Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cineliteracy: The Absent Animal in Malawi, Political Parties

There is one powerful thing about a moving image: it has the ability to break down language barrier and spin viewers’ emotions so that they quickly become part of the gravity.

This ability, however, can be debilitating to those who watch films passively and uncritically, according to Louis Giannetti, the author of the book ‘Understanding Movies’, and professor of English and Film at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, USA.

Giannetti, a long-time advocate for Cineliteracy in education systems, observes that there is need to introduce cineliteracy (which Dictionary defines as the appreciation and understanding of film or ‘moving image texts’) in schools, starting from primary school level, in the world. Already, countries such as Australia have run pilot cineliteracy projects in selected primary schools.

Proponents of cineliteracy, including Giannetti, argue that films have the capacity to “indirectly” transmit ideologies and theories that may dictate the way their consumers behave and view the world, a challenge they say can only be overcome by raising awareness about the pros and cons of watching films. 

This development, he argues, leads to people appreciating social cultures they do not know, including traditions, arts, myths and beliefs that are characteristic of the communities from where the films originate.

And, in a country without its own Roberto Rossellins (Roberto Rossellin inaugurated Italy’s neorealist movement), it is easy for Malawians to adopt alien practices that may end up eating into the social fabric of the nation.

How many people, for example, can differentiate theories of realism (which act as a true mirror of the world, without too much exaggerations) and formalist film theories (which delve much into imaginary world, making unreal image appear real)? How many people in Malawi, for example, understand the essential nature of cinema and the three focus points Giannetti identifies as: The work of the art; the artists, and; the audience?

Another film critic, Jim Emerson, argues that “(as regards cineliteracy) the real problem goes even deeper — at least in regards to cinema.  Not only has education been consistently degraded in general, but where film is concerned, it was never really established in the first place.  Not on the elementary or secondary level”.

Emerson’s view is, however, not new, as, in the book ‘Theory of Film’: The Redemption of Physical Reality,’ German-trained theorist Siegfried Kracauer also expresses fears that exaggerated plots may act as “the natural enemy of realism” and affect the way passive watchers view the world.

Chief Censorship Officer at the Censorship Board, Humphrey Mpondaminga, told Malawi News on Tuesday last week that it is difficult to monitor the infiltration of, say, Chinese films which are being translated into Chichewa because it is virtually impossible to visit every corner of the country.

And, while acknowledging that the translation of Chinese films into Chichewa had the potential to erode some of the country’s cultural aspects, the issue of whether the contents were affecting passive Malawians fell under the armpit of the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) since it is illegal to translate foreign films without prior authority.

“But, of course, films have the potential to influence people in a positive or negative way,” Mpondaminda said before the previewing of the new local film, B’ella, at the Board’s offices in Blantyre.

Voices of reason
Smith Likongwe, a lecturer in Drama at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, acknowledges that cineliteracy is not a luxury but necessity in the country.

However, Likongwe says Malawians have work to do, referring to the need to define what is universally good or bad in Malawian society, before delving into the issue of damage that may be inflicted by aspects incorporated in films watched by Malawian consumers.

“To avoid films from affecting the psyche of the vulnerable youth in our society, we need to start by providing the right materials. Before we are able to get to that stage, we need to continue discussing the universally accepted good and universally accepted bad,” Likongwe says, adding:
“By 'universal', I am talking about the principle of common good. Without this principle, we would describe anything that anybody likes as good.”
But Likongwe says efforts are being put in place to raise awareness about film, citing the introduction of Performing Arts in secondary schools. The subject has drama, music and dance.

“That is the first move. Maybe it is a bit too early to introduce cineliteracy in primary schools,” Likongwe says.

At tertiary education level, Likongwe- who studied Theatre and Media Communication for Development at Chancellor College and has also promoted the arts industry through his work at Nanzikambe Arts- says constituent colleges such as Chancellor College run courses that address issues of video production. One such course was introduced some two years ago.

