Mzuzu University is introducing a Part-time Degree in Data Science – way to go!

University students

Mzuzu University, one of the public Universities in Malawi, will this year be introducing a part-time Degree in Data Science.

This is welcomed news and minimally shows how progressive the learning institution has become, in that in less than 25 years since its founding it is now already emulating what some established Universities and learning institutions internationally have done, who in recent years have led the way in offering such data science courses, sometimes doing so online.

An excerpt from the University’s course details page reads thus:

The Bachelor of Science (Data Science) programme aims at providing students with scientific knowledge, analytical and interpretational skills, values and attitudes required for them to competently apply data science concepts in solving real life problems in this big data era.’

For more information, please refer to the links below:

http://ict.mzuni.ac.mw/?p=3126

http://ict.mzuni.ac.mw/?page_id=3124

It will be interesting to see what the full course content includes and the modules students will be studying. Further, it will also be interesting to see what graduates of the course go on to do, since one measure of the effectiveness or value of a degree qualification is the extent to which such is able to prepare or empower a student for the life of work or for other related pursuits thereafter.

We wish the University and all the students who enroll all the best in this endeavour!

The closing date for enrollment is 26th February 2021.

**Update(1.2.21): An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the course as an online course.

Goldman Sachs: The bank that rules the world

Video at:

http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2014/06/goldman-sachs-bank-rules-world-2014613175932453607.html

Image (“Dogs Dealing Unregulated Securities, after C.M. Coolidge” ) by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
Image (“Dogs Dealing Unregulated Securities, after C.M. Coolidge” ) by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Image (“Dogs Dealing Unregulated Securities, after C.M. Coolidge” ) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

For information on artist and banker Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (1844 — 1934), look here.

Post title on NotionsCapital.com – SEC: Goldman Cheated

Why I’m not excited about Roger Federer’s investment into Education in Malawi

Early this week, many people in Malawi were excited by the news that Roger Federer (ranked world number 2 best tennis player by the Association of Tennis Professionals), had launched a childcare centre at Lundu village, about 10 Kilometres outside Lilongwe, the Capital of Malawi.

While there is good reason to be happy about such news, whereby a big sports star has decided to use his time and resources to help Malawi in this area, a part of me thinks otherwise.

A part of me thinks that Malawi not only needs help in terms of pre-schools and child development centres, but also over the whole educational system – which is archaic, and needs to be revamped.

And here’s why:

Firstly, whats the point of giving children a great pre-school start only to disappoint them later on in primary and secondary education? How so? Well, according to Ripple Africa, a charity with a base in Nkhata Bay district:

… The government of Malawi recognises the importance of pre-school education, and encourages communities to set up their own pre-schools, but does not support pre-schools financially. With no funds to support pre-schools, most of them are run on a voluntary basis and are unregistered. Most teachers work for free, and have no resources to help them teach, lacking the very basics including blackboards and chalk, let alone books and toys which might commonly be associated with pre-school education in the West. It is rare that pre-schools have their own school buildings, and many pre-schools share facilities with local churches or other buildings built for a different purpose

It goes on to say

Although primary education in Malawi is free, students are required to purchase their own school uniform, pens, and notebooks, which many families find difficult. Rates for drop-outs are high, and, according to UNESCO, only 58% of children will complete a full course of primary school, and 20% of children repeat one or more school years, often several times, if they have had to take significant time out of school and have fallen behind. It is very common for children in Malawi to come in and out of school depending on their family situation, employment responsibilities, pregnancy and marriage at a young age, sickness, and more. By the time students leave primary school, many of them are far older than primary age, having repeated several years, and many lose interest and drop out all together.

If you read further, you’ll find the usual problems across the whole education board: poor infrastructure, lack of materials, unpaid untrained teachers even at pre-school level…  the usual.

How can you help children learn if schools have little or no study materials, and teachers are not properly trained? Before you do anything for the children shouldn’t you first make sure that their teachers have the right qualifications, and there are suitable facilities available for them to use in teaching.

So, in addition to improving pre-school education, I think the initiative should go hand in hand with improving the standard of education across the board, and not just in pre-school education.

In any case, we know from reports from employers that many people who come out of form four (or even Universities) in Malawi lack the basic skills needed by most employers. A scenario that probably is a result of dysfunction within Universities themselves. This dysfunction was summarised by The Nation News paper a few years ago:

In some public universities, for example, there is acute shortage of books or even chairs in classrooms, leading to students standing throughout lectures. Some of the faculty members also need to upgrade their qualifications; so, too, do catering and accommodation need improvement, among other facilities.

The above article by Ripple Africa also mentions the lack of buildings.

