Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: D.D. Phiri Quests for National 'Immortality' Through 'History of Malawi: Volume 2'

There is always a past. A newly-discovered lake like Lake Malawi may, for instance, be younger in
minutes in the eyes of the discoverer like Dr. David Livingstone but (be) old in years in the eyes of the local inhabitants.

This makes history unavoidable, and the eventual absence of national records on a nation state's path towards progression or retrogression an attempt at committing national suicide. It must be that prolific
historian and writer, Desmond Dudwa Phiri, appreciated this realism by the strength of his age, experience, academic prowess and familiarity to the Malawian subject.

D.D. Phiri, as he has come to be known, must have realised, too, that forth-coming generations would be acting within their mandate to seek answers on why this suicide ever took place.

D.D. Phiri 'partially' excused himself from such blame by publishing 'History of Malawi: Volume 1' in 2004. 'Partially' because the first volume limited the scope of Malawi's history to 1915- a time when the
pint-sized Amwandionerapati? criss-crossed the land.  Of course, volume 1 continued the tradition of other historians by making no mention of why the Amwandionerapati were that short despite head of Malawi's Chipembedzo Chamakolo, Fred Kwacha, saying time and again that height provided cover to the country's early inhabitants, and that they could spy on lions, tigers, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, buffaloes, among other game, under the 'cover' of their height and forests.

Even though other issues- such as how the African continent was treated as a piece of clothes up grabs, and how Nyasaland found herself under the giant armpit of the British emperor, the toils of United States of America-trained Providence Industrial Mission pastor, John Chilembwe, and founding President, Kamuzu Banda's trek to South Africa, United States of America, United Kingdom, and Ghana, in that order  are mentioned; it is a journey half-covered.

Now, D.D. Phiri has made 'whole' his escape from blame by publishing History of Malawi: Volume 2.

 "As soon as Volume 1 was published in the year 2004, book-sellers were telling me that their customers were eagerly asking for the next Volume and wanted to know when it was going to be made available...,"
D.D. Phiri says in the preface.

In so doing, he has also satisfied the desire of Malawians because history is unavoidable.

 "...We do not need to be thoroughly versed in astronomy, geology or geometry if the careers we have chosen have nothing to do with such subjects.

"But we must be knowledgeable about personal and public health, as well as the history of our country. We cannot keep ourselves in good health unless we know what it takes to be healthy; similarly, we cannot love our country sufficiently if we are ignorant of its history."

David Hume, in the essay, 'On the study of history', also observed in 1740:

"I must think it unpardonable ignorance in persons of whatever sex or condition not to be acquainted with the history of their own country, together with the histories of ancient Greece and Rome."

 An individual acquainted with history may, in some respect, be said to have lived from the beginning of the world, and to have been making continual additions to his stock of knowledge in every century.

In the new Volume, Published in 2010 by College Publishing Company, we see Malawi, from 1915 to date, pass in review before us.

There is, in this 396 paged-volume, the presence of that historical aspect, virtue, too. And orderly tucked in its 26 chapters are people and events in their proper colours. If D.D. Phiri has personal inclinations; then, they are not so visible to alter the overall state of facts and evidence.

Issues are presented in order of their occurrence, instead of chasing after the shadow of non-corresponding themes. He does the same with personalities involved; he does not introduce them for the sake of it,
but ties them to events they played a part in.

The first four chapters start on a social, economic and natural resources' note, with the first chapter chronicling the courage of local men who fought battles that were not theirs, and their contribution to British victory in East Africa during World 1. The focus on land issues, education history, and rail transportation sets the tone for the brunt tone that characterizes Volume 2.

But, that aside, the politics of nationalism and independence make chapters four to 26 political- with some unexpected economic and social issues making sporadic appearances in chapter 16 and 22-elements that satisfy Hume's 'three kinds of advantages found in History', namely: amusement, understanding, and virtue.

Amusement because It is entertaining to the mind to be transported into the remotest ages of the world, and to observe human society, taking the first steps of civilization.

It enhances understanding in that it is more meaningful to see government policies, and the civility of conversation, and everything which is ornamental to human life, advancing towards its perfection;
as well as to remark the rise, progress, declination, and final extinction of the most-flourishing empires.

 As for virtue, it corresponds with truth. Truth, regarded as the basis of history, is apparent where anecdotes are employed. The book confirms that, indeed, virtue and truth help readers and writers avoid interest from perverting their judgement.

The book is a must-read for history teachers, students and the general population because everybody's needs are catered for in its approach. Combined with word economy, logic and a modicum of evidence, the
knowledge gates are truly opened.

D.D. Phiri, a University of London economics, history and sociology graduate, has 22 fiction and non-fiction books to his credit.

However, the 'History of Malawi, Volume 2' is not a paragon of innocence.

To start with, there are some confusing typo errors and, secondly, there are not many books on the subject.

Thirdly, Malawi is still a 'young' nation. As Sir Francis Bacon said, "a young nation is fitter to invent than to judge". Some of the assertions cannot be backed up.

To this, D.D. Phiri says: "the writing of this book could have taken me even longer if it were not for the fact that most of the events narrated herein happened when I was already old enough to take interest and sometimes participate in them."

Participation and narration can, sometimes, be fortresses that limit view of the outside world and distort perspective.

Otherwise, D.D. Phiri's latest publication is written for everyday use, reprete with a permanence which the passage of 96 years has very little modified. It presents the Malawi we have always had, being human; and to know it is to recognize ourselves.