“Of course, to be effective that is far from adequate. We need to introduce short courses for practitioners every now and then and the film industry is one such area where we seriously need to engage artists. The training would be in phases, starting with the basics of filming,” Likongwe says, adding:

“If there are areas where we are inadequate as trainers, we would have to, of course, engage other professionals even from outside the country as long as they are the right professionals doing their job professionally.”

However, Likongwe warned that there is need to conduct a needs assessment to evaluate whether such short courses are necessary.

“However, (even) without doing that, it seems most likely that we need such training,” he said.

Film Association of Malawi (Fama) acting president, Ezaius Mkandawire, cannot agree more.
“At the beginning, yes: Cineliteracy is a must in order to sustain the industry in Malawi. How can people appreciate the art in film if they cannot understand it?” Mkandawire says.

Mkandawire observes, however, that  the task calls for collaborative efforts. He says filmmakers, traders, private and public universities and the government need to play a role for knowledge about films to saturate every mind.

He observes that, with he infiltration of Chinese films that are being translated into Chichewa, the country’s youth stood at a cross roads between local culture and foreign influence as portrayed through the films.

“At the association, we have started thinking of a project to licence the video rooms/halls and together with the Censorship Board and the Copyright Society of Malawi we will police such activities.  We will also need government to come out strongly on the development. That must be put to a stop,” Mkandawire says.

Leaders without vision?
While some people are embracing cineliteracy, however, Malawi’s major political parties are silent on the issue (in their manifestos).

For instance, the ruling People’s Party does not say anything on the issue in its manifesto, and only addresses issues of efficiency in the ministry of education, streamlining activities of the ministry

Ministry of Education too large to ensure efficiency and effectiveness, the PEOPLE’S PARTY government will create separate ministries responsible for Higher Education and Research and another for Basic and Secondary Education. Responsibility for Vocational Training will be transferred to a restructured Ministry of Youth Development and Vocational Training in order to give
visibility to issues of youth and vocational training.

• Streamline the activities of the Education Ministries to focus on the core business of
development and delivery of academic programmes;
• Through the Ministry of Transport and Public Works, launch an aggressive programme
to upgrade and expand education infrastructure (e.g. school blocks, teacher’s houses,
equipment, desks etc.) throughout the country;
• Build Government Secondary Schools in districts which do not have any for example
Phalombe and Machinga;
• Explore creating ways to generate additional resources for the education sector, including
putting a 1 per cent levy per unit of airtime in order to support the modernization and
transformation of the education sector;
• Strengthen the school inspectorate at primary and secondary levels to ensure that
education standards and quality match the overall development agenda;
• Review curricula regularly to ensure relevance to emerging demands and the country’s
development agenda;
• Ensure compulsory learning of English from Early Child Development (ECD) and
Science, Technology and Information and Communication Technologies at primary
and secondary levels of education;
• Enhance Open and Distance learning to increase access to education at all levels;
• Improve special needs education by training more teachers, developing appropriate
tools such as sign language and Braille, provision of adequate learning materials and
equipment to facilitate learning and making infrastructure user friendly;
• Encourage the learning of major foreign languages such as Chinese, French, Portuguese
and Swahili among other foreign languages to enhance capacity of Malawi to engage
with the international community;
• Optimize Public Private Partnerships as well as involving parents and guardians in
provision of quality education;
• Regulate private education providers at all levels to ensure quality in line with the new
Education Act and the PEOPLE’S PARTY transformational agenda; and
• Carry out a core functional analysis of the Malawi National Examinations Board
(MANEB) to ensure that world class standards and quality are maintained so as to
eliminate the chronic leakage of examinations.

