added.

Vigliar also wondered why the facility is still running without electricity and piped water when he paid for the services.

But in an interview yesterday, director of Rimos Building Contractor Jeffrey Ngalande, expressed surprise with the Vigliar’s disappointment saying “the donor knows the reasons why I failed to do my job as per the agreement”.

Ngalande explained that it was not by his design that the project failed to be completed within the agreed period.

“Yes, the original period was that we were supposed through with the construction of the structure by March this year. But the donor knows why that did not happen,” he defended.

“There are a number of reasons, but I don’t have to say much,” Ngalande said. He could not pick any more questions from the reporter saying what he had said was enough.

“As I have already said, I don’t have to say much and I maintain my point. The donor knows that,” he said while laughing.

But Ngalande said Vigliar did not have to blame him [Ngalande] for lack of electricity and water services at the facility saying it is Escom and Water Board who are responsible for connecting such services to customers.

District Health Officer for the district, Dr. Beatrice Mwagomba explained that the delay to finish the project could not wholly be attributed to the contractor observing that there were many factors that caused the delay.

“The project was generally delayed,” Mwagomba said without disclosing the factors saying it was a sensitive issue.

And in his remarks during the handover ceremony, Minister of Health and Population Professor Moses Chirambo acknowledged and apologized for the contractual problems that rocked the construction of the facility.

“I would like to apologize to our donor for this. The problems have given us lessons which will make us more efficient in any future projects,” said Chirambo.


Life in a tea estate


Chifundo Mpaso, 30, of Likwakwanda village, Traditional Authority Nchilamwera in Thyolo had been working for Smallholder Tea Company (Steco) for a decade without anything to show for his toil.

Mpaso joined Steco in 1999 as a messenger. He always had hard choices to make in life since the working conditions were not as attractive.

“Although I was working, I had nothing to show for my sweat. Worse still, I joined the company was on the verge of collapse, which also contributed to the poor working conditions of the workers,” he said Sunday in an exclusive interview.

But in a situation where one is left with responsibility to feed and clothe a chain of dependants, the choices are particularly stark.

“I had to stay on for the sake of my family. Sometimes I could think that one day things would improve for the better, but nothing changed. We led a hand-to-mouth life,” Mpaso explained.

Thus the worker resigned to fate, praying to God that one day would answer his call for solutions to the many financial and social challenges his family was in.

Mpaso and his fellow workers were operating from rented houses some kilometres away from the estate. Only drivers and clerks were allocated company houses while the rest had to find their own accommodation elsewhere.

In times of eventualities, it was not easy for workers to connect with their bosses since there was no means of communication.

“Life was not easy at all,” he said.

Thus Mpaso and several others working in the estate went through excruciating poverty despite serving the company for years. But it was not their fault.

The problems of and conflict within the smallholder tea sub-sector began in 1994 when there was political influence in the operations Malawi Tea Company (Mateco), and these problems continued after privatization.

The major problems were: irregular collection of green leaf from selling/buying stations, long delays of up to 6 months in paying growers for their green leaf, lack of essential services to growers such as production input loans, extension services, and provision of planting material.

Mismanagement of finances at the company led to withdrawal of donor funding, such as the European Union, forcing STECO to accumulate huge debts even after government had settled all previous debts (K40 million in 1999 and K28.6 million in 2002) at the time of privatization in 2002.

Presentation of the above problems by smallholder growers to government through the Ministries of Agriculture and Statutory Corporations failed to elicit a response to solve the problems.

Government inaction led about 95% of the smallholder tea growers to sell their green leaf to commercial tea estate companies following government liberalization of marketing in 1996.

It was on the verge of collapse when Mulli Brothers bought Smallholder Tea Authority (STA) and MATECO in 2002 from government.

These two organizations were disbanded and replaced by two other organizations: the Smallholder Tea Growers Trust (TRUST) and the Smallholder Tea Company Limited (STECO).

The TRUST became the shareholding company of STECO which managed the smallholder tea factory, bought leaf from smallholders (the TRUST) and processed it in the factory.

Currently, out of an estimated 7,200 smallholder tea growers in Mulanje and Thyolo, only 1,000 remain with STECO, the rest sell their green leaf to commercial tea estate companies.

Mulli Brothers Group Business Development Manager Wise Chauluka told the media recently that the aim of their company now is to improve working conditions of the workers to enable them live happily.

Simon Philip, a plucker at the estate who has worked with the estate when it was both under government and Mandala, he never thought conditions of service would ever improve.

“Since Mulli Brothers Group bought this estate, life has completely changed. We are the highest paid estate workers around this area,” Philip mused.

He explained that his life and that of his family has improved tremendously, saying for a very long time now he lives in company house at the estate.