...After the 2009 Elections, Will 2014 Be Different?

On 23 February, 2010, I wrote the piece below- well before the 2014 Tripartite Elections.

Four years later, in the May 2014 Tripartite Elections, the same mistakes were committed by the public broadcaster. 

May be a recap of what I wrote in 2010 could help us see the irony- though some of the people have dies while others are no longer holding the positions they held at the time of writing the article.

But, as they say, the past (not history) is the best teacher.

...After the 2009 elections, will 2014 be different?
By Richard Chirombo
Times come when, like El Nino winds that elude the meteorologists’ charts, the breezes of history unexpectedly accelerate and blow away the touchstones by which a people live.

It happened twice or thrice during the past century. In 1914, when the Reverend John Chilembwe staged a surprise uprising against Thangata system (bonded labour); between 1940 and 1964 when Malawians (Nyasas) got tired of their emotional moorings to colonial authorities and wanted independence. It ended in 1993 when people voted for multiparty democracy during a national referendum and for change during subsequent presidential and parliamentary elections in 1994.

The last episode was true of the post-independence African character of the 1990s, when authority got deconstructed from institutions to individuals and that, now freed from official restraint, people felt liberated enough to choose everything, including national leaders, for themselves.

Malawians have, since 1994 when they transformed their political landscape to a magnitude that signals nothing less than a fundamental mutation in the national character, voted for Members of Parliament (MPs) and a Head of State every five years.

On May19, 2009, Malawians voted again, signaling the fourth turn of democratic elections. This followed similar elections in 1994, 1999 and 2004, each process a new national experiment.
It thus becomes imperative, as is always the case with all human experiments, to ask the big questions: Where have we scored highly? What have been the challenges? In that order, not forgetting opportunities that exist and the way forward.

Running away from such questions could be tantamount to running away from future responsibility- a future as nearer as 2014 when Malawians go to the polls again, says political commentator Nandini Patel. She is one the first people to note that the country’s four elections have proved too predictable in other aspects and difficult to comprehend in other cases.

They (elections) have been predictable in terms of regional voting patterns and ruling parties’ conduct over state-run media; and difficult to comprehend when it comes to the issue of independents and how president Bingu wa Mutharika won over 60 per cent of the vote in 2009.

“Look at the elections in 1994, for instance. People voted on regional lines. This is evident in the fact that the eventual presidential winner, (United Democratic Front’s) Bakili Muluzi, got 42.2 per cent (South), Kamuzu Banda 33.5 per cent from his Central region stronghold and Chakufwa Chihana ( Alliance for Democracy) with 18.9 per cent, mainly from the Northern region.

“This was almost repeated in 1999 when Muluzi got 51.37 per cent in the South, the Malawi Congress Party/Alliance for Democracy coalition 44.30 per cent in the Central and Northern region, respectively, and Kamlepo Kalua who got 1.43per cent of the national vote,” said Patel, a lecture at the Catholic University in Chiradzulu.

The scene was repeated in 2004, when UDF presidential candidate Bingu wa Mutharika chalked 35.89 per cent in the South, Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) John Tembo 27.13 per cent and Gwanda Chakuamba of the Mgwirizano Coalition 25.72 per cent.

It was as if every new elections were a reinstatement of the saying that old habits die hard. But Patel says this was something that was doomed to change, anyway, though she acknowledges having doubted Afrobarometer’s opinion poll findings that pegged DPP’s Mutharika at over 60 per cent.

Patel looks at DPP and the way it plans to sustain its majority numbers in parliament after the 2014, 2019 and 2024 parliamentary elections as some of the yet-to-come trends people may not comprehend now. Time will unfold all things and decide whether the DPP treads the same decline paths as those parties before it: UDF and MCP.

The past four elections have had there fair of surprises, renditions, revisions, opportunities and challenges- only that some of the challenges refuse to go with the times, says Patel, pointing at the issue of state-run media during campaign.

David Bandawe, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) at the Electoral Commission (EC), acknowledges that every election has been a new experience, with its own challenges and opportunities. This is something he came to appreciate more just recently.

Bandawe has a friend at the Parachute Battalion, those patriotic guys who jump from the air for the sake of their beloved nation. The two happened to talk about jumping from the air during their most recent meeting when the man in uniform alluded something to the fact that ‘every jump is a new jump’, according to the EC CEO.

“So, too, are elections. Each and every election is a new experience, with unique challenges and opportunities. That is the reason we, at EC, are always trying to improve things,” says Bandawe.

EC has, in this respect, organized a meeting aimed at reviewing all independent electoral observers’ reports pertaining to the May19 elections; a development Chairperson Anastasia Msosa says will help solve some of the challenges.

The most outstanding challenge is the perceived abuse of state run media by those in power, observers say. But this is a challenge faced by political parties; EC, too, faces its own music.
Some of its challenges include increasing complaints from political parties, the legal environment in which the electoral body operates, budgeting constraints, complex processes leading to voter registration and voters roll verification, transportation hitches as well as registration periods corroding with the farming season or rains.

This notwithstanding, opposition political parties are, however, riled by the conduct of the electoral body. The EC appreciates the challenges, yes- charges Aford’s Secretary General Khwauli Msiska, who happens to be the party’s sole parliamentarian (Karonga Nyungwe constituency)- but what is it doing to address them?

