I sadly received news of the death of DD Phiri this morning. I knew DD Phiri in 1997 as a wanna-be journalist. He inspired me to acquire an education even where there was no brick-and-mortar institution to accommodate less academically gifted students of my ilk. He often told the story about how he acquired the great papers from the most prestigious universities, studying at home. I successfully studied A Level Law, Psychology and Economics with Cambridge University, thanks to him. Of course, the typewritten pamphlets were a mess!
But in defense, he would say these were meant to be a start. He would add, “You have to read more on your own”. Of course, when I went in class to study journalism years later, I realized learning can indeed be spoon feeding. However, much later when I studied for the prestigious and highly challenging Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) courses long after “forgetting” about the obsolete DD Phiri’s Aggrey Memorial School, the study skills I had acquired – long before Google Scholar – came handy and I nailed it. As we mourn DD Phiri today, I dedicate my academic success to him. During our time, only star students had access to tertiary education. Many not-so-bright school leavers like myself turned to him for an education.
The diplomas he issued may not be relevant anymore but his inspiration was a launchpad for many of us. Today, I can bet on it, I can embark on a learning journey on any subject and I will end very well. DD Phiri taught me the art of learning. That’s my testimony! It’s a shame I did not celebrate him whilst he lived. It’s heart rendering I never had his picture. But in my memory, an image of him wearing a gentleman’s hat, a neck tie, a coat and jersey inside, his big spectacles on and walking whilst holding an umbrella on a sunny day along the Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds footpath will forever remain etched on my highly indebted mind.
Many may not realise it, but DD Phiri is the father of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) in Malawi. Technological disruption hindered many from tapping from his wisdom on the art of teaching oneself, in your own space… And did I say anything about his prolific writing in the Nation Newspaper? Did I even say what a fine historian DD Phiri was? There are many stories to be told about this son of the soil! (Copied from Mallick Mnela’s facebook page)