Youths demand Malawi watonse now!

  • ….of civil servants “Retiring from retirement”

By: Malick Mnela- A contributor

The younger generation seems to lament the focus on civil servants “retiring from retirement” to assume roles they had hoped would be competed for  among themselves – or at least, that those on top rungs of the civil service ladder would gain promotion. Logic being if they thrust forward, they will leave gaps to be filled by the lower cadres.

This should be the natural order of succession; but Alas!

Employment wasn’t only about podium politics. It’s well documented in development paradigms such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Looking at the role the youths played leading to the recent political transition, one would expect a new Malawi that responds to the demands of the youthful population regarding their demand for decent employment opportunities.

That’s the more reason the 1 million jobs line played so well during the campaign period. However, to assume the 1 million jobs were for young graduates alone would be fallacious. At least my understanding is that the 1 million jobs would be decent, better paying jobs for all within the working age bracket of 18 – 55/60 years old.

My understanding was that the system, using the natural way of “recruiting-promoting-retiring” would cater for the different needs of all job seekers across the continuum. By job seekers, my scope goes beyond those out of work, but also those that may better serve in more senior roles based on their competencies, skills, credentials and experience. I imply that those straight from college should gain access to internship programs, then entry level employment then ascend on the civil service hierarchy to the highest post possible.

The trend of focusing on old guards, some of them being picked from retirement homes smacks of a stolen revolution, some would argue. I agree with such an argument.

Although it is seemingly premature given the time the Tonse government has been in power, the attention given to the most vocal and diligent constituents during the campaign to reclaim government needs to be felt in the first 100 days.

Therefore, by seeing those in the middle of enjoying their pension money being recalled when the issues of fresh graduates and the junior civil servants are yet to be addressed is cause for concern.

The official narrative is some reassurance that the purpose is to change things. Bringing the old guards to shade some understanding on where we’re coming from to enable us draw a clear roadmap on where we are heading, they say.

Like most young people, I find this condescending. Of course we have made progress as a country. But the investments made and the gains are not a match.

We have a system that talks so much of youth empowerment yet very few opportunities are genuinely given to them.

Our environment is one where true competence and competitiveness are meaningless. Why should recent graduates go on attachments for 4 years?  Why are some still stuck at entry level positions for many years?

By sidestepping the competent middle managers in the civil service and go fetch old guards, I don’t think our civil service really invests in succession across the rank and file.

It appears we have a system that has made us so obsessed with the idea of “it has pleased the powers that be.”

The reforms we are talking about focus on overhauling our systems and address all systemic failures – inefficiencies, theft and laziness.

But such failures are embedded in people. These very people are nurtured by the deep rooted culture where they operate.

A culture characterized by aversion to new things, new ways is dangerous.  I dare say this has been our major set back for ages.

It is indisputable that the civil service culture is inspired by the rich institutional memory. Unfortunately, the memory is marred by the “how we do things here” mentality.

We cannot disrupt the status quo unless we deliberately try new ways with new people.

We should seriously consider doing things in conformance with our strategic intentions. We can’t purport to infuse new ways without blending new blood, mostly at the apex of things.

Most of the times, it involves dumping the old ways but letting those past their service tenure to enjoy their rest.

As a nation, we failed to take advantage of the industrial revolution for so many times. From the use of steam powered machines, use of electricity (we’re still struggling!) and, now, the information technology.

The world is now in the fourth stage of the industrial revolution – where digital supremacy matters. This is an era where production, management, governance and other systems should strive to gain leverage of the digital technologies. We know the youths are well prepared for this because they are tech savvy and well knowledgeable.

For example in the era of COVID-19, some of us expected e-Government to gain prominence, with virtual meetings taking centre stage. But the paradigm shift is yet to gain traction. Civil Servants are in harm’s way, yet there are documents outlining plans to handle such issues in the e-Governance space.

Until such a time when we shall have realised the role of the youths as change agents, we shall continue to force the very methods that saw us miserably fail at actualizing the vision 2020.

Realising the 2063 agenda or our own Malawi Growth and Development Strategy lll strategic goals will require new strategies, systems and structures. And in my considered view, this will require more forward looking youths than backward looking approaches.

I have high respect for the elderly and the wealth of experience and knowledge they possess, but honestly, innovations that are driving the world are being championed by the younger generation, daring to do things that disrupt archaic, scripted thinking that is often synonymous with failure in the new world order.

That aside, the youthful constituency is huge. Satisfying this constituency will require a lot of action that resonates with their needs, wants, fears and frustrations. Moving forward is the way, but looking backwards could be seen as retrogression. This is not good. It will inhibit the Tonse Government’s quest to act good on its promise and see another wave of protests. The previous protests were for political emancipation, these will be to demand opportunities to being productive during the prime time of our lives.

Don’t mind me!

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