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image from typicalmalawian.wordpress.com

 

Malawi needs more school buildings, more resources such as desks, black boards and stationery in both primary and secondary education (including properly resourced dormitories in boarding schools). This will cost money, but the government needs to upgrade these facilities across the whole country. It cannot be piecemeal or random, because then it will not be effective. It has to be planned and transformative and must be made a top priority.

This is important because a child who undertakes their pre-school in a well-furnished nursery (complete with chairs and tables) is not going to be assisted if they then have to be downgraded and sit on the floor during primary school.

Never mind early education, primary and secondary school, what about tertiary education? Should the government be doing more to invest in tertiary education?

Recently in June 2015, Grant Shapps, UK International Development Minister, at the announcement that the UK would pump £11.6 million into Malawi education sector said:

“Malawi’s future doctors, nurses, IT experts, teachers and entrepreneurs will help build a nation eventually independent of foreign aid and with our own historic links to Malawi, particularly those of Scotland, this is also in the UK’s interest, because creating a more prosperous world will benefit us all in the long run”

The question is where will they be trained, and who will foot the bill? Is £11.6 million enough to train doctors, nurses, IT experts, teachers and entrepreneurs for a country with a population of 13 million people? Adequate training that will help Malawi compete on the global stage…? And not only provide Doctors and Nurses for Europe…?

There are other factors other than pre-school education that must be addressed if the education sector in Malawi is to be improved.

tfac-teacher-stats

Factors such as the effect H.I.V has on teachers. These need to be looked at, in collaboration with charities such as Theatre for a Change. It’s important that resources are dedicated to address them.

Aside from the education front, the other question politicians and stakeholders should be asking is after these children become young adults who have been ‘educated’, where will they work? No point training them when at the end of it all, you have no jobs to give them. A youth unemployment crisis which many western countries including the UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece are currently facing. Does Malawi have enough jobs and an economy that can support its young people of working age? How can the country create more jobs and assist its citizens to be resourceful?

Looking at the statistics of youth unemployment across Malawi, I can tell you that the country definitely doesn’t have enough good jobs, and this is a situation which could become a crisis if not addressed urgently.

Furthermore, Malawians must not rely solely on donors or foreign companies who have their own interests to come into Malawi and create jobs. This also extends to our educational system.

We must stop relying on foreigners to come in and sort out our problems.

When for example will Malawian corporations emerge that are owned by Malawian nationals, and employ thousands of Malawians?

quote2-malawi

I’ll end with a personal story. A few months ago, a cousin-nephew who lives in the city of Blantyre in Malawi told me he wanted to study IT, in particular he wanted to work in Software or web related technologies. I told him to learn programming, and referred him to the City Library in Blantyre to find a book on the ‘C programming language’ which he could use as a starting point, since being trained as an Electronic and communications engineer I know that my education in programming began with C programming (as has been for many other people working in software and IT). So I was keen to get him down a similar path in this sense.

wpid-received_10152812678373285.jpeg

A few days later he told me he had gone to the library but was told that they didn’t have any book on C programming. Further, he doesn’t have a computer, so even if he did have a book, there’s no where to practice how to code. Also he wasn’t sure whether he could install educational software on some of the public computers he has used in Internet Cafe’s. I wondered how it was possible for a library of a major city of a country to not even have a single book on C Programming, let alone computers for the public to use…In this digital era.

If things are like this outside the classroom, in a city, in 2015, I could see how easy it was for teachers to be frustrated.
Today, my thoughts are punctuated by an article I remembered, written by Steve Sharra titled Malawi at fifty One: the education legacies of Malawi’s presidents hitherto in which he argues that the failure to utilise the higher educational system to improve the quality of teaching and the teaching professions has negatively affected the country’s developmental process. In the article, Sharra writes :

However at primary and secondary school levels the problem of teacher morale, the most significant of the problems afflicting Malawi’s education system is getting worse. Today, anger amongst Malawian teachers has become so pervasive it severely corrodes the education system. In the first of 2015, salary delays took a turn for the worse. With communication from the ministry not forthcoming, teachers resorted to asking fellow teachers on Facebook groups for updates. It is frightening to imagine how these angry, bitter, frustrated and demoralised teachers are treating children under their care.

So here I am seated in a central city library in Nottingham (East Midlands), which has recent issues of magazines published in India, several copies of Der Spiegel, (including a May 2015 copy), and even an East Midlands Polish publication, let alone books on computer coding;

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I’m surrounded by both young and older people – all oblivious of my observations, getting on with their lives ; and I’m thinking how I can send a netbook with a compiler pre-installed on it, and a book on C programming to Malawi. I’m also thinking about all those young people who want to study IT related subjects across Africa(some of whom are being taught under trees), who greatly desire to tap into similar knowledge as is scripted in the pages of these books on the shelves next to me, but who can’t find a book anywhere to help them … who don’t have anyone to send a computer to them.

