On the re-introduction of quota-based selection in universities in Malawi

Saturday, February 09, 2008

News is making rounds about proposals to re-introduce the previously abandoned quota-based selection in universities in Malawi. I receive this news with disappointment! The basis of my disappointment is the fact that I believe that entry into universities in Malawi should be on merit as is currently the case. Currently students sit for an entrance exam which tests their language, mathematical as well as general reasoning skills. I think this filtration mechanism is meritocratic.

I support my position with part 1 of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which clearly states that:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

In case you missed it, the article clearly states that "higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit". Then why should we start violating this fundamental human right? I, as an individual, would like to be judged by the content of my character not based on my skin colour, ethnic group, region, gender and other discriminatory devices. As Martin Luther King Jnr said in his famous "I have a Dream" speech delivered on 28 August 1963:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I think it is not fallacious here to equate content of character to merit. Simply put, I should be judged on merit!

Yes, some are complaining that there are some regions which are being favoured with the current university selection setup. To them I would need to ask them a few questions. What makes the other regions favoured? Is it that there are better schools in the so-called favoured regions? What makes others not do well in the university entrance exams? Is it because of the region, district or tribe where they come from? Should performers be rewarded with discrimination? Can we instill hard work like this in our youths?

In my opinion, I feel that a better solution would be to increase the intake capacities of each of the universities in Malawi so that at the end of the day every student who QUALIFIES should be able to get a place in the universities. Entrance exams to the universities should also be well coordinated among the universities so that we do not have students hopping from one university to the other.

Otherwise, we do not want our beautiful and peaceful Malawi to be plunged into a path that fuels regionalism and tribalism. I think the Kenyan example serves as a warning example.

I need to be judged as a Malawian not based on my district of origin, language, ethnic group etc. I end with a quote from Confucious:

In teaching there should be no distinction of classes


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