By Clement Magombo_
In the corridors of power, titles and accolades often shape public perception. One such case has come to light in Malawi, where President Lazarus Chakwera proudly bears the title of ‘Dr.’ due to an honorary Doctor of Ministry (D.Min) qualification awarded by Trinity International University in the United States in the year 2000. However, upon closer inspection, questions arise about the legitimacy of this title and its ethical implications.
The Doctor of Ministry, colloquially known as ‘PhD Lite’ or a ‘watered-down degree,’ has long been a subject of controversy within academic circles. Unlike the traditional PhD, the D.Min is characterized by a shorter duration and a less rigorous dissertation process. Critics argue that it lacks the academic depth and scholarly rigor associated with a full-fledged doctoral program.
While it is accurate to refer to someone with a D.Min as ‘doctor,’ the controversy surrounding President Chakwera’s use of the title lies in the insistence on its application. Using the title ‘Dr.’ can imply a level of academic achievement and expertise that may not align with the reality of the D.Min program. The traditional PhD involves more extensive research and a more substantial final project, often requiring years of dedicated study.
In a country where leadership is crucial for development and progress, public perception of the leader’s qualifications matters. President Chakwera’s use of the ‘Dr.’ title could inadvertently shape public trust and confidence. It is essential for leaders to be transparent about their qualifications to maintain the integrity of their public image.
In all fairness, Chakwera’s doctor title remains relevant only in the Assemblies of God circle where his ministry impact has been felt but stands on shaky ground anywhere else outside, let alone in the corridors of political leadership. But hey, we are in Malawi, where the hunger for unearned titles is the order of the day and we live in an age of degree obsession!