That is why I’m not excited about Roger Federer’s investment into pre-school Education in Malawi

For American pundits, China isn’t a country. It’s a fantasyland.

(C) John Cole / The TimesTribune  - Image from http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/
(C) John Cole / The TimesTribune – Image from http://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/

This titled ‘For American pundits, China isn’t a country. It’s a fantasyland.’ is beautifully written (via Washington Post)

‘This takes about a half-hour of research to discover, or five minutes of conversation with anyone who went to an ordinary Chinese school. But the Western educators and politicians who fawn over China’s schools can’t be bothered with the realities of crumbling rural classrooms, students forced to bribe teachers to get a seat in front, or the mind-numbing “politics” classes that kids and adults alike sleep through. China is a lead-in anecdote to their arguments, not somewhere they’re actually interested in.’

Finding China’s realities can be hard simply because lying is so common here, whether it’s fraudulent government data, false ambulances or tainted baby formula. The collapse of social trust as a result of decades of Maoism, followed by a get-rich-first ethos, has made honesty a rare quality. With no external controls from a free media or civil society, Potemkinism is an everyday skill across the country, whether directed at outside investors or official inspectors.

Artificial African Boundaries

This is an extract from a page in honour of Kanyama Chiume on Facebook. I’ve reposted it here because it echoes a lot of what I believe. Further, it’s undeniable that our economies are struggling in Africa not only because of corruption, illicit financial outflows and all of the other evils, but also because we do not trade with each other enough, and critically, we are not sufficiently united in the way that say China is united, or how the majority of South American countries are united.

Kanyama-NyerereWhen African nationalists worked together for the benefit of all. That is self-evident in this letter written by Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika to Kanyama Chiume in 1960, when the latter was exiled in London during the State of Emergency in Nyasaland. From the London office, Chiume had the task of keeping NAC party alive at international stage, at a time when it was banned from operating in Nyasaland and some of its leaders chased out of the protectorate while others were detained after Operation Sunrise (Kamuzu Banda along with Masauko Chipembere, Dunduzu Chisiza and Yatuta Chisiza were languishing in jail in Gwelo, Southern Rhodesia).

This letter, found at the British National Archives in London by Prof. Azaria Mbughuli, a historian at Spelman College, shows the extent of cooperation between African freedom fighters. Prof Mbughuni adds:

“The letter is yet another reminder of how Africans are interconnected. The artificial boundaries we hold on to so dearly are just that: artificial. We have come to accept them as a reality. Nyerere and Chiume worked closely through PAFMECA/PAFMECSA, both espoused Pan Africanism as an ideology of unity and a tool for liberation. If one looks really closely at Chiume’s story, you realize the foolishness of the colonial boundaries. Born in Nyasaland, Chiume lived in Tanganyika from age 8 with relatives, went to school in Tanganyika, attended school inTabora with the likes of Kambona, taught in Dodoma (resigned his position in 1955), collaborated with TANU in the mid-1950s, 60s, basically throughout most of his political carrier; and off course, eventually married a Tanzanian. TANU provided regular support to Nyasaland African Congress in the late 1950s through him. I came across a peculiar situation in early 1950s where Nyerere is asking Odinga of Kenya to help him talk to the Luo in Tanganyika because they did not want to join TANU! You have ethnic groups split by artificial boundaries; it is no surprise that people from different “territories” worked closely together to demand freedom and independence.”

Won an election in an African country? Build a Prison.

You will need it. There are that many idiots you will have to lock away.

And it’s not sensationalist to say that the first duty of any leader of an African country should be to build a prison. A very big one.

To give you an example, a few days ago we were told that Muhammadu Buhari has just won Nigeria’s presidential election, and that sometime in May he will be inaugurated to lead Africa’s largest economy and most populous country.

So, the question is what difference will he make?

You’d be forgiven if you thought not much because Nigeria has been hit by so many scandals lately it’s insane to expect one government to sort out all the mess within a short space of time. And without some radical policies.

Still, there’s reason to be optimistic. According to one Ignatius C. Olisemeka who served among various diplomatic roles as an ambassador to the US for Buhari’s first administration, writing on Vanguard here, Buhari is a man who is deeply religious, lacks bitterness, is incorruptible and is a

.. patriotic Nigerian devoid of any trace of ethnicism and parochialism.

Sounds great right?

But Nigeria faces some extraordinary challenges. And it’s doubtful in my view whether merely being a disciplinarian uncle – in the absence of an extraordinary plan to get things moving – will do much to help. Needless to say I hope I am wrong.

