By Duncan Mlanjira
During his public lecture on Mindset Change at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe over two weeks ago, the country’s Vice-President, Saulos Chilima signed off by quoting the hymn ‘I vow to thee, my country’ — a British patriotic hymn, created in 1921, when a poem by Sir Cecil Spring Rice was set to music by Gustav Holst.
The hymn ‘I vow to thee, my country’ was adopted by Kamuzu Academy as the school hymn since its inception 39 years go, November 21, 1981.
At every Founders Day, the school sings — with passion — ‘I vow to thee, my country’; the school anthem ‘Honor Deo et Patriae’ and the Founder, late Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s favourite church hymn ‘Lemekeza Mulungu’.
On Saturday, at this year’s Founders Day attended by President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Kamuzu Academy headmaster Andrew Wild thanked Chilima for his theme ‘Love. Love of one’s country’ just as Chilima said during the Mindset Change lecture.
“‘I vow to thee, my country…the service of my love’. It’s a bit like love of one’s family. It’s not always obvious, because we don’t always express it in an obvious way.
“Parents scold children, children get cross with parents, brothers and sisters quarrel. Is that really love?
“Well, the answer is, of course, yes, absolutely. The point is, that if you scold your children or get cross with your parents it is you children or your parents that you are scolding or getting cross with.
“Scolding somebody else’s children (which teachers do quite a lot!) isn’t quite the same; getting cross with somebody else’s parents isn’t at all the same.
“It’s the same with ‘my country’. We only have one (unless our circumstances are very unusual), and what happens to it is somehow different from what happens to somebody else’s country — and not just in football matches.
“If something good happens we feel proud. If something bad happens we feel somehow humiliated, just as we do with our family.
“In that sense, although in these cynical days it is not fashionable to admit it, I think we all love our country. ‘Honor deo et patriae’ (love your God and Motherland) is a very formal way of putting it. But the instinct has far deeper roots than a Latin motto.”
Wild said it was to turn that love into service that the late Ngwazi built the Academy.
“He knew that his country needed the best possible leaders, and he knew that those leaders needed the best possible education.
“So he brought here to Mtunthama the best possible materials to build his Academy — an Academy built of the strongest bricks and the hardest timber, built, as our school song says, ‘to serve for generations’.
“And he brought to it the best possible pupils — the two highest scoring boys and the highest scoring girl from each of Malawi’s districts — to be its pupils.”
That arrangement of two highest scoring boys and the highest scoring girl from each of Malawi’s districts was abolished soon after multiparty dispensation and the Academy became a high-fee paying private school, administered by private board of directors and trustees.
Later the government decided to sponsors some deserving students and Wild said their latest successors in the upper-upper sixth form leave the Academy next week.
“His Excellency [Chakwera] has already met them. But I won’t dwell on that. Whatever the Academy may wish, government-sponsored students at the Academy are a matter for government, and it would be discourteous of the Headmaster to use this occasion to try to influence policy in this matter.
“But I will, if I may, express my own opinion. The influence of the government-sponsored pupils who have passed through the Academy has been out of all proportion to their numbers, and it would be of great benefit to Malawi if, one way or another, that influence could continue.
“…and, the influence, of course, not just of the scholars but of all our pupils. We expect all our pupils, not just the scholars, and not just our Malawian pupils, to take their place amongst their countries’ leaders — to offer to their countries the service of their love; and in that way for the wishes of the late Founder to be fulfilled,” Wild concluded.
In her vote of thanks, Headgirl Venus Mijiga, daughter to two of the country’s top corporate executive, Wilkins and Rachel Mijiga, said she spent a considerable amount of time thinking about what to say, what message she would like to get across and as her mind started to wander, she found herself being thankful for the opportunity to be speaking in front of the President and having all the dignitaries listen to what she had to say and hopefully impacting everyone in some way.
“And for this, I am forever thankful,” she said. “We must remember to give thanks, for every little moment no matter the outcome. We must be thankful for the sun that rises from the east and sets in the west.
“We must be thankful for the food on our tables and the roof over our heads. We only have one life, do with it as you wish but do not take anything for granted, appreciate the opportunities, the laughter, the victories and the lessons.
“Moreover, appreciate the hardships as well, the missed chances, the tears, the losses and the lessons as these things all play a part in shaping who we are today.
“The bad experiences and the mistakes we have made in the past should not make our future. You cannot let that one failed test or that one bad interview keep you from pursuing your dreams or stop you from being the best version of yourself.”
She then quoted a famous French proverb, which says, ‘qui n’avance pas, recule’ (‘who does not move forward, recedes’), saying: “You cannot let the downhill moments hold you back, as in life, there is only evolution or devolution.
“Those who choose to stand still, those who let their past decide their future, those are the ones who devolve, because to be stagnant is the same as to recede.
“But those who chose to move forward, those who grow from their past and make their own future, those are the ones who evolve.
“So, I urge you all to never give up on yourselves, to never doubt your potential, to always keep going and to cherish every breath you take.
“Remember the past, celebrate it if necessary, just like we are doing today, most of all, learn from it, grow from it but do not become attached to it, for attachments is a fuel for fear.
“I thank you, your Excellency and all,” she said, to the huge applause of the whole congregation.