“Not long ago, only clerks and above used to occupy the house,” he added.

In another interview, Jonasi Banda disclosed that since government privatized Chitakale and the estate, life has been changing for the better.

Henry Monda, acting accountant at Chitakale Teas Estate, the situation seems to be improving for the better as they are now able to make timely monthly payments for green leaf and provide production input loans and extension service to growers.

“Payments have improved by 60 percent. It was not easy for temporary labourers to receive their payment after a fortnight, but that is history today. Everyone workers gets his wages on time,” explained Monda.

“General working conditions have also improved. In times of sickness or indeed death, workers are provided with all the support they need. All these did not happen in the past,” he said.


Poor criminals to get free legal representation


Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (PASI) in collaboration with Open Society Justice Initiative has launched a pilot programme which will benefit people charged with crimes in Lilongwe and Mangochi at no cost.

This is part of the Institute activities to commemorate 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

PASI national director Clifford Msiska said in a press statement released last Saturday that through the project, people charged with crimes in Lilongwe and Mangochi who cannot afford a lawyer will finally have access to basic legal representation at the earliest stages of the criminal justice process.

The statement says pilot sites will provide legal assistance at the early stage of the criminal justice process when people are the most vulnerable to abuse.

“Malawi’s criminal justice system is plagued with problems including the failure to provide criminal defendants with legal aid,” said Clifford Msiska.

“This program will provide basic legal services without draining the country’s coffers.”

According to the statement, PASI’s paralegals will screen arrestees to promote the diversion of appropriate individuals out of the formal criminal justice process; provide legal information to arrestees; and support arrestees by other means such as helping them locate witnesses and family members, and educating them about the function and procedure of a formal bail hearing.

The project will also rigorously measure the impact and cost of providing paralegals at its two pilot sites. The goals are to show Malawian policymakers that the program works and is cost-effective, and encourage them to create a country-wide system of criminal justice paralegals.

In his remarks, Open Society Justice Initiative executive director James A. Goldston observed that too many criminal defendants in Malawi languish in jail without ever receiving advice or help from a lawyer.

“Paralegals can help ensure that people’s most basic rights are protected,” he said.

Malawi, like a number of African countries, has a dearth of professional legal services. The country has only a few hundred lawyers for a population of more than 13 million.

In such conditions, programs that use paralegals are often able to resolve justice problems quickly and at low cost.


Milking a thin cow?


Blackouts or load shedding as they call it have become a frequent visitor in our homes, offices and factories.

They may be unwelcome, but people living in towns and cities are forced to coexist with the realities of water disruptions and power failures.

A week hardly passes without residents in Blantyre and Lilongwe to experience water disruptions and power failures.

The situation is the same in almost all the major cities and towns the difference being intensity and timing of the water shortages and blackouts.

And each time such problems occur, officials from the water bodies avail themselves through the media telling thirsty citizens why they are being denied their right to life [since water is life].

Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), too, gives its own reasons why their clients are subjected to unnecessary darkness as if they had not paid their utility bills.

When they choose to do so, officials from water boards throw the blame on ESCOM for failing to provide enough for pumping the precious commodity to its rightful consumers.

If you fall sick and happen to visit our country’s major hospitals and health centres, you hardly get the services on time.

Not because nurses or clinicians do not want to serve you, but lack of the same is the major challenge facing our health facilities.

Stories of pregnant delivering their babies without the assistance of healthcare providers are just common in our midst.

Mountains of garbage in Lilongwe , Blantyre and Mzuzu are fast becoming part of life for residents in these cities.

Sometimes you turn to wonder whether officials at the assemblies do care about the health of the residents.

General Secretary for Malawi Municipal Workers Union (MAMWU), Phillimon Chimbalu, admitted the performance of the civil servants does not satisfy the expectations public and their employer, government.

“Honestly speaking, members of the general public have been a given raw deal on the services they are getting from us,” said Chimbalu Thursday during the commemoration of this year’s Quality Public Service in Lilongwe .

“Sometimes the way we, in the civil service, handle our clients leaves a lot to be desired. We are not giving the services they need. It is really sad to see patients on long queues waiting for many hours to access medical help,” he added.

President of the Civil Service Trade Union (CSTU), Eliah Kamphinda concurred with Chimbalu saying it is high time civil servants started delivering to the required standards.

But Kamphinda wondered how government and the general public could expect them to provide satisfactory services when they are denied better working conditions of service and necessary equipment.

“We have been criticized from left to right by the media once a problem of power failure or shortage of water occurs. But the question people need to ask themselves is: do public servants have the required materials and resources for them to work?

“Blantyre Water Board is using pipes which were bought in 1964, do you expect them to pump water as they used to 30 years ago? No, that is asking for too much,” said Kamphinda.