Olisemeka does a good job in listing a good number of these challenges that typify many parts of Africa beyond Nigeria :-
The nation’s sense of indiscipline and disorder is evident and all pervasive even in very simple things and matters of the day and moment. A road-side mechanic claims to be an Engineer (Engr) and insists on being so styled. A traditional herbalist insists he must be called and respected as a professional medical Doctor (Dr) and, indeed, hugs the appellation. An ordinary traditional village community leader who flamboyantly styles himself a Chief and clownishly attired in a self-designed robe, is addressed not only as “Your Highness”, but takes offence if he is not properly addressed as “Your Royal Highness”.
… Pages of our national newspapers are replete with lavishly self-serving advertisements of obituaries, weddings and birthday celebrations. Why not severely tax those who place these wasteful advertisements to rake in and release funds to charities or other good causes such as sporting and educational development of the country.
… confident young ladies on our television sets in order to make themselves more attractive and acceptable, bleach their skin to pale sickening white, with their veins thinly exposed; their bare knuckles and elbows still looking jet black. They should be reassigned to the back room offices, decorated with mirrors, left to rue their new look which has become an eyesore to many viewers. Our television channels have suddenly become a babel and cacophony of crude and embarrassing noise makers, reflecting the values of a sick society, drunk with democratic excesses.
Honorary degrees are sold, bought and conferred on undeserving personalities by many of our Universities and these personalities shamelessly parade them at will. A few prominent church leaders have relocated their pulpits from their churches to the seats of secular power while a number of Imams have not been able to teach their adherents the purity of their religion which preaches respect for human lives.Our youths need impeccable high level connections before gaining employment at any level, both decent or menial. Impunity freely reigns in the land more than ever before. The temples of justice are daily being desecrated. The Lady now has her eyes wide open; seductively beckoning and soliciting for favours….

And those democratic excesses being refered to here are just the icing. According to one Joachim MacEbong, writing on African Arguments here, the downfall of Goodluck Jonathan had as much to do with his own shortcomings as with external factors against which he didn’t do enough. MacEbong summarises the issues as follows:

Having received a strong mandate, Jonathan proceeded to fritter it away on issues like a proposal for a single term of 6 years and a badly-handled public debate over the removal of fuel subsidies, which culminated in Occupy Nigeria. As scandal after scandal came to light without any decisive action, and Boko Haram escalated its activities, Jonathan came to be viewed as being soft on corruption and security, which made a Buhari presidency much more appealing. When you add a flailing economy to the mix, the discontent was there to be tapped

So the same corrupt system Jonathan and his predecessors failed to eradicate is the same one which Buhari will encounter. The same Boko Haram, now twined with the middle-eastern thugs that are laying claim to a caliphate and who are calling themselves IS, ISIL and ISIS is the same group Buhari has to contend with. The shocking Youth unemployment (credible estimates range from 23% to 54%) and associated crimes haven’t gone away just yet, and the armed militia running roughshod across the Niger delta – groups who have been responsible for the loss of billions in illegal sales of Nigeria’s oil every month – are still very much on the loose, free to continue their havoc on Nigeria’s economy.  The tribal conflicts between tribes, and religious intolerance between Christians and Muslims are still very much around – it’s probably only a matter of time before the next church or mosque is torched.

The problems don’t end there. Remember this report by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), titled  Nigeria’s renewal: Delivering inclusive growth in Africa’s largest economy and published in July 2014, in which we were told what a huge opportunity Nigeria presents to investors? Well, that report also mentions that Nigeria averaged a GDP growth of 1.5 percent a year under military rule ( between 1983–99) – the same time period Buhari had his first stint as country leader. It further states that:

In rural areas, 53 percent of the population lives below the poverty line due to low farm output, poor access to markets, and a rising population that is leading to cultivation of smaller plots …Recent reforms in agriculture are promising, but the scale of challenges is vast, and it may take many years for farm incomes to rise substantially.

However what is probably most worrying, besides the fact that Nigeria remains in the bottom 25% of most corrupt countries according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is this next fact:

… poverty rates have remained high and stagnant. On metrics of human health such as child mortality, Nigeria falls far short of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and it has under-invested in education and infrastructure.

Under-investment in Education and Infrastructure means you have a long way to go to turn around your economy because your institutions can’t just produce quality graduates at the stroke of a presidential decree. And putting in place the necessary infrastructure to kickstart your economy will also take time.

So uncle’s work is cut out. And that’s before we even begin talking of illicit financial outflows.

But what these problems also show is that a little leaven is leavening the whole lump.

You may say look Sangwani, this happens in all poor countries, these people are messing things up because of poverty and corruption they see; that it’s because of the tribal alienation that has left large parts of the north underdeveloped, which forces them to seek political power by hook or crook.