3.2 Basic and Secondary Education
As part of its transformational agenda of the educational sector, the PEOPLE’S PARTY
Government will:
• Continue to provide free primary education;
• Ensure 100% primary school completion rates while guaranteeing that learners acquire
skills and knowledge that would enable them to participate fully in the economic and
social life in line with the transformational agenda of the PEOPLE’S PARTY;
• Initiate and promote programmes that empower the girl learner and other disadvantaged
groups to mitigate against early drop out from school;
• Implement the recommended teacher-pupil ratio across the entire education system to
facilitate more effective learning by progressively recruiting teachers;
• Extend the school feeding programme to all rural schools and disadvantaged urban
• Develop primary school clusters and link them to a community secondary school to
enhance access to secondary education and build capacity of these community secondary
• Motivate teachers by improving and honouring their existing conditions of service and
offering them opportunities for upgrading and refresher courses;
• Strengthen primary schools by having at least one graduate teacher at every primary
school within ten years;
• Promote Early Childhood Development Centres so that their numbers as well as
enrolment increase to 60%
• Establish Early Childhood Development (ECD) resource centres in each district
and strengthen the decentralized ECD management structure by empowering local
• Strengthen complementary basic educational modalities for learners including
Interactive Radio Instructions (IRI), Complementary Basic Education and Open and
Distance Learning.

3.3 Teacher Education
The rapid expansion of primary and secondary education has increased the demand for
trained primary and secondary teachers. In order to address this gap, the PEOPLE’S PARTY
Government will:
• Convert Domasi College of Education into a fully fledged Domasi University of
Education to address the supply of teachers;
• Construct six teacher training colleges in Rumphi, Nkhata-Bay, Mangochi, Chikhwawa,
Lilongwe Rural and Mwanza/Neno;
• Increase the capacity of public Universities to train secondary school teachers and

(The party will) increase capacity to train special needs educators at all levels;
• Ensure that all tutors in primary teacher training institutions have the minimum
qualification levels to enhance efficiency and effectiveness;
• Expand teacher student intake in the training colleges for both regular and special needs
with emphasis on increased female intake;
• Revive mentorship training programme by placing trainee-teachers in schools.
3.4 Higher Education Institutions
The PEOPLE’S PARTY endorses the objectives of the National Education Strategic Plan
(NESP), which is in tune with the party’s transformative agenda. In line with this plan, the
PEOPLE’S PARTY Government will therefore do the following in order to transform higher
• Ensure that the National Council for Higher Education operates to its full functionality
as a way of modernizing the tertiary education sector and aligning it with the country’s
overall development agenda;
• Facilitate the work of the National Council for Higher Education to develop the standards
and accreditation framework that will guarantee world class tertiary education;
• Rehabilitate current infrastructure and facilities in all Universities to acceptable
• Construct additional infrastructure in existing public Universities with the support of
development partners and local stakeholders in order to ease congestion and expand
• Explore alternative ways of generating additional resources for public universities as
one way of easing the government’s burden and guaranteeing sustainability of quality
University education;
• Fast track the Students Loan Bill to enhance the ability for all students to access loans
for education.
• Within two years, transform University of Malawi (UNIMA) Colleges into fully fledged
Universities as a strategy to expand access and improving efficiency of operations;
• Fast track the integration of Natural Resources College into LUANAR to cater for human
resource development at certificate and Diploma level;
• Work towards ensuring that all lectures in public universities have a doctoral degree
as part of modernizing and transforming the tertiary education sector to enable it
contribute effectively to the development agenda;
• Improve and harmonize conditions of service and remuneration packages in public
• Improve the interface between universities and the private and public sectors to maximize
synergies between university education and the country’s development needs;
• Initiate a competitive programme of Academic Chairs in public universities to strengthen
the education and research capacity of Higher Education and research institutions.

Education is the very soul of development. Good education system cultivates innovation and shapes development values. We are committed to ensure that investment in education and human capital becomes the centre piece of Malawi's future development. Our people constitute the human capital.
Malawi University of Science and Technology constructed under DPP
and below the architectural design of Mombera University to be constructed in Mzimba along other universities.