“Nothing,” Msiska said, adding that  Mutharika’s high approval ratings at the ballot could be attributed to the public media which he accuses of over-blowing the president’s ‘obsequious’ charm, evasive assurances and elastic treatment of facts. He also thinks that ruling party cadres never told fibs exactly but made pronouncements that narrowed the isthmus between truth and expediency so that wishes were presented as action while mere reasoning became interchangeable with fact.

“That is the power of propaganda. A lie, repeated many times, becomes truth; this is the role state-run media played during campaign,” says Msiska.

Sentiments shared by Republican Party president Stanley Masauli He is ruthless in his verdict of the polls, something he says is derived from the way Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Malawi Television behaved in the run up to the polls.

“These institutions violated the EC’s Code of Conduct and went away with it. So, I question: Were the elections free? Yes. (Were they) Fair? A big no. Credible? May be,” the voice of a man who fought hard to get his deregistered party (RP) back but failed to get his worth at the ballot.

The conduct of MBC and TVM could be the reason, perhaps, why MCP spokesperson Nancy Tembo insists that the opposition dominated parliament of the past five years could have been right, anyway, to deny TVM and MBC funding (not in the negative sense).

“I see nothing wrong with that,” said Tembo at a review meeting of the elections in Blantyre . “In fact, I think that the decision has helped the two institutions become self reliant. They can do without any funding even now,” said Tembo.

Accusations of TVM/MBC perceived bias during the polls have not gone down well with DPP spokesperson, Hetherwick Ntaba. He says, though the opposition seems to blame the ruling party for every Sparrow that falls from the sky, the fact is that it is the magnetic personality and policies of Mutharika that turned him into a common denominator and visible agent of the convulsions that have transformed Malawi’s social-economic status for the past five years.

He says this is the reason people voted for Mutharika, and not because of the influence of state run media. He, however, says he finds it ironic that the same opposition that denied the two institutions funding could now stand on mountains and accuse them of not airing out their views.

“It is hypocritical. Let me also clear this myth that MBC and TVM are the only channels of campaign information; we have many other radio stations, most of whom did not give us an inch during campaign period,” says Ntaba, pointing at Joy FM.

All Rafiq Hajat, Executive Director for the Institute for Policy Interaction, does is laugh at both the opposition and ruling party.

“The opposition were in majority for the past five years but never amended the Communications Act thinking they would go into government on May19, 2009. The DPP is now in majority but will do nothing to change the Act, I tell you. The short of it is that the opposition is now crying over spilt milk and the DPP will one day cry. Isn’t that a good joke!?”

Launch of Electoral Calendar for By-elections and Stakeholders’ Meetings


The Malawi Electoral Commission is announcing that it will on Monday, August 25, 2014 hold stakeholders’ meetings to launch the electoral calendar for the by-elections as follows:
 Thyolo East Constituency at Goliati Primary School

 Blantyre North Constituency at Mdeka Primary School
 Lisanjala Ward in Machinga Likwenu Constituency at Machinga
LEA School
 Kandeu Ward in Ntcheu North East Constituency at Ganya
Teacher Development Centre (Kandeu)
 Lifupa Ward in Kasungu West Constituency at Chankhozi
Teacher Development Centre
 Mbalachanda Ward in Mzimba Central Constituency at
Mbalachanda Teacher Development Centre
 Zgeba Ward in Karonga Nyungwe Constituency at Majaliro
Teacher Development Centre.
The meetings will start from 8.30AM and all political parties, aspiring candidates, civil society organizations, traditional leaders and all stakeholders involved in elections are invited to attend.

During the meetings the Commission will release the electoral calendar and also give an opportunity to stakeholders to seek clarification on any activity for the by-elections.
Signed this 19th day of August, 2014 at Blantyre
Willie Kalonga

Chief Elections Officer

Assessing the Role of Public Relations in Internationalisation of TVET: A Case of Sub Saharan Africa

Assessing the Role of Public Relations in Internationalisation of TVET: A Case of Sub Saharan Africa


Lewis Msasa

Senior Public Relations Specialist, TEVETA Malawi
Private Bag B406

A Presentation prepared for the IVETA 2014 Conference in Helsinki, Finland on 20th August, 2014
Sub theme 2: Improving  the Quality and attractiveness of TVET through international Cooperation


The phrase “Technical and Vocational Education and Training” (TVET) was adopted to reflect the combined process of education and training and to recognise that employment be the common objective of its immediate goal (UNESCO, 2002). Although TVET system is being recognized as instrumental for socioeconomic development in most countries, studies indicate that the system is failing to match with the skills, attitudes and knowledge demands from the market, partly due to rapid technological developments, globalisation as well as rapid transformation of occupations (Jimat, 2009).  As such, the public harbours negative attitudes on TVET in the wake of its failure to provide a panacea for unemployment. Within the same armpits, the media  has also embraced these negative attitudes hence poor coverage and misrepresentation of information on TVET.

The  paper, therefore,  aims to discuss the role of Public Relations (PR) in the coverage and internationalisation  of TVET and how PR can make TVET internationally attractive. The paper argues that a vibrant PR can make TVET global and attractive  to prospective students beyond the country boundaries. Strategies such as harnessing the potential of PR can help in creating an international platform where professionals involved in PR practices within TVET could  share innovative ideas on how the national and global image of TVET can be improved hence making TVET provision an internationally seamless service.