You may have a point, I’m not dismissing other causative factors.

My contention is that a leader can’t address the real issues when there is lawlessness  (if not continuous sabotage) in the form of endemic corruption, terrorists, militia groups and white-collar criminals.

Before there is even any talk of progress, the task of cleaning up will inevitably entail prosecuting those who are spoiling the broth. If nothing is gained from such an exercise, at least a breathing space may be found that allows the leader to squarely face the real issues (security, job creation, healthcare, the economy) without constant disturbance from issues which fuel detractors.

So, it can’t possibly be sensationalist to suggest that the first duty of any newly elected leader of an African country should be to either build a  new prison or ensure one exists that can accommodate as many of those who must be behind bars.

Such an exercise will create jobs (imagine the number of jobs you could create if your budget had $20 billion more each year) It will instill a sense of discipline, and could even attract investment?

I’ll end with another quote from Olisemeka’s article:

The immediate challenge before him [Buhari], I feel convinced, is how to curb the excesses of the teaming mass of followers who, undoubtedly, adore him. The next, is to rein in the display of empty, hollow pompousness and offensive arrogance by a few of his elitist, lazy patronage-seeking associates; who, if victorious, will flock to him without discrimination

Cecil Rhodes: He can never be an African hero

The issue of Cecil Rhodes’s statue being pelted with excrement has deeper issues, of the emerging free thinking young Africans who do not want to be influenced by warped views of Westerners who cannot identify with the enlightened African – of whose breed there are no averages. Scouring the many debates of this issue exposes a deep divide between Africans and Westerners on the issue of colonialism and how it should be remembered. The young minds of Africa who are free from biased views of the world from a western context, are beginning to question certain aspects of African history which was mostly written by Westerners.

First of all, it is of no wonder that the students of University of Cape Town have reacted in this way, because for centuries the African life and history has been dictated by Europeans. Today, a spirit of rebelliousness is slowly fermenting in the young minds of Africans who are fed up of western hegemony on public life in Africa. For once, this new breed of Africans want to decide on what is right for their culture and history, without any distortions or sympathy for imperialism and its so-called advantages from anybody.  They want to decide by themselves, and they will decide for themselves – Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Scouring the many social media comments on this issue, it is disparaging to hear of the lazy argument that claims that there would be no South Africa without colonialism. The claim is that Africa would not be introduced to the modern pillars of life that is education, technology and democracy if it was not for men like Rhodes. Basically what they are saying is that Africa would not be what it is today without imperialism and somehow Africans need to be grateful despite colonialism’s grave flaws.

What a load of bullshit!

What these arguments seem to forget is that, no one in Africa asked for this so-called intervention by Europeans. Africans had their own interpretation of life before the Europeans came, and it is unintelligible to claim that Africans should be grateful for colonialism.

Kerr Cross for example writing in 1890 had this to say about the social and economic life of Northern Malawi:

Food is everywhere abundant, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, Indian Corn, beans, peas, millet and other seeds, wild fruits, honey, milk and beef

And in regards to the social order, a look at the village life provides a good picture:

All weeds, grasses, garbage and things unsightly are swept away by little boys. Each house is built of bamboo, with clay worked by the women into little rounded bricks ….The doorsteps are often painted with designs in red, yellow and other colours, and altogether there is an air of comfort, and plenty

(Cross, D.K., Geographical Notes of the country between lake Nyassa, Rukwa and Tanganyika, in: Scottish Geography Magazine VI (1890) pp. 283-4, quoted in: McCracken,J., op. cit., p.98.)

So life for the Africans living in those days must have been reasonable enough in the African context. In fact innovations used in agriculture, in the military and in industry developed in the Northern parts of Africa, by earlier civilisations in Egypt, and those developed by the Nubians, and by civilisations like that of Great Zimbabwe would later  find their way southwards, to be improved upon. [For a much more indepth description refer to this video by Dr Yosef Ben Jochannan ]

Toyin Falola and Tyler Fleming of the Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, USA, writing in AFRICAN CIVILIZATIONS: FROM THE PRE-COLONIAL TO THE MODERN DAY, says:

Though people have lived in Africa quite some time… Iron tools enhanced weaponry, allowed groups to clear and manage dense forests, plow fields for farming, and basically better everyday lives. Ultimately, iron tools allowed Africans to flourish in every environment, and thus they could live in larger communities which led to the formation of states and kingdoms. With state formation came the formation of modern civilizations with common languages, belief and value systems, art, religion, lifestyle and culture

They go on to say that:

Later European explorers and settlers often argued that territories were unsettled upon their arrival and thus were ripe for the taking, but these assumptions were misguided. Often land had been abandoned due to poor soil quality, infrequent rainfall, or had been claimed for future use

No matter how people frame these spineless arguments that portray pre-colonial Africans as having been in need of a white saviour, Africans had their own way of life which was derived of African innovations. The unfortunate thing is that we shall never know what life in Africa could have been without the slave trade and colonialism. Having said that, pre-colonial communities were never completely isolated,and there was interaction between states and with outsiders including the Middle East, India, the Chinese and Europeans. Thus, there are credible grounds to suggest that exchange of ideas on a purely economic relationship (as opposed to coloniser and colonized), relationships in which African truly benefitted, would have ultimately led to a level of development comparable if not superior to those witnessed in other parts of the world.

