Failed State?

Some years ago Malawi was prematurely labeled a failed state by some western private institution. Not very productive for us. For them it got them some publicity. But now we are going in a dangerous direction.

The tasks of the state are important, and necessary for a society to function. The most important ones are providing security (police, army, judicial system), health care (right to life) and education. Education is one of three pillars of the Human Development Index, which is internationally used to measure the performance of a country.

Now in Malawi, education is not doing well: less than 10% of our population even finishes primary education, let alone secondary and tertiary. Last year the ministry of education had the great idea of not employing 10,000 certified teachers, while there is an enormous shortage (in Malawi the average pupil to teacher ratio is 92, while we strive for 60, internationally 40 is seen as the maximum). Now they decided to do away with the JCE (Junior Certificate of Education). They come up with some rationale that it is not in demand, but what this means is that the last quality check is removed from our primary education. While we know that the quality is already below standard. This can only mean disaster. According to education expert Steve Sharra, this removal is not motivated by anything but a shortage of money.

We see the same thing happening in health care, where the government suddenly decided to reverse employment of the whole contingent of graduated nurses. Malawi has a nurse to population ration of 1 to 3000 while internationally one to 1000 is minimum. We need many more nurses, as anyone visiting our public hospitals will know. But they are not employed. (It remains to be seen if this decision is legal, the National Organization for Nurses and Midwifes should take government to court over this, as it is essentially illegal dismissal after they had been hired.)

In security, the third important task of our government we see an underfunded police organization, a wave of crime, both on the streets and on Capital Hill, and a judiciary that sometimes is not even capable of working for a shortage of stationary.

All this put together points in a worrying direction: government is not functioning the way it should. And this brings us back to the start of this story: how far are we from a failed state? Unfortunately it looks like we are getting closer and closer…


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