Restoring Patriotism, Professionalism in the Workplace

Justice Chifundo Kachale

The Title is quite loaded: Restoring Patriotism and Professionalism in the  Workplace. There is quite a lot one could share on such a pertinent topic. For  tonight, I have chosen a very practical (as opposed to theoretical and  academic) approach. The reason being that I believe the aim of this interface  is to make the discussion relevant and applicable to the challenges which our  society is currently faced with in areas of professional standards across all  sectors of the economy.  

 

There is a responsibility on my part, therefore, to be as pragmatic as possible  in order to lay the ground for effective discussions with remedial actions or  proposals in mind. 

In my understanding of the theme, there is a clear recognition that the twin  values of Patriotism and Professionalism might hold the key to unblocking the  considerable potential the working majority possess in order to move our  economy forward. I fully subscribe to that view and my presentation proceeds  on that basis. The bottom line is that Professionalism & Patriotism require  each one of us to take an active role. In order to undertake a huge project  effectively, it is usually broken down into smaller tasks which are then assigned  to implementing units responsible for their portion: when each does their part  well, the entire project will be a success. Like Nehemiah’s rebuilding exercise  in the bible, restoring these values will require every single one of us taking responsibility for the wall right in front of; as we do our part faithfully, the rest  of the edifice will emerge, strong and ready to serve all of us! 

Some Matters of Definition 

In order to ensure we are all on the same page I have decided to provide  simplified definitions of the key concepts in the theme: 

Workplace: One should not think of this as only the office, where men and  women in suits or some formal dress gather from Monday to Friday to earn a  living (as we sometimes say). Rather in this conversation the term workplace  refers to any space where productive human activity is undertaken be it on the  farm (a small private garden or the big estate), at the small garage in Biwi  fixing motorcycles, in the bank or at Capital Hill, in the classroom or at the  private clinic or public hospital even when a charity worker visits a flood stricken location to distribute relief items; all these are workplaces to different  people.  

In other words, I would like us to conceive of the workplace in the broadest  and most comprehensive terms imaginable. 

Professionalism in this context refers to the manner in which one performs  his or her work: this connotes the discharge of your work with your best skills  and ability in accordance with well-defined standards of proficiency and ethics  appropriate to your trade or profession. Most professions such as medicine,  teaching, law, accounting, engineering etc. have Professional Codes of Ethics  as well as Performance Indicators of a job well done. Professionalism describes  the performance of work in fidelity to such established standards of expected  delivery. 

Patriotism, on the other hand, describes one’s attitude to one’s homeland or  country of birth or residence. In its simplest sense it refers to the disposition  of doing that which is good for one’s country as opposed to thinking only of  yourself and your loved ones. In my view, it stems from a decision rooted in  the simple realization of the blessing of having a homeland from which one  can gainfully undertake life and pursue the opportunities that come with that.  In that sense, patriotism is foundational to a healthy sense of personal dignity;  without such one usually lacks the sense of security and belonging which  provides the springboard for productive living.

Practical instances of lack of Professionalism and Patriotism 

I would like to highlight some instances in which lack of professionalism and  patriotism might manifest in our society: 

1. When a clinical officer or other health practitioner diverts medical  supplies meant for a public hospital to his or her private clinic and allow  the ordinary citizen to go without access to basic health care, that is  quite unpatriotic 

2. When a teacher neglects to provide adequate learning in class in order  that learners can pay for extra classes or when a male lecturer uses his  position to exploit female learners sexually in return for grades that is  quite unpatriotic and unprofessional 

3. When an engineer certifies a substandard project as duly completed and  in collusion with the accountant processes full payment for shoddy work  that is clearly unprofessional (and places lives of end-users, whether it  is a road or other infrastructure in real jeopardy) 

4. If court staff connive with litigants to misplace vital documents of  evidence and compromise the outcome of a case, that is clearly  unprofessional 

5. Whenever a procurement officer connives with a supplier of goods or  services to inflate prices at the expense of quality and money value that  is clearly unprofessional; 

6. When nurses treat their patients without any kindness or consideration  and serve only those who can pay for an otherwise free service that is  unprofessional 

7. When a village headman falsifies the list of beneficiaries for AIP program  (or other social transfer mechanisms) in order to benefit himself or his  cronies, that is unpatriotic 

8. Whenever a religious minister condones the unfaithful behaviour of a  church member (and fails to administer discipline because he pays a  hefty contribution to the church coffers) that too is quite inappropriate 

9. When the recruitment process is compromised based on ethnic or other  inappropriate considerations (as opposed to proficiency and merit) that  is quite unprofessional 

10.Whenever a journalist or editor obtains illicit payments in order not to  publish a certain story (or to publish inaccurate reports) that too is quite  unprofessional

11.When a police officer turns a blind eye and allows an unroadworthy  vehicle to travel with passengers on our roads because he or she has  been paid something, that is quite unprofessional. 