It needs to be noted that when colonialists came to Africa, they found a continent that was rich in both resources and culture. Africa was home to kingdoms, chiefdoms and previously had housed some of the most intriguing empires which were built using a sophisticated craftmanship previously unknown to Europeans.

But somewhere along the way theories were cooked up which concluded that Black African lives were inferior to White lives. In the absence of written African accounts (many of which were purposely destroyed) that disproved this thesis, such ideas, peddled about by racists such as Arthur de Gobineau and Georges Vacher de Lapouge then spawned the belief that it was in the best interests of Africans that Westerners erase their way of life, whether they liked it or not because the African could not comprehend what was right or wrong for him/her. According to such supremacist theories – which were driven more by propaganda that needed to find an excuse to use in the dispossession of the African, and were devoid of any truthful and verifiable science –  the African needed ‘help’ from a superior being: the white man.

No matter how anyone tries to frame these argument, the fact remains that when the Europeans first arrived, Africans were not lacking. And while they may not have had certain ‘luxuries’, most parts of Africa were stable, had capable people who were content with their lives.

There were diseases (e.g. malaria and dysentery), just like everywhere with such warm climates, and the usual tribal conflicts, but at no point were Europeans asked for their ‘civilization’ to be transplanted to Africa. Put simply, it was forced upon them.

So, its absurd to suggest that colonialism despite its barbarism, needs to be applauded for it ‘civilised’ the savages of Africa.

What people who push that argument seem to forget is that most of the so-called savagery in Africa at that time was fermented because of the transatlantic slave trade which pitted one African tribe against each other. For example in East Africa, before the Arabs came in search of slave labour, the various tribes that inhabited the area were either subsistence farmers or practicing animal husbandry. Society was orderly, and discipline was observed. (Here i must say that the ‘savagery’ painted on Africans at the time doesn’t come anywhere near to the level of savagery by Europeans in the middle ages – from religious persecution to wars of conquest in which thousands were massacred). 

It is this sense of entitlement on the part of Europeans and Americans that has lived on up to this day, that still fuels western countries to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries, even when they wouldn’t have others meddle in the internal affairs of their own countries. Because some of them are raised to think they are more important than anybody else; that the world owes them resources, wealth, happiness, and it doesn’t matter what or who is in their way; that others who have better things must be dispossessed; that others cannot enjoy their own resources without interference. Jealousy and Greed. This kind of mindset still remains, as Rhodes said,

I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.

And that is just so sad.

This imperialist kind of thinking is what explains Western countries aiding dodgy rebels to kill Gaddafi, in a country that was more prosperous than any other country in Africa. It is what causes them to back fascist militia to oust an elected government in Ukraine…

Remember what happened to Morsi?…. how a shady military general who is ex-CIA was entertained into pushing out an elected leader in Egypt…

The Syrian conflict and 200,000 people who have died as a result. Iraq and the over one million people who have died as a result…

Gaddafi, Morsi and others were no saints (and yes Morsi was incompetent), but as I’ve argued on this blog before, Gaddafi’s Libya was a hundredfold better than the current Libya, which is ruled by a thousand different murderous militias, causing mindless carnage that is destroying the last vestiges of African prosperity. Many Libyans today openly regret what has become of their country. And the sad thing is western countries can’t fix the mess they helped create.

So, as an African who lives in a country that was a former colony (to which colonisation deprived access to sea – leading to a perpetual volatile economy, and a never ending high cost of living), I’m deeply offended and find it appalling when some fools still think Cecil Rhodes should have a place in African history. I think that decision is for Southern Africans to make and if they deem him to be a villain not a hero, then it should be so – at which point some of us will gladly applaud.

In the same manner that most Africans accept that Adolf Hitler was a murderer, a pillager and conqueror, is the same way the Europeans should accept the view of some Africans on Cecil Rhodes. Having a statue of Rhodes at UCT is abhorrent in all types of rationality, because it was only about 110 years ago that an infestation of men like him masqueraded as angels across the African landscape when in fact they were on a mission of exploitation and pillage. Plundering Africans and their natural wealth: a theft that has clearly benefited the West up until the present time, and whose negative effects are there on African soil, visible for all to see.

