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Mr Alistair Tough
University of Glasgow
International Fellowship

Record keeping for good governance, Malawi, Sep – Nov 2011

National Archives of Malawi's Records Centre, Zomba, Malawi

National Archives of Malawi's Records Centre, Zomba, Malawi.

The challenges of good governance in Malawi have been underlined by President Joyce Banda’s recent decision to dismiss the Inspector General of Police.  It is widely recognised that the restoration of ethical conduct is difficult to achieve if a culture of impunity is allowed to flourish.  This why good record keeping is important – because it provides evidence.

The primary objective of this work was to support colleagues in Chancellor College in their preparations for a Master of Library and Information Science degree, especially in the production of teaching and learning materials for the record keeping modules.  I completed three workbooks for use by the students.  These were devoted to electronic Records Management; Accountability and Appraisal; and the Relationship between Written Records and Oral Culture.  A fourth workbook on the Development of Record Keeping Systems remains to be completed: a considerable amount of original research on this topic was carried out.  Capacity building within Chancellor College was carried forward by means of workshops, the exchange of draft documents and informal one-to-one discussions.  With my Malawian counterpart, Dickson Vuwa Phiri, I prepared an application for financial support in the first year of the MLIS programme.

The secondary objective of this work was to support the Rule of Law Programme, run by the Government of Malawi with support from the EU.  I contributed to this primarily by means of a series of weekly seminars on electronic Records Management in public sector bodies.

My work in Malawi has confirmed that there is an urgent need for personnel with highly developed skills in the fields of record keeping and information literacy, particularly in the public sector.  Very few people from Malawi have gone overseas for postgraduate training in these fields since 1979.  The generation of Malawians who received postgraduate training in the 1970s is now approaching retirement.  Chancellor College intends to employ the best of them in the early stages of the MLIS programme, until full-time academics are available to fulfil this role.  

The principal intellectual obstacle encountered during the fellowship took the form of poor access to resources on-line.  This was anticipated and a great range of digital resources was captured to removable media and taken to Malawi.  These have been left with Malawian counterparts.  The main practical obstacles were the chronic shortage of fuel and the persistent blackouts.  These were exacerbated by the very poor condition of the roads.  The power cuts were overcome by using a petrol-driven generator.  The fuel shortage was overcome by buying from the parallel market.

Following on from the fellowship a joint publication with Paul Lihoma, Director of the National Archives of Malawi, is in the process of being written.  It is expected that other publications will follow.  Recently I have submitted an application to the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission for funds to bring some Malawian colleagues to Glasgow to enhance their skills, especially in relation to electronic Records Management.

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