This list is not exhaustive at all; but I hope it highlights the breadth and depth  of such conduct within our workplaces. Such selfish and unprofessional  conduct clearly undermines the welfare of people directly and in other  systemic ways whose impacts might not be always obvious initially. 

Adverse Impacts of Lack of Professionalism & Patriotism in our Workplaces 

There are many adverse impacts of unprofessional conduct which one could  talk about in summary, unprofessionalism and unpatriotic behaviour has real  life consequences. Tonight, I will highlight only a couple because I believe they  represent the essence of the rest; allow me therefore to focus on them so that  the impact may be appreciated: - 

1. In a nutshell failure to act professionally perpetuates injustice and  unfairness in the sense that a person may be denied a chance in life  to alter their life circumstances (upward social mobility) and that of  their family, for example through education.  

 Nelson Mandela once said – ‘It is through education that the daughter  of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can  become the head of a mine; that a child of farm workers can become the  president of a great nation.’ This is also true in Malawi. When we were  young and teachers taught faithfully even on small salaries, it was very  common to have young people who slept on mats in villages, end up at  University of Malawi and subsequently gainfully employed upon  completion of their tertiary. What was the impact? Their entire family  would be transformed because that one person accessed education and  employment fairly. Over the years, whenever I encounter a street vendor who is clearly smart and astute I sometimes ask myself are we sure, this  was not a Bank Manager who was betrayed by lack of access to quality  public services due to lack of unpatriotic and unprofessional service 

providers? 

2. The second impact is what I call erosion of dignity: A society in which  substandard work is certified as properly completed and fully paid for  will degenerate into one in which the people’s dignity is greatly  diminished; if not addressed, this trend might breed the kind of negative  social sentiment which entrenches poverty due to lack of legitimate 

opportunities. To reiterate, where standards are enforced, it creates a  healthy competition for manpower with the right skills, as well as quality  materials. This in turn creates an incentive for innovation. The sum total  of this albeit in simplistic terms becomes a society where access to  opportunities is strictly on merit hence anyone with the right skills and  competencies regardless of status or connections can make it. This  creates hope as anyone can improve their life circumstances. –such a  society easily becomes a prosperous society.  

Inhibitors of Professionalism & Patriotism 

Whilst we have already observed that these two values are critical to any  social transformation, what can explain their absence? Some factors are  technical such as lack of proper technical training, but today I will not  focus on those, and others are more what I would call cultural

1. Besides inadequate technical skills, lack of emphasis on ethical  standards is a huge factor in breeding unprofessional conduct.  2. A culture of hypocrisy is one key inhibitor to professionalism:  3. Politicization of matters of common national interest

Some Remedies to this Malady 

1. There is need for ethical education to be emphasized in our formal  training (as well as within the workspace): this will go towards creating  the right appreciation of the need to uphold standards in the  performance of one’s work. Without adequate attention to this aspect of  training we can have people with excellent technical skills who have no  integrity. The American billionaire Warren Buffet says that when  recruiting people, you must look for those with Integrity, Intelligence  and Energy (he says if the first one is lacking the last two will kill you)  …in other words people who know their job but have no moral compass  can cause more harm than good in the workplace. 

2. In order to uphold professional standards in the workplace it is  necessary to enforce discipline in the event of default. However,  experience shows that generally people are happy when the sanctions  are enforced on someone else (or someone they don’t like). However,  when a boss comes along who wants to hold everyone to account, he is  usually labelled as ‘wankhaza’ (i.e., unkind, or harsh); this sort of  hypocrisy is so very common that some bosses are discouraged from  enforcing the standards (and in the process the entire system falls down). There is need to recognize that unless the standards are enforced  it is not possible to have professionalism: but when there is  professionalism the benefits accrue to everyone (as merit alone  determines who gets the opportunities that come along; and end users  of our services are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve as  our compatriots or fellow men). 

3. In order to inculcate a patriotic culture, we must be intentional about  crafting a common national identity with strong shared aspirations.  The Malawi Vision 2063 provides such a framework for constructing  enduring dreams that could transform the welfare of everyone across  the breadth and length of this beautiful land. One key driver which has  been recognized in that document is the question of Mindset Change.  For example, we need a change of mind about the need for people to be  held accountable when they are wrong (irrespective of their social  status, ethnicity, or other such considerations). Until we can move away  from this attitude that seeks to protect my kinsman or kinswoman even  when they are in the wrong (and continually hoping to undermine the  other side because we believe politics to be pointed towards neo patrimonial appeasement). It will remain difficult to fashion a common  identity we can all celebrate as Malawians!  