15.1Basic Education
The Democratic Progressive Party Government believes that basic education is the right of every Malawi citizen, young or old. The basic objective of Malawi's education and literacy policy will be to instill in our nationals the awareness that education enhances the role each individual can play in development and transformation of our country: Basic education will also be designed to provide the means for opening up new opportunities for our people to engage in trade,business, production and self employment.
Our policy will give priority to the following:- 

Elimination of illiteracy in Malawi, within the shortest possible time, so that every Malawi man and woman is given the opportunity to learn to read and write. This will be achieved through intensive and extensive education,training and capacity building programmes focusing on basic education that prepares the youth for self employment.
Repairing and upgrading old schools and building new ones to provide adequate schooling facilities; desks and other school equipment, will be supplied and kept in proper condition; the goal is that anywhere in Malawi no child should have to walk more than five kilometres to attend school.
Encouragement of students in primary and secondary schools to learn science,technology and technical subjects in addition to tradition subjects. Computer sciences will constitute an important aspect of the curriculum. The new culture will be to prepare them to change their mentality from preference
to "white collar job" to technical and vocational jobs that can make them self-reliant.
Significantly improving the quality, orientation and coverage of primary education with a view to making the children know more about their own country, environment, culture and historical background than that of other countries.

15.2 The Children and the Youth
The DPP Government firmly believes that children and the youth have special importance in Malawi's development. They are the future of our nation and it is from them that our future leadership will be selected. Therefore, programmes that deal with children and the youth -health, education, entertainment, social welfare,traditions and culture -will be designed so as to equip them to grow into respected and responsible adults.
Specially, the DPP will implement the following programmes:  

Create a Special Child and Youth Rehabilitation Fund that will enable the children and youth from impoverished families have access to vocational training so as to equip them to become self-reliant; and to prevent the youth from being exposed to drug abuse and drug trafficking.
Enable the youth to make positive contributions to support economic and social transformation of our country; ensuring that the youth is fully represented in policy formulations that affect them; engage in productive and income generating activities; and mobilizing resources and support from thepublic to enable them to improve their social welfare and conditions.
The youth will be encouraged to form their associations from which they willreceive guidance and leadership; they will not be trained as a force to terrorize the public or engage in criminal activities or human rights violations; the new policy will be to transform the negative image of the Youth to a positive and dynamic one for development of our nation.
Develop new programmes designed to suit our children based on our owntradition and culture; establish more child welfare facilities, including clinics, nurseries, kindergartens and day-care centres throughout the country especially in public places such as markets; these will be fully equipped withtrained personnel, toys, books, audio-visuals and other facilities.
15.3Secondary, Vocational and Higher Education
The DPP has policies to equip our youth, children and women towardsproductivity. More especially:- 

The DPP government will reorganize Secondary education in order to enrich the growing students through developing their abilities to appreciate the political, economic, social and cultural circumstances of our country; that they fully appreciate the relationship between formal, scientific and technological education on the one hand, and our country's development requirements on the other hand;This level of education will also be redesigned to improve the creativity of the youth so that they can take care of themselves even if they are unable to have university education.
More girls’ hostels at secondary schools will be built throughout the country toensure that girls receive better education.  

Community Colleges will be introduced in every district to render practical knowledge and skills relevant to our economy; the three-year associate diploma /degree programmes offered in these community colleges will facilitate graduates to become self-employed, and/or allow them to proceed towards attainment of bachelor degrees in other colleges and universities. Specialized job-placementagencies will be established to ensure skill-job matching.
The Teacher Profession will be upgraded and made attractive. The DPP government will ensure improved training and skills upgrading, and motivation for teachers and instructors at primary, secondary, vocational training centres,community colleges as well as lecturers and professors at universities and other institutions of higher learning. They will be provided with the necessary tools and equipment to enable them to assimilate knowledge and skills more effectively and efficiently;
Teachers’ terms and conditions will be reviewed in order to make them competitive. This includes salaries and housing. Payment of their salaries will be prioritised and on time.  

Children with learning disabilities, including the physically disabled or handicapped or those requiring, specialized training, will be provided with adequate facilities to enable them to train side-by-side with the rest of the children.
Children will be protected from abuse of any kind, exploitation and child labour.  