I therefore believe that the towering statue of Cecil Rhodes should be pulled down at UCT because it is a constant reminder of colonialism and white superiority. Unlike the pulling down of Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2003… or unlike the pulling down of Lenin’s statues in former soviet republics after the fall of the USSR ( the fall of whose reigns were fingered by foreigners) I think it is time that Africans get to decide on what pages of history they want to write for themselves, and to remember – whether such is accompanied by ‘faeces flinging’ or not, without any foreign interference. And I’ll tell you why: because for years we have been brainwashed with the ‘heroic’ deeds of such charlatans who did nothing for us of any real value. If anything, accepting Cecil Rhodes as a hero is accepting and validating white superiority which once thought African cultures had no place in the world. It’s a bit like trying to convince Iraqis to erect a statue in honour of George Bush and Tony Blair, the two politicians who in recent years have done the most to destroy any hope of peace, security, prosperity and normality for ordinary Iraqis. Glorifying Cecil Rhodes and people like him is tantamount to accepting Slavery and Apartheid.

Slavery…dishonors labor; it introduces idleness into society, and with idleness, ignorance and pride, luxury and distress. It enervates the powers of the mind and benumbs the activity of man. – Alexis de Tocqueville

For the enlightened African, Cecil Rhodes is a pillager, murderer  and a bigot who may have made wealth for some countries in Europe, but is partly responsible for the poverty, sickness, corruption, hegemony and human suffering that we see across Africa today. He has no place in our societies that are striving for love, equality, peace and prosperity for all (irrespective of gender, colour, nationality or race).

So then…Kwa wenyewe! Ngokwabo! Pawokha! Nipa ara wọn! Da kansu!

Edited: S Nkhwazi

Second Class Citizens – Part 1

(c) Institute of Race Relations
(c) Institute of Race Relations

“#Jesus endured sufferings to oppose tyrants who had put humans in hell in this world& the hereafter while he backed the oppressed. #Ferguson”

Today like previous years, African-Americans are still under pressure, oppressed and subjected to discrimination. #Ferguson

“At events in #Ferguson US is fighting w its ppl. #BlackLivesMatter”  

–  Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tweeting about Ferguson

“No group conceives itself as the One, the essential, the absolute, without conceiving and defining the Other. The Other is the stranger, the outsider, the alien, the suspect community: Otherness begets fear, begets hostility, begets denial.”

“…Bristol, like Liverpool, had grown wealthy on the back of the slave trade. Its black communities were well established, as was the racism they endured”

Phil Scraton, THE AUTHORITARIAN WITHIN: REFLECTIONS ON POWER, KNOWLEDGE AND RESISTANCE, Inaugural Professorial Lecture, Queen’s University, Belfast, 9 June 2005   (accessed at http://www.statewatch.org/news/2005/nov/phil-scraton-inaugural-lecture.pdf )

‘criminalisation as a process ‘does not occur in a vacuum’ but is derived and sustained in a climate of ‘contemporary politics,
economic conditions and dominant ideologies … evolving within the determining contexts of social class, gender, sexuality, race and age’

Phil Scraton & Kathryn Chadwick, Sage Dictionary of Criminology.

“Black men are routinely questioned, detained, arrested, and charged. They are sometimes beaten, sometimes killed, not because their guilt has been demonstrated but because they must be guilty of something” –  Kristin J Anderson, Ph.D., “Benign” Bigotry

Beware when a supreme leader of a sovereign state condemns defining interactions between the police and people of another sovereign state. The chances are something fishy lies beneath the surface. The second tweet by Khamenei above is from August 17, 2014. And since then we know that several other unarmed black men were killed in the US at the hands of the police. We also know that in all of those events, grand juries appointed to review the actions of the police officers involved refused to indict them.

I’m not a big fan of Khamenei’s or indeed anyone who’s title is (or gets others to call them) “Supreme”. But, my personal politics aside, this post is not about the woeful intricasies of how police in the US treat black people. Instead following recent events among them Chelsea supporter’s racist incident on the Paris Metro not too long ago, I’d like to present a broader view that explains why racism still lingers.

To write about racism is not easy because of the nature of the subject. Further, many people do not appreciate racism in a broader sense simply because it’s often localised, and often people choose to confront the type they see at play in their own immediate environments. The type that affects them. But let me ask this, can the environmental pollution of northern Ecuador for example – an area where a large population of non-white inhabitants live be a result of racism? When you consider that the culprits are unlikely to get away with such practices in their own predominantly white majority country? What about land Grabs in Ethiopia where poor black villagers are dispossessed of their land, to make way for interests owned by large foreign multinationals? Is that an extension of racism?