4. We have to learn to reward only merit in the workplace; bosses must  not abuse their positions to gain sexual or other favours or to promote  businesses that have no capacity to provide the service or product just  because they belong to our preferred ethnic or political camp; we fail in  our responsibility when we undermine the welfare of the majority in  order to advance the interests of the few on grounds that lack any moral  justification! It is a matter of justice to ensure that professional and  ethical standards prevail in our workplaces: needless to say, a just  society is one where we can all thrive (inwardly we all long for such a  place). 

5. We have to change our conversations from perpetual negativity and  begin to identify positive things that we talk and discuss in our private  spaces: as I get older and read the stories of other societies which have  made some strides on this path, one element they were able to manage  is the narrative about themselves. We cannot keep complaining about  the failures of those who have gone before us: the question each one  has to answer for himself or herself is ‘will I leave behind a better 

Malawi for my children and other generations than I found it?’ Is my  office better because I am there or not? 

Concluding Thoughts… 

I believe the mistake we make as Malawians is that we look to politicians to  change this Nation – yes, they too have a big role to play, but so does each one  of us have at an individual level. That is why the Bible have a scripture that  says = first remove the log that is in your own eye before you remove the  speck that is in your brothers’ eye’. Therefore, in closing, I would like to  challenge each and every Malawian, are YOU, being professional and patriotic  wherever you are? It is not an excuse to use the lack of professionalism and  unpatriotic behaviour of others to justify your own- that is why we are where  we are- if indeed you desire to change this nation, let each one of us say- even  if others are not patriotic and professional, I will be, even if I am alone. All of  us in our different professions have a corresponding responsibility: our nation  needs our very best if we are going to forge a truly wealthy nation which works  for every person, including my cousin in the village!

A keynote address delivered by the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairman,  Justice Dr. Chifundo Kachale at the Anti-Corruption Bureau Interface and  Panel Discussion, Capital Hotel, Lilongwe, Malawi on Tuesday, 29th November 2022. 

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  1. Dr. Anna H. Chacon

    Dr. Anna H. Chacon is a dermatologist and Miami, Florida, native. She graduated as valedictorian from Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami and was accepted into an Ivy League medical school her senior year of high school. She completed her bachelor’s in economics and medicine at Brown University through the combined Program in Liberal Medical Education. While at Brown, she received a scholarship to pursue clinical clerkships at one of the largest hospitals in the Middle East, Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon) Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, through the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine of the Technion, Israel’s oldest university. She pursued a fellowship in dermatologic and laser surgery at the University of Miami and completed her surgical internship at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando. She completed her dermatology residency at the LAC + USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, where she served as chief resident. At L.A. County, Dr. Chacon was exposed to a wide range of pathologies most other dermatology residents just read about in textbooks.

    After graduating from residency, she worked in the ABC News Medical Unit in New York City as a medical journalist, reporting and covering breaking medical news nationwide and internationally. Throughout her career, she has been able to work at Asian Hospital & Medical Center and the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine, an authority by the Philippines Ministry of Health, to prevent and control tropical and infectious diseases in dermatology, including leprosy, Hansen’s disease, and HIV in Manila, the Philippines. She also has traveled internationally to see patients, present papers internationally, and further expand and broaden her education, knowledge and breadth in dermatology.

  1. Dr. Anna H. Chacon

    Dr. Anna H. Chacon is a dermatologist and Miami, Florida, native. She graduated as valedictorian from Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami and was accepted into an Ivy League medical school her senior year of high school. She completed her bachelor’s in economics and medicine at Brown University through the combined Program in Liberal Medical Education. While at Brown, she received a scholarship to pursue clinical clerkships at one of the largest hospitals in the Middle East, Rambam (Rabbi Moshe Ben-Maimon) Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, through the Rappaport Faculty of Medicine of the Technion, Israel’s oldest university. She pursued a fellowship in dermatologic and laser surgery at the University of Miami and completed her surgical internship at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Orlando. She completed her dermatology residency at the LAC + USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, where she served as chief resident. At L.A. County, Dr. Chacon was exposed to a wide range of pathologies most other dermatology residents just read about in textbooks.

    After graduating from residency, she worked in the ABC News Medical Unit in New York City as a medical journalist, reporting and covering breaking medical news nationwide and internationally. Throughout her career, she has been able to work at Asian Hospital & Medical Center and the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine, an authority by the Philippines Ministry of Health, to prevent and control tropical and infectious diseases in dermatology, including leprosy, Hansen’s disease, and HIV in Manila, the Philippines. She also has traveled internationally to see patients, present papers internationally, and further expand and broaden her education, knowledge and breadth in dermatology.

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