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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The need for Parliament entrance examinations

By Pacharo Felix Munthali - 11 June 2008 - 09:18:30

Almost everyone wants to be in Parliament. For those who are already
there, they say they are qualified and they deserve to be in the House.

They passed the proficiency test. They can speak English. That’s good!
They can manage to write in English. To them, all is well. At least if
an MP can control the pen to write and say some sense in English, it is
all fine – that is a threshold enough to gauge the MPs’ mental and
intellectual malnourishment.

At the time of the test, those that had an MSCE certificate or any
qualification above were exempted from the examination. How should a
nation examine someone who is well educated? They know a lot. If they
posses the basic MSCE certificate, it means they at least know the

The syllabus covers a good number of basics, enough to make an individual well-informed.

Although the proficiency test was introduced, with some pain, I fail to
grasp the reason for its set up. If it is only to see how fluent one is
in English, be it written or orally, as a nation are we helping one
another? Is the mere understanding of English a reason enough for one
to qualify for a seat in the House?

This coupled with the strange calls by almost every celebrity that they
want to stand as MPs, jittery I am failing to appreciate the whole
situation. Something needs to be done. Not to bar the aspirants, but at
least to separate chaff from the group of many aspirants. At least to
see how ready they are.

Being an era of globalisation, where what is happening in USA or
Britain, South Africa or Zimbabwe can have a bearable effect on the
people, it high time we critically analyzed those to make laws for us
in Parliament. Those to be in parliament need to have at least basic
knowledge on different things. How many MPs have been quoted saying
something on EPAs, AGOA, the once looming economic recession, the
economic slow down, the global warming, the oil prices, and many issues
that in one way or another impact Malawi.

In other ways there is need for a mechanism that surely should sieve
the MPs or those aspiring to become one. The honourable ladies and
gentlemen face issues of all extremes – most of them of the great
importance to the nation. There are crucial decisions that the MPs are
supposed to make. And they do that.

But despite the proficiency test, it is only few individuals who take
part in the deliberations. Others just follow where the wind is blowing
without scrutinising the contributions.

There have been few who are opinion leaders in the House, with the rest
being reduced to mere opinion followers. There have been some issues
that the MPs have failed to participate in. Chances are high that some
of the MPs are always mum not that they don’t know how to speak English
but because of the barrier in understanding things.

In other words, members of Parliament need to be well versed in issues
from different spheres of life. They may not have knowledge of
everything, but they need at least to have an overview of the current
affairs as it is happening around the world. They must know other
issues as well not only English.

My point of view is that English test is not enough in all senses.
There is an urgent need for a special screening process that apart from
gauging them in English, the MPs basic knowledge and reasoning in
politics, economics, religion, environment and other issues that
directly or indirectly will have an effect on the formulation of laws
in the country must also be scaled.

Just like it happens at the interviews or entrance examinations in
universities, some people may qualify but still there is a process of
verifying if the person qualified is indeed qualified enough. Other MPs
are educated but that can not guarantee that their mental capacity will
contribute to the country’s development.

With the frightening influx of aspirants to be members of Parliament,
some of them looking as if there are running away from poverty, it is
necessary to screen them and see if they can contribute anything

At this critical time when the nation is at its preparatory phase in
readiness of the 2009 General Elections, that responsible need to
re-examine the requirement of proficiency test.

This should be considered because whatever decision the MPs make, it
has a long term bearing on the way the country is run. They need to be
people equipped with enough knowledge that can help the country.

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