  1. Introduction

The 21st Century has brought with it siginificant advances in the political, economic and technological fronts which have resulted into the creation of a global village. As such internationalisation coupled with rapid developments in information technology has in the recent years turned out to be one of the major issues of discourse in the modern society, ultimately having an impact on most citizens and societal institutions. In the process cross boarder information exchange is now becoming the order of the day. 
Amidst all this has been the indirect ‘intercultural’ effects of Information Communication Technology (ICT) whose obvious facilities have assisted in cutting across physical boundaries and geographical distances by linking people around the world (Davis, 1999 cited in Richards, 2004). This, according to Davis, 1999 (cited in Richards, 2004), has made ICT to be increasingly recognized as a key organizing vehicle for various notions of ‘globalization’ and imperatives of ‘internationalization’ in education. Over time a platform for exchange of information and developments in the TVET sector has emerged.

 Internationalisation in TVET can be defined as a process of intergrating an international dimension into teaching, research and services functions of various institutions in the TVET sector (Knight, 1997 cited in UNESCO: 2014). According to Knight, internationalisation is a key component for development of higher education and it is manifested through aspects such as international interaction, exchanges in technological development, cross boarder movement of employees, sharing expertise and academic networking. Internationalisation is good for international competition and transferability of goods and services. The International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA) is an example where such aspects are being manifested.

However, on the other side of the coin some schools of thought have faulted internationalisation, urguing that it is there to strengthen international  competition  at the expense of international cooperation among countries and institutions while some fear that promotion of cultural diversity could bring in issues of a single language and advancement of western culture (Unesco:2014).

  1. Background to internationalisation of TVET and Public Relations

It has to be accepted that with globalisation no country or institution would claim to possess an inherent immunity from the effects of internationalisation. Likewise, those in the TVET sector cannot claim to cut themselves from the international networks like the International Vocational Education and Training Association (IVETA).  This, therefore, calls the need for those in the TVET sector to find ways and means of ensuring how  issues related to internationlisation of TVET could be enhanced. Public Relations could in the process play an important role in the internationalisation of TVET by managing and facilitating  sharing of these innovative ideas by, among others, facilitating the creation of a structured but seamless network.
While the debate on internationlisation of TVET is gathering mommentum, experts in the TVET sector have in the recent years been converging   in various fora to bang heads on how best to internationalise  TVET with a number of resolutions  being made. For instance, one of the issues which the Hangzhou Declaration noted, was   the “current marginalisation of TVET vis a vis general and academic education” hence  recommended that communication via knowledge networking should be an important aspect that would contribute towards development process(Unesco, 2004: 23 .
The major  challenge, currently, is that the TVET sector as argued by  Msasa (2014) is still regarded lowly,  resulting into poor coverage of the sector’s programmes and activities. In other words, the general feeling by the public and even parents is that the vocational education is considered as being fit for only the academically less endowed (African Union, 2007). As such there has to be some mechanism that should be devised in order to  reverse this situation because such perceptions could negatively affect efforts toward internationalisation in the TVET sector. The only way to arrest this situation is by, among others, providing accurate information which would make the sector attractive through effective public relations programmes and activities. As Alison  (2010) puts it, Public Relations if employed effectively could ensure that the public has an accurate view of the organisation, in this case the TVET sector. The negative perceptions that the public has on TVET is probably a reflection of the public’s lack of or inadequate knowledge about the sector as well as the important role that it could play in any country’s economy.

In Malawi the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA)1 which was established by  the TEVET Act of Parliament No. 6 of 1999 to regulate TEVET has a Public Relations  division. The division’s responsibility is to raise the profile of the TEVET sector in Malawi, by among others, ensuring that its programmes and activities are attractive and well-covered by the media.  Over the years efforts have been undertaken by TEVET Authority’s Public Relations division in order to fulfil this mandate through various PR activities such as media tours, panel discussions and sharing  of success stories through feature articles in both electronic and print media, career talks and facilitating various forums where topical issues on TEVET are discussed. However, a study which was commissioned by  TEVETA  Malawi to evaluate the impact of   Public Relations noted that there still appears to be some elements of misrepresentation or in most cases, blackout of information about TEVET in Malawi media, a situation that has resulted into various stakeholders having inadequate knowledge on the activities being undertaken in the TEVET sector (IEC Report, 2011).  For instance the public still fails to difefrentiate between TEVET, the system and TEVETA, the authority. The study also noted that the public has a feeling that TEVET courses are pursued by those who have not been successful  in general eduation. However,  while acknowledging that Public Relations has a significant role to play in TEVET, the study singled out inadequate capacity in audience research for the institution as the root cause of the problem of why Public Relations has not been having an impact on TVET (TEVETA: 2012).

The TEVET Authority case study provides some insights and challenges that public relations is facing but at the same time it offers some hope that , potentatially Public Relations could play a vital role in the internationalisation of TVET and ensuring that the sector is attractive.
Therefore, this paper aims to assess the role of Public Relations in internationalisation of TVET by, among other things, examining various issues within the Public Relations arena and internationalisation of TVET with particular focus on Sub Saharan Africa perspectives.  Africa merits a special mention when it comes to studying the role of Public Relations in the internationalisation of TVET because of the diversity of issues  and challenges that  have a  bearing on communication. Firstly,  in Sub Saharan Africa globalisation has created a tension between skills required for global economic competitiveness and developing skills for poverty eradication. This has culminated into African countries pursuing the development of skills at all levels of the spectrum (basic, secondary, tertiary levels), with each country putting emphasis on  the skill levels that correspond best to their stage of economic development and the needs of the local labour market (African Union:2007).