Women who did not complete their primary and secondary education will be supported to enroll and learn. Their learning will cover important facets of life such as reading and writing, nutrition, entrepreneurship, health etc. Women andgirls who dropped out of formal school due to pregnancy and other reasons will beencouraged to go back and complete their education.

The DDP is aware that there has not been a conscious policy for developing science and technology for macroeconomic growth in our country. We have also largely depended upon external institutions to drive our research programmes. The DPP government will change this by giving very high priority to locally-based research programmes and adaptation and utilization of science and technology specifically designed to convert our agricultural primary commodities, minerals and other natural resources into new wealth. Therefore the DPP led government will place Science and Technology at the center of the nation’s economic growth.  

Specifically the DPP Government will:  
 Intensify research by our own universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning and in processing of our natural resources in order to produce new brands of goods for the domestic and export markets.
Promote Biotechnology in order to improve current plant and animal varieties.An institute of Biotechnology will be established to promote this field of science.
Allocate more resources for training in the management of information and communications technologies for development.
Research new crop varieties, including those from other countries in order to increase the supply of raw materials for agro-processing industries.  
Promote research into medicinal plants and herbs and encourage the establishment of the natural pharmaceutical industry using local and traditional medicine and herbs.
The Government will also provide research grants to our local institutions to develop new food products from maize, met, sorghum, other cereals as well as tubers so as to diversify our dietary habits thereby averting hunger.
Information, Communication, Technology (ICT) will be promoted at all levels.Internet access will be available in public places and all government departments will have internet access. All secondary schools will have computer labs and learning of computer science will be intensified.
The Government will also provide research grants to our local institutions to develop new food products from maize, met, sorghum, other cereals as well as tubers so as to diversify our dietary habits thereby averting hunger.
The National Commission for Science and Technology will be strengthen with more funds allocation and equipped with highly skilled staff. The commission will be mandated to administer the science grants to research institution on behalf of government.  

 United Democratic Front Manifesto: 3.5 EDUCATION
Although primary education is free in Malawi, only 55% of boys and 45% of girls finish primary school.
Gross enrollment rate for secondary education is as low as 17% with fewer girls than boys.Approximately 5 out of 10 Malawians are under-educated or over-educated for the work they do.Malawi’s scores on student learning tests are among the worst in Southern Africa, with no progress in reduction of drop-out rates and repeaters. 

The education sector continues to face inadequate school infrastructure, financial constraints, exorbitant teacher-pupil ratio’s impact on quality and access to education. Primary school infrastructure is not prioritized over other forms of infrastructure investment.Approximately 70% of Malawi’s learners lack basic skills and necessities and some of these drop out before they even reach Grade 6.There has been a piece-meal approach to education sector reforms which has largely side-lined other key line Ministries.

Some 20 percent of Malawians aged 15 years and above have never attended school.Malawi is not likely to meet its Millennium Development Goals of universal access to primary education and ensuring gender equality & empowering women.

The UDF will:
• Streamline and rationalise the education policy and implementation framework to re-organize
the education sector and generate a holistic and multi-sector approach to Education sector
• Increase and protect budgetary allocations to recurrent and development spending (including
SWAP resources), equitable distribution of resources across and within districts/schools along
with expenditure tracking and other oversight mechanisms.
• Ensure more teachers are available, better trained and in the right place, especially rural areas.
Involve parents through School Governing Bodies.
• Make the decentralized education system work to ensure that every child has a text book, a
trained and motivated teacher and enough time in the classroom to master school work.
• Invest in M&E systems to measure and monitor learning outcomes. Strengthen capacity of MoEST
to set norms & standards and provide leadership.
• Bring a skills development system (including vocational and technical training) closer to the labour
market in close consultation with private sector/industry groups in each of the key growth sectors;develop a workable financing model/revise the standards and curricula (with close involvement of private sector.
• Eradicate adult illiteracy by strengthening informal literacy programmes for basic literacy and numeracy skills.
• Set and deliver on more ambitious gender parity targets, provide special education, training
and transport facilities for disadvantaged children.
• Introduce incentivized girls education.

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