He added, “In some police stations, you cannot find a mere plain paper for recording details of suspects. Do you expect them to be professional?”

The CSTU president stated that civil servants were ready to work with government in providing Malawians with basic and social services, but said government, too, need to understand their grievances.

“Time has come for government to provide us with both human and material resources necessary for us to perform our duties to the expectation of our clients. We need more health workers in all health centres. Only then shall people put the blame on the deserving party,” he disclosed.

Chimbalu, on the other hand, advised people to demand for services from the public servants saying they have a right to do so.

“I don’t have problems with people criticizing us for failing to perform our duties. Actually, I would like to see more people demanding for better services from the civil service. They have a right to do so,” said Chimbalu.


When teachers turn into lovers


Christina, 19, now a single parent, was at pains to turn down a proposal by her “Maths Teacher” to fall in love affair.

If she rebuffed him, he would develop a hostile attitude towards her in his classes. In the end, she would be a loser.

After all the “Maths Teacher” had promised that he would help her pass the “Maneb” examinations if she accepted his proposal.

“I stand to lose if I deny him of what he wants from me,” so Christina thought. That marked the beginning of a ‘teacher-pupil’ affair.

A few weeks into their relationship Christina noted some changes on her body. They were tell-tale signs that she was pregnant.

When she broke the story to the “Maths Teacher”, he refused to take responsibility for the pregnancy.

“I am sorry I cannot take responsibility for this. Just find a young man of your age and cheat him into having sex with you. Possibly, he would be able to take responsibility for this,” he coaxed her.

The Maths Teacher was afraid of two eventualities: he would lose his job if the Ministry of Education discovered he impregnated his own pupil.

In the worst, he would be arrested for thwarting the future of the girl he was entrusted to prepare for a future leader.

He could not marry her either since he was already married to fellow teacher.

“I promise to assist you raise the child. But you should not mention me as a culprit. Otherwise you will put me in trouble,” he suggested.

But Christina had another suggestion. “You should take me as your second wife. You can leave me at your home; I will live with your parents.”

“What do you think will happen if my wife hears this?” he chipped in angrily.

Christina feared her “Math Teacher” would tear her apart if she hears her husband was in love with a pupil.

“In that case, I will conceal the identity of a man behind my pregnancy. But, please, keep to your promise. If you don’t help me as you have promised, I will reveal.”

“Now you are talking like a grown-up woman,” complemented the Maths Teacher.

Although Christina is now living in a world of promises from her “Maths Teacher” her future is hazy. Rarely does the teacher visit her to provide her with the support she needs in raising up the baby boy born eight months at Kapopo Mhlanga village in the area of Traditional Authority M’mbelwa in Mzimba.

She is not even sure if she will return to school after weaning her child. Early pregnancy is just one of he many hurdles a girl child has to confront to attain quality basic education. Other challenges range from sexual, physical to verbal abuse.

Section 25 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi provides for education as a right for all. However, education is not just one of the human rights; it is indispensable for effective political participation and for enabling individuals to sustain themselves and is key to unlocking other human rights.

Some commentators have contended that education is associated with increased incomes, increased agricultural production, improved nutritional status as well as reduced fertility rates among women.

It increases women’s assertiveness as well as encourage their participation in political and economic activities of the societies in which they live.

However, according to the 2009 Education Report by the Action Aid International Malawi (AAIM), despite all efforts by government and the civil society organizations, Malawian children are still disadvantaged in many ways, especially as regards the attainment of quality basic education.

The report, “The Existence and Implementation of Laws, Polices, and Regulations in Education and how they affect the girl-child in Malawi ” indicates that many children are still out of school with a meagre 20 percent of those who enrol at standard one finish the primary cycle.
The situation is more pathetic for the girl child as statistics show that girls constitute a mere 39 percent of the children who proceed to the secondary school level.

Of those who go through tertiary education, only 28 percent of them are females, according to National Action Plan for the Promotion of Human Rights in Malawi [2004—2011].

AAIM reports that unfavourable school environments that reinforce low expectations from girls’ education, through non-provision of facilities required by girls such as sanitation facilities for adolescent girls, protection from abuse by peers, and/or teachers, infrastructure to address safety including well-lit roads and transport arrangements.

About 80 percent of the girls that responded to the questions from AAIM study indicated that they had suffered verbal, sexual or physical abuse mainly from older male pupils and teachers.

Further, the study revealed that most of the abuse, when it takes place, goes unreported because of lack of clear reporting systems and that there are inadequate measures for redress in respect of those cases that have been reported.

According to AAIM Thematic and Education Coordinator, Julie Juma, corporal punishments and public shaming, sexual harassment by teachers, comrades and adults on the way to and at school are some of the reasons why girls do not proceed with their education.