Secondly, the international media channels in Africa are many but the problem with these is that they tend to lose their value in the process of trying to ‘de-westernise’ their programmes in order to make issues covered more African in terms of localism and relevance (Sririvamesh and Vercic (2009). The fact that media programmes are in either English, French, Portuguese which are mostly spoken by the affluent they tend to be  limited to a specific public hence denying the majority from accessing information about TVET. This means that as Sririvamesh and Vercic (2009) put it all this has to be taken into consideration when planning and managing for effective Public Relations programmes depending   on the needs of the each country and institution.

  1. The Global Perspectives on Technical and Vocational Education and Training

At the Second International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education in Seoul in 1999 and at the 30th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO held in Paris in 1999, members agreed on the adoption of the phrase “Technical and Vocational Education and Training” (TVET) to reflect the combined process of education and training and at the same time recognise that employment be the common objective of their immediate goal (UNESCO,1999 cited in UNESCO 2002). Despite the TVET system being recognized as instrumental for socioeconomic development in most countries, studies indicate that the system is failing to match with the skills, attitudes and knowledge demands from the market, partly due to rapid technological developments, globalisation as well as rapid transformation of occupations (Jimat, 2009).  Ultimately as noted by Unesco (2004:13) “the current marginalisation of TVET vis a vis general and academic education” has in the  recent years been a source of debate in various fora.
This have resulted into the public harbouring negative attitudes on TVET in the wake of its failure to provide a panacea for high unemployment rates, according to Jimat (2009). These negative attitudes on the TVET, as noted by African Union (2007) emanate from the fact that globally the education system continues to focus on basic and higher education . As the result TVET is considered inferior and those who venture into it consider it as a second choice after failing to pursue other careers. Ultimately, many do not consider technical and vocational education occupation as important because of the stigma attached to it. Although the majority consider TVET as inferior, most students who fail to make it to higher education, nevertheless end up going into labour market without skills (Unesco, 2002). All these issues do pose a challenge when it comes to internationalisation of the TVET sector.

Over the years efforts towards internationalisation of the TVET sector have been manifested in the formation of various regional blocks  whose ojectives, among others, has been the harmonization of TVET systems through development of a Regional Qualifications Frameworks which seek  to enable Member States to compare and recognize qualifications obtained in the region. For instance, on 8th September, 1997  Heads of State and Government met in Blantyre, Malawi to discuss ways and means of  promoting  deeper regional integration. The meeting culminated into  the formation of the SADC Protocol on Education and Training, which seeks to establish legal and institutional frameworks to promote regional integration in specific priority areas of education, training, research and development. Among others, the protocal works towards the relaxation and eventual elimination of immigration formalities in order to facilitate freer movement of students and labour within the Region for the specific purposes of study, teaching, research and any other pursuits relating to education and training. 

Although there has been this movement and a lot of resolutions being made at various fora towards internationalisation in TVET, not much has been shared among the stakeholders involved in the TVET sector, a situation that has resulted into creationof a kind of information imbalance.

However , if  Vocational Education and training is understood as a crossing point between human, society, nature and technology, production and economy “one could see communication via knowledge networking being an important aspect that could contribute towards the development process” (UNESCO, 2014:33).

This, therefore, calls for the urgent need to harness  the role of Public Relations in the Sub Saharan Africa in order to  check this information imbalance which could hamper internationalisation of TVET.

  1.   Contextualising Public Relations in Internationalisation of TVET

In the modern world Public Relations is being used globally and that it is playing a crucial role in international relations and trade. But for the role of Public Relations to be appreciated it is necessary to understand various perspectives within the realim of Public Relations and how these could be put to use in the TVET sestor in line with emerging issues in globalisation. In the process aspects such as challenges being faced and the environment in which in which the public relations practioners operate could be also be appreciated. This information becomes handly when planning  various public relations  interventions towards the internationalisation of TVET in the wake of globalisation.
Sriramesh, (2009) argues that globalisation has in the recent years played an important role in ensuring that Public Relations body of knowledge moves towards greater cultural relativism which has in the process become relevant to the practitioners who are oftentimes faced with challenges in communicating effectively with the diverse publics. This is why it is important  that Public Relations practioners should have an understanding of the society where TVET as a sector is operating in their respective countries. Society in this case is an aggregation of material aspects which boarder on economic resources and power; social relationships like national societies, families and social roles and occupations which are either formally or informally regulated (McQuail, 2010). Since globalisation started  gathering momomentum  so many effects have featured highly  as the result of the elimination of trade barriers among the nations. These include  cultural diversity and development of a confluence of various publics such as employees, consumers  and members of the media as they try to respond to forces of globalisation.. Secondly,  globalisation has been acceralated by media and communication- ICTs through rapid changes in communications such as the proliferation of social media which is fast  turning the world into a seamless and borderless entity. Above all, what Sriramesh (2009) observes is the  realisation of the fact that human race must to come together and address various common problems which include environmental pollution, terrorism, nuclear proliferation and over population which have resulted in poverty and hunger, all of which led to increased  international cooperation and  intercultural communication.  Viewing developments from this vintage point, one would see the need for public relations to respond to such trends in globalisation. Public Relations , therefore, has to be understood and defined within the context of globalisation as  “ the Strategic Communication that different types of organisations use for establishing and mainstreaming symbiotic relationships with relevant publics many of whom are increasingly becoming culturally diverse (Sriramesh and Vercici, 2009 P.xxxiv). 
In the context of the TVET sector, it means this definition is embracing the issues of symbiotic relationships that would emerge in internationalisation of skills demand and supply. It is also important that Public Relations must embrace issues of cultural diversity in order to provide safety valves that should contain the imbalances that would emerge as the result of globalisation.