It’s easy to ignore such matters and look away. Its very easy to live in a cocoon. Anybody can look away, both the brave and the cowardly. Infact plenty of cowards do that every day. It takes real courage to question and squarely confront the issues no one wants to talk about, publicly.

I know people who say it doesn’t affect me. I’ll mind my own business.

Anyone can delude themselves that if they bury their head in the sand, if they play ‘nice’, and abide by ‘the rules’, and just get on with their own private life in the corner, racism will go away. That it won’t affect them. If only that were true.

Unfortunately it isn’t true. The effects of racism, it’s drivers, prejudices and multifaceted manifestations affect all non-white people (not just black people), be they living in Paris, London, Manchester, Johannesburg or anywhere else across the world. It affects the way people view black people, the opportunities (educational, employment or otherwise) we have in society, it affects for example your chances of getting a loan with which to start a business; your interactions with the authorities (I’ve been stopped 3 times for no reason, and many of my black friends have also been stopped by the police, for no reason. I know people with families who have been forced to leave their jobs over a mistake by a government agency. The only common denominator is that they are all black). Racism historically has affected the financial circumstances of non-white people (whether they know it or not), and the chances are if you are non-white and claim to not have been affected by racism, then you are either ignorant, or a liar. Someone in your wider family has been affected. Most probably your grandparents were affected in a way that shaped their lives, and consequently as a result your life.

Racism has a role in the way some western investors deal with Africa, and how the West deals with African politicians in negotiating investment deals. In their comfort zones some of those businessmen don’t think much of African politicians (you can’t really blame them considering the brutish conduct of many African politicians, but thats besides the point). To them, your people are no more than gullible pawns in a game of resource control. The result is that business deals that are unfair and keep countries hostage, having negative and far reaching repercussions for the lives of millions of poor people, are signed with little or no opposition in the way.

Whichever ethical lens you choose to wear, it can never be right.

So, the essay* below by Hilary Arnott, is particularly relevant in so far as attitudes to black people have shifted in Britain between the late 1970’s and the late 1980’s, and probably gives a reference point on race relations, if not a picture of how black people were perceived by officials in the British government during this period, and by implication how they are perceived by some white people today. I’d go as far as say that maybe these kinds of entrenched attitudes is part of the reason why racism is still alive and well today. [* apologies that the article is missing a page]

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Ok, so some one may be asking, what’s the point?

Well, in my pursuit of knowledge, I’ve often been at pains to find ‘convincing’ narratives that encapsulate the black person’s experience of living the western world. At least those that do so honestly, without being patronising or omitting important details. Especially since such was omitted during my formal education in Malawi, and I know many Malawians (both young and old ) who do not clearly understand these things, or how they are affected by them.
So far, while there are many resources (for example this powerpoint presentation at the Institute of Race Relations and the lecture mentioned in the quote at the beginning of this article) there aren’t many which I’d say stand out remarkably, and which I’d recommend to young audiences who are unlikely to read a long article or big book on African History.

Having said that, there are many accounts (including blog posts) that attempt to explain how we got here, why we got here, and where we are going from here.  In the lecture by Phil Scraton refered to above, he says:-

“Henry Giroux argues that in the context of ‘increasingly oppressive corporate globalism … educators need to resurrect a language of resistance and possibility’. For: ‘Hope is the precondition for an individual and social struggle … the mark of courage on the part of intellectuals in and out of the academy who use the resources of theory to address pressing social problems’. It is more than this. It is about bearing witness, gathering testimonies, sharing experiences, garnering the view from below and exposing the politics and discourses of authoritarianism. It moves beyond the resources of theory into praxis, recognising the self-as-academic as the self-as-participant. It takes political responsibility. As my good friend Stan Cohen concludes: ‘Intellectuals who keep silent about what they know, who ignore crimes that matter by moral standards, are even more culpable when society is free and open. They can speak freely, but choose not to.’ – Stan Cohen  “

That is precisely why I choose to publish material about the black experience on this blog.

Links and resources

 
‘Dr Stanislas warns that when examining crime and the black community it is essential to separate genuine issues of concern with what is in reality an ongoing criminalization of black people. Black families should not be used as an excuse for crime within black communities or placed under a microscope, especially when “the white family produces more dysfunctional individuals, ” he said.

My name is Louis Nthenda (a Malawi national, now aged 72 and living in Japan) the young black man talking to the girl inthe photo behind and to the right of Malcom X

My name is Louis Nthenda (a Malawi national, now aged 72 and living in Japan) the young black man talking to the girl inthe photo behind and to the right of Malcom X    (liberatormagazine.com)