“It was also apparent from the study that the prevalence of abuse in schools which might account for a high drop out rate, confusion and low esteem leading to poor performance in school, feelings of guilt, unplanned pregnancies and high risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among girls might be fuelled by a fluid or unclear legal framework pertaining to matters of education in the country,” said Julie Juma, Action Aid Thematic and Education Coordinator.

“Besides poverty continues to haunt a girl child as most are forced into transactional sex especially with older men who promise to provide them with some basic needs, which their parents failed to provide,” she added.

In 2007, 23 girls from Nyalubwe Primary School in Mchinji, in the area of Sub Traditional Authority Dambe, got pregnant and dropped out of school, reasons being that they were self-boarders who were taken advantage of by me who promised to support them whilst in school.

Juma explained that another obstacle for girls to achieve their basic ritgh to education is lack of female teachers and lack of gender awareness of teachers affect the environment within the classroom, reducing potential role models, and reinforcing the symbolic association of the school space with male authority.

It is only through quality education that Malawi will be able to develop because education is key to unlocking human potential and empowerment and it is, therefore, a prerequisite to achieving other basic rights.

It was on this account that Action Aid set out to identify the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) as a strategic partner to undertake another study to examine the availability and implementation of laws, policies and regulations in the education sector.

Speaking at the launch of the study report on “The Existence and Implementation of Laws, Polices, and Regulations in Education and how they affect the girl-child in Malawi ”, MHRC executive secretary Dr. Aubrey Mvula expressed sadness over the absence of a policy on sexual harassment in the education sector.

Dr. Mvula said lack of written policy on sexual harassment was the most unfortunate thing is as far as achieving girls’ education is concerned.

He also bemoaned the disparities in infrastructural development between urban and rural schools.

“There is need to review and enforce polices on education infrastructural development so as to reduce these disparities so that rural areas, too, have facilities which are conducive to the girl child’s education thereby promoting the right of the girl to education,” emphasized Dr. Mvula.

The MHRC executive secretary further explained that education is a fundamental human right for all people and a precondition for facilitating the enjoyment of other human rights.

Unfortunately, even where infrastructural development is conducive to facilitate girls’ education, some teachers such as the ‘Maths Teacher’ do not see the see in giving Christina a chance for her to enjoy her right to education.

“But all is not lost. Christina can return to school after weaning her child,” advised Juma.


Man dumps wife for bearing a child with disability


Sitting outside Lilongwe Magistrate Courts premises, Mrs. Loyce Shaibu had a story to tell. She did not mind whom to tell, provided you opened your ear to her story.

Shaibu got married 8 years ago. The marriage was blessed with two children. All this time nobody saw a problem in the other until early this year when Loyce gave birth to a child with disability. In an interview, Mrs. Shaibu said soon after giving birth to her disabled son, her husband bade her farewell saying he could not care for a disabled child.

The child was born with an extra large head with a falling forehead. This makes it difficult for the child to see properly. According to Loyce, the father left her with the baby. Lonely she went to Kamuzu Central Hospital where the baby was operated on. The doctors said the child was born with a dangerous liquid in the brain, which caused the tumor.

In a space of less than eight months, Loyce has been to the referral hospital twice as in-patient. The first time she was admitted with the child was March to May this year. Then she went again July to August. But the problem seems far from over. The head is still big for the baby’s age. Stitches on the head tell a longer story of the pain the child is going through than the mother can explain.

Asked why she was at the court, the desperate mother said she had gone to summon her man for divorce since the husband married another wife and vows never to visit her again, unless the child is dead.

“Ndikufuna andimasule. Akuti sangabwerenso kunyumba kwanga chifukwa ndinawaberekera mwana wopundukayu! Koma sindinachite kusankha. Mulungu anatipatsa ine ndinalibe mphamvu zosankha kuti Mulunguyo andipate wina mwana kupatula wopundukayu. (I want him to free me. He said he would never again come to me because I bore him a disabled child. But I did not choose, it is God who gave and I could not dictate on what He should have given me!)” She almost shed tears as she explained.

On how they lived before the birth of the child who is their third born, Loyce said theirs was a wonderful family until “chipsinjochi chinatigwera” (this curse/monster befell us). She also expressed worries on how she was going to assist the child single-handedly since anytime the baby is needed for further operation outside country.

“Sindikudziwa kuti andithandize ndani! Akuti vutoli likufunika kunja koma ine ndi mmene ndililimu. (I don’t know who will help me. Doctors have recommended that the baby be flown outside for specialist examination. But I cannot afford the expenses.),”she lamented sounding desperate.

Her ex-husband works for Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company.