However, for Public  Relations to be effective in the internationalisation of TVET it has to be applied or rather implemented within some generic principles such as empowerment of personnel responsible for Public Relations; Public Relations to be taken as an intergral communications function; a separate management function as well as a strategic management function and that Public Relations should be diverse and ethical as advanced by Grunig  (2009). But one aspect that should not be overlooked is that these generic principles cannot be applied in a kind of one-size-fits all  approach because as Sririmech and Vercic (2009) argue, ‘environment’ for Public Relations is not the same in all countries. For Public Relations to be effective, Sririmech and Vercic (2009) proposes that  the conceptual framework from which the generic principals were derived by Grunig be linked with the variables  such as the  cultural (societal and organisational), media environment, the economic system,  the political system and level of development and activitism of a particular country. These elements are important and should not be overlooked  when formulating communication strategies that are aimed at popularising  TVET in a particular country while at the same time addressing issues related to internationalisation of TVET.

On the other hand,  while trying to understand Public Relations, media and news should be understood when planning  Public Relations in the TVET sector because as Cottle (2003) puts it, the media is a major conduit of information in a society where both cultural identities and commercial interests jostle for media space, prompting institutions to strategically position themselves. The implication is that the TVET sector should be strategically positioned to ensure that matters related to internationalisation of TVET do not skip media spotlight.
In the process Public Relations practioners could become handy because of their ability to understand the Agenda Setting theory of news. By definition Agenda Setting is “a process of media influence (intended or unintended) by which the relative importance of news events, issues or personages in the public mind are affected by the order of presentation (or relative salience) in news reports” (Macquail, 2010: p.548). This is an important aspect in Public Relations practice because it enables both the public and public relations practitioners to appreciate the ability of media to influence the audience cognition and at the same time effect change among the existing cognitions on TVET. A number of studies  have been carried out, the most significant being the one done by Bernard Cohen when he wanted to find out whether there was a relationship between the press and foreign policy where he   found that “the press is significantly more than a purveyor of information and opinion. It may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about” (Cohen, 1963: p.13 cited in Newbold, 2005). Complementary studies on  Agenda Setting were carried out by McCombs and Shaw, 1972 (cited in Newbold, 2005) where  they discovered a strong relationship between those topics which were featured highly in the mass media coverage and those that were in the minds of the audience.
But as Macquail (2002) argues, the media influence may not necessarily be a reflection of its opinion but it is simply going by what people think probably in trying to be objective although Mackinnon (1982: p.237 cited in Litchenberg, 2000) contend that objectivity is viewed as a strategy of hegemony employed by some sections within a society in order to dominate others. The implication is that it might happen  in trying to be objective the media could be faced with a situation where it would give it would give some activities or news events  more coverage than others activities. In that case if TVET as a sector is considered by the public as of low status as argued by Jimat (2009) then one would not expect the media to give it much coverage as way of making it attractive. This means it might be problematic for issues related to internationalisation of TVET to be well publicised if there are no proper Public Relations strategies  in place. 

On the other hand, the Marxist theory acknowledges the existence of a relationship between economic ownership and the dissemination of information which does affirm the legitimacy and the value of class of society. This implies that as Cottle (2003:p.136) puts it “those who have access to news discourse can shape public opinion and set agenda for action”. Probably this is where, in the process of internationalisation of TVET, Public Relations could play a role in shaping the attitudes that the public has on TVET.

4.1 Role of Public Relations

Considering the diversity of  Public Relations definitions being put forward by various authorities in the field, it has always been problematic to appreciate its  roles. Alison (2010: 26) has managed to summarise what Public Relations is capable of achieving  by providing a rough guide of the activities involved in Public Relations in Table 1 below.

Table one: A Rough Guide to main activities of Public Relations

Public Relations Activity
Internal Communication
Communicating with Employees
In-house newsletter, suggestion boxes
Corporate PR
Communicating on behalf of whole organization not goods or services
Annual reports, conferences, Ethical statements, visual identities, images
Media Relations
Communicating with journalists; Specialists; Editors from local, national, international and Trade media, including newspapers, magazines, radios, TV and web based communication
Press Releases, photo calls, video news releases, off the record briefings, press events
Business to Business
Communicating with other  organizations e.g. Suppliers, Retailers
Exhibition, Trade events, newsletter
Public Affairs
Communicating with opinion formers (e.g. Local and national politicians), monitoring political environments
Presentations, briefings, private meetings, public speeches
Community Relations/Corporate Social Responsibility
Local communities, electedrepresentatives, head teachers etc
Exhibitions, Presentations, letters, meetings, sports activities and other sponsorships
Investor Relations
Communicating with Financial Organisations/Individuals
Newsletters, briefings, events
Strategic Communications
ID and analysis of situations, problems and solutions to further organizational goals
Researching and executing a campaign to improve ethical reputation of an organization
Issues management
Monitoring political, social, economic and technological environment
Considering effect of the issues in the party manifestos during campaign and these could impact on say TEVETA (my emphasis).
Crisis Management
Communicating clear messages on fast changing situation of emergency
Dealing with media after the closure of a TEVET institution due to substandard structures (my emphasis).
Copy writing
Writing for different audiences to high standards or literacy
Press Releases, news releases, web pages, annual report
Publications Management
Overseeing print/media processesoften using new technology
Leaflets, internal magazines, web sites
Events management, Exhibitions
Organisations of complex events, exhibitions
Annual conferences, press launch, trade shows

