1. Background Information
Malawi adopted multiparty democracy in 1993. It was a British protectorate from 1891 until 1964 when it got independence. From 1964 until 1993, the country was under one party dictatorship with Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda as Head of State and Government.
The colonial curriculum was replaced by one that adopted a Malawian perspective. Curriculum changes included an emphasis on civic education with the aim of inculcating values and behaviors which were deemed appropriate for citizens of the new Malawi. There was need, therefore, to train new teachers on the new curriculum. Some of these came through the ranks and file of the Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP), a paramilitary wing of the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which was the only legal party in Malawi. Initially, the MPY was envisioned to be a national youth service initiative. It, therefore, trained primary school graduates in artisan skills, physical education, and modern agricultural practices. These youths were expected to spearhead development in the country, especially among rural communities. Several residential training centres were established across the country. With time, the MYP also became the ruling party’s apparatus for suppressing dissent as the youth were also trained to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the MCP and guard against any elements of ‘subversion’
There was also a Youth Week, which was one of the social initiatives which Kamuzu Banda introduced to promote a sense of civic responsibility among youths. It normally took place in the Holy Week leading to Easter Sunday, annually. The Malawians including the youths engaged in community development work during this period. But those who did not participate in it were taken as enemies of state and were dealt with a heavy hand by MCP agents.
Furthermore, there was the party membership card. It was a distinguishing mark of a true citizen and people were forced to purchase one every year. It became so precious that people had to always carry it with them to gain access to such public facilities as markets, hospitals, classrooms, bus stages and others.
2. Definition of Citizenship education
When Malawi became independent in 1964, Civics and citizenship education was emphasized in primary and secondary schools in addition to other subjects such as History, Geography and Bible Knowledge. In 1994, Malawi went through a political transition from one-party dictatorship to a multi-party system of government. This necessitated the review of the school curriculum so that it was responsive to the needs and challenges of democratic Malawi. The new political dispensation had come with new issues which needed to be addressed through the education system. One of the issues was democracy and its attendant concept of human rights which most people, including learners, misunderstood
To most people, Citizenship Education is about educating children and the youth, from early childhood, to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society
Civic education (also known as citizen education or democracy education) is also a more encompassing term. It refers to the provision of information on public affairs in general. It encompasses all the processes that affect people’s beliefs, commitments, capabilities, and actions as members or prospective members of communities.
3. Ecosystems of non – formal Citizenship Education
Civic education is a relatively new phenomenon in Malawi, one of those interventions that define the 'new’ Malawi (cf. Englund 2002a). Ralph Kasambara (1998) describes how independent civic education could not take place in Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi. As with much else that took place in public, the glorification of Kamuzu was an integral part of life. Significantly, public protests one party dictatorship that culminated in the 1993 referendum happened spontaneously. While Kasambara describes the 1992 Catholic Bishops’ Lenten Pastoral Letter, Living Our Faith, as 'the first major attempt in civic education’ (1998, p. 240), it had succeeded in speaking for the masses on the ills that had plagued them for years. They simply had no voice in the face of the oppressive regime.
Civic education is also conducted in non-formal traditional activities such as initiation ceremonies. For instance, in the Yao boys’ initiation ceremony, the Jando, boys are introduced to acceptable societal norms such as things to do with chieftainships, respect for the rule of law and people in authority, among others. Suffice to say that they there are other traditional platforms that are yet to be exploited in conducting civic education. These include fine and performing arts such as dance, drama, song, music, paintings, and ceramics.
The ecosystem of Malawi’s non formal citizenship education cannot be complete without the media which has over the years played a critical role in the transition from single party to political pluralism. Currently, Malawi has over 50 national and community radio stations, 17 television stations and two major daily papers with national circulation, namely: The Nation and the Daily Times.
4. Legal and Regulatory Environment
Citizenship and civic education is supported by a myriad of legal and policy frameworks in Malawi. Some of these include:
The Constitution of Malawi
Chapter 1V of the Malawi Constitution contains a Bill of Rights and responsibilities for citizens. Rights that most directly speak to civic education include the right to education (s.25), the right to participate in political processes and civic matters (s.40), the right to freedom of opinion (s.34), freedom of expression (s.35), freedom of the press (s.36) and freedom to access information (s.37)
The Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity
In 2020, Government created this ministry as a recognition that civic education in promoting the virtues of transparency, accountability, institutional strengthening, reconciliation, and nation building was critical.
The Malawi 2063 First 10-Year Implementation Plan (MIP-1) (2021-30)
This underscores the importance of citizen engagement, participation and fair conduct of elections, access to public information and promotion of accountability to and from the citizenry as critical for meaningful national development.
Regional Conventions and Protocols
Malawi is a party to several international conventions and protocols on human rights. These include the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) of 25 November 2005. Article 23 of the Treaty provides that ‘SADC shall seek to fully involve the people of the Region and non- governmental organisations in the process of regional integration
Malawi National Civic Education Policy
This is a robust and comprehensive Policy that guides the implementation of civic education activities in the country
The NGO Board of Malawi and Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (CONGOMA)
The NGO Board is a statutory body mandated to register and regulate NGO activities while CONGOMA is designated as an NGO coordinating body in accordance with Sections 24 and 25 of the NGO Act of 2000.
The Electoral Commission Act, the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections (PPE) Act and the Local Government Elections (LGE) Act
For Civic and Voter Education (CVE), section 8(1)(j) of the Electoral Commission Act specifically requires the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) "to promote public awareness of electoral matters through the media and other appropriate and effective means and to conduct civic and voter education on such matters."
The Malawi National Education Policy
This is a Malawi Government’s blueprint on education which outlines the sector’s priorities and defines the country’s education policies that will guide the development of the education sector in Malawi
As earlier pointed out, there are several stakeholders involved in citizenship and civic education activities in Malawi. Some of these include state institutions such NICE, the Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity, MEC, the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) among others, and CSOs such as CHRR, PACENET, MEJN, MHRRC and Women’s Legal Resource Centre (WOLREC) to mention a few. Traditional and faith leaders also play significant roles in consolidating citizenship and civic education in Malawi. Since a higher proportion of Malawians (81%) identify themselves with a political parties compared with other Afro barometer countries, it would not be wrong to suggest that political parties have been successful in mobilizing support in their constituencies resulting in respondents being more knowledgeable about their leaders (Bratton et al., 2005). Citizenship and civic education is also covered in basic education which includes Early Childhood Development (ECD), Early Childhood Education (ECE), Out- of- School Youth Education, Adult Literacy, Complementary Basic Education (CBE) and Primary Education
While the importance of citizenship and civic education cannot be overemphasised, it has not been easy for players to implement activities due to several challenges. The first is fluidity of citizenship education and a multiplicity of definitions and models of citizenship. Davies (1999), for instance, has counted over 300 known definitions of democracy associated with citizenship education