Source: Alison (2010: p 10)
Deducing from the Table One   it could be seen that Public Relations  is complex and can  sometimes be easily  misunderstood and even misinterpreted. Strategically others have inseparably associated Public Relations to involvement and presence of media. With these multi-faceted roles it is not a surprise that Public Relations has always been referred to by various nomenclature depending on the nature and needs of the institution. For instance the Botswana Qualifications Authority, refers the department which handles  Public Relations issues as Communications and Customer Service; at TEVETA  Zambia it is refferred to as Information, Education and  Communication while at TEVETA Malawi it is referred to as Corporate Affairs  Division.
But  regardless of  what   nomenclature   Public Relations could be referred to the most important aspect is to ensure that the public has an accurate view of the organisation  (Alison, 2010).  Thus as internationalisation of  TVET is gaining currency it is imperative that the general public is given accurate information which would make it  have a sound understanding of the TVET system which could   influence positively perceptions, knowledge and attitude on TVET. And it is believed that Public Relations has the ability to play this crucial role.

5. A bird’s eye view of the Media in Sub Saharan Africa

At this juncture, it is evedently clear that the role of Public Relations in internationalisation of TVET cannot be discussed in isolation. One of the precursors to the effectiveness of Public Relations effectiveness is the presence of channels of communication which could be used as a vehicle towards internationalisation of TVET. As earlier noted, Africa especially the Sub-Saharan Region merits a special mention when it comes to studying the role of Public Relations in  the internationalisation of TVET because of the diversity of issues  and challenges that could have a   bearing on communication.

For Public Relations to become instrumental in changing the perceptions, attitudes and behaviour of people towards TVET there must be some good communication infrastructure. But a closer look at Public Relations field in the Sub-Saharan Africa reveals a number of challenges such as a huge variation in terms of access to new media and lack of communication infrastructure as major challenges. For example Tanzania with a population of 34 million has about 15 well established daily, weeklies coming out in both English and Swahili with a circulation of 4 per thousand people. There are also specialist newspapers like the Business Times and some independent TV and Radio Stations. On the other hand, South Africa with a population of 40 million has 82 national, regional dailies and weeklies mainly in English and Afrikaans with indigenous languages left out. Circulation is about 34 per thousand people. Malawi with a population 15 million has six major papers – The Nation, Weekend Nation and Nation on Sunday The Daily Times, Malawi News and Sunday Times with daily circulation in the ranges of 10,000 to 15,000 mainly in English. Nyasatimes is also fast establishing itself as an important online news source for Malawians especially those in Diasporas.

In terms of access to communication infrastructure, the International Telecommunication Union (2003) notes that cell phone subscription per 100 per in South Africa is at 27 while in Kenya is at five. But the good news is that uptake of ICT has in the recent years rapidly increased in some least developed countries (ITU, 2006). For instance Mali registered 142% while Djibouti, DRC, Niger and Sudan registered 186 %, 184%, 171 % and 139 % growth respectively. This does offer a glimmer of hope although as observed by ITU (2006) that such hope is paled by challenges such as lack of response by policy makers and regulators to rapid and unprecedented developments in telecommunications markets which have emerged. For instance, ITU (2006) says there appears to be unrealistic restrictions and barriers in some countries to the developments and dissemination of the benefits of internet protocols (IP) and scarcity of ICT infrastructure and high cost of internet connectivity which has resulted into the majority of the population in the Sub Saharan region not enjoying to the fruits of new media to the maximum.

The UK based Gyroscope Consultancy has been analysing these variations in terms of availability of information as a major challenge in Africa and has thus created what is called “ African Communications Index (ACI)’ . The ACI is a tool that could be handy when it comes to measuring the level at which PR and Communication could be strategically used starting from planning, management and delivery in a particular country as a well as the degree to which the related desciplines could be effective in specific target audience. 

The ACI ranges from 0 to 100 which according to Gyroscope, the higher the index, the easier it is to plan and determine Public Relations and Corporate  communications in a particular country and more cost effective it could be in the delivery of specific messages to the target audience. The ACI is designed in the way that the higher the ACI, the higher the potential “Return on Investment” in communications activity. For instance, according to Sririmesh and Vercic (2009), South Africa with an index of 89.5 makes it easier to plan Public Relations than in Malawi which has an index of 27.85. Probably this could be the reason why those countries with lowest ACI index may not see the value for investing in Public Relations.

Such  diversity is worth noting because as Sririmesh and Vercic (2009) notes, it does pose challenges in terms of planning Public Relations and Corporate Communication on ‘pan African’ basis. This, therefore, calls the need for TVET institutions in Africa to invest adequately in Public Relations interventions in order for it to play an  effective role in internationalisation in TVET.

6. Public Relations and the new media

Modern Public Relations is dominated by the digital social media which has turned out to be a force to reckon with. Such social media include the Facebook, blogs, whatsup, Linkdin etc which are now becoming a major vehicle for conversations of various issues In other words, the internet has  unarguably revolutionalised the sharing of information. Unlike  in the previous forms of media where production happened to be highly  concentrated  and regulated, the new media which is mostly referred to as digital media has ushered in a new era where there is independent production of content which could be shared instantly and with undue restriction. Through digital media, it has been easy for publics to form and establish relationships anywhere in the world. The electronic media is now able to host online libraries of content waiting  to be accessed by users  unlike the broadcast media such as radio and telecommunication which transmits information over the air. For instance, due to its interactive nature, web 2.02  has the ability to reinforce Grunig’s notion of two-way symmetrical communication (Grunig,2009 cited in Sison, Sheehan, 2012). Blogs, social networks like Facebook and microblogs happen to be the most popular social media platforms (Sison, Sheehan, 2012).Furthermore, the internet technologies such as online media have altered the ‘agenda setting’ capabilities of the media producers. Therefore, the agenda setting function of the new media will depend on the PR practitioners’ ability to attract interested readers, listeners and viewers to issues about TVET  because “once a buzz has been generated over a particular issue, the exponential sharing of content through blogs, emails and word of mouth can provide that content with an unticipated global audience” (Danjoux, 2010:p15). The advantage of using these in internationalisation of TVET is that once the content becomes viral it is popularised exponentially and shared among internet users thereby making TVET a seamless service. But as these dialogues and conversations are taking place,  organisations and various institutions are thus urged to utilise Public Relations in order to facilitate their participation in the discourse (Grunig 2009).
For instance internet tools like the blogosphere have been used in the political arena as candidates are selling themselves to the electorate ( Danjoux, 2010). Likewise Public Relations practitioners could use the blogoshpere in gaining global attention for the TVET issues as a process acceratating of internationalitation of TVET.
Thus as advanced by  Grunig (2009), these digital media have the ability to  make public relations practice a global, strategic and two way and interactive symmetrical or dialogical and socially responsible if used in a strategic manner. All this implies that PR has the potential to effectively contribute towards internationalisation of TVET. In this regard the new media also promises some positive changes in the internationalisation of  the TVET sector if utilised to its potential.

7. Way forward and recommendations

The following are some of the recommendations could enhance the role of Public Relations in the internationalisation in TVET
  • There must be aggressive marketing and PR strategies in place if the public is to appreciate what TVET can offer towards skills development.

  • TVET institutions should endevour towards positioning Public Relations within a management function to ensure that whoever is responsible for Public Relations is part of senior management team where strategic decisions that would have a bearing on Public Relations are made. For instance, it is the duty of Public Relations to develop programmes that are aimed at communicating with strategic publicsand all those who have stakes in TVET sector.
  • For effectiveness all public relations functions within a TVET institution should be intergrated into a single entity which should be coordinating  various departments responsible for communication activities.
  • While appreciating the role of technicians in the day to day activities, best practices require that within the TVET insititution organisational set up there should be a senior manager who should be on top of things with capabilities to handle in matters related to Public Relations in a strategic manner
  • TVET Public Relations machinery should adopt a two way or rather symetrical public relations with abilities to conduct research, listen and manage conflict and at the same culitivate relationships with both internal and extenal publics.
  • Capacity building should be encouraged in the TVET sector to ensure that those handling Public Relations  issues are up to date with ICT  skills on how they can harness the power of new media like website, facebook, blogs, youtube etc which have capabilities to accesserate internationalisation of the TVET sector.
  • Encourage exchange visits and   forum for Public Relations personnel in TVET sector where they could meet to discuss challenges and means of ehnancing issues concerning internationlisation of TVET
  • Public Relations practitioners in TVET institutions should increase awareness and understanding to ensure that the public is able to appreciate the importance of Public Relations as a profession and how it can contribute to the internalisation of TVET.

  • For those TVET institutions which have no Public Relations offices, they should work towards establishing one. Such an office can assist in raising the profile of the TVET, by among others, ensuring that its programmes and activities are well-covered by the media hence enhancing attractiveness of TVET

8. Conclusion

If the current trends where Public Relations  is now becoming a good source of news is anything to go by, it could safely be said that the field   has the potential towards internationalisation of the TVET considering its ability to serve as social and cultural agent in economic transformation in a particular society, be it outside or within (Tilson, 2008).

The  paper has discussed the role of Public Relations (PR) in the internationalisation  of TVET and how PR can make TVET internationally attractive. The discussion has revealed that although TVET system is being recognized as instrumental for socioeconomic development in most countries, the sector is still faced with negative attitudes in the wake of its failure to provide a panacea for unemployment. Unfortunately, the media  has also embraced these negative attitudes hence poor coverage and misrepresentation of information on TVET.

In conclusion the paper has argued  that a vibrant Public Relations could contribute tremendously towards making TVET global and attractive  to prospective students beyond the country boundaries. Strategies like  harnessing the potential of Public Relations by among others making it a strategic management function within TVET institutions and capacity building, creation of an international platform where professionals involved in PR practices within TVET could  share innovative ideas on how the national and global image of TVET can be improved hence making TVET provision an internationally seamless service.

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1 TEVETA Malawi and TEVETA Zambia are probably the only authorities in the Sub Saharan Africa that have incorporated “Entrepreneurship” in TVET  in order to increase chances of TVET graduates going into self employment hence the reason why the two authorities refer it as “TEVET”

2 Web 2.0 is a collection is a collection of open source interaction and user controlled online application expanding the field experience and knowledge and power of users as participants  in business and social process