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MAIDEN SPEECH DELIVERED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF MALAWI COUNCIL CHAIRMAN, DR. JAMES H.A. MAIDA, AT THE 4TH GRADUATION CEREMONY OF THE 2015/16 ACADEMIC YEAR HELD ON 26TH OF JULY, 2017 IN THE GREAT HALL, CHANCELLOR COLLEGE, ZOMBA
12 September, 2017
Vice-Chancellor of the UNIMA, Prof John D. Kalenga Saka;
Secretary for Education, Science and technology; Dr Ken Ndala,
Pro Vice-Chancellor of UNIMA, Prof Al Mtenje
University Registrar, Dr Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga; Principals of the Constituent Colleges of the University of Malawi;
Members of the University of Malawi Council
Chairman of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources Council, Professor James Seyani;
Acting Vice Chancellor of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Professor Emmanuel Kaunda;
University Registrar of Malawi University of Science and Technology, Dr. Nampota;
Mayor of Zomba City Council, Councillor Melia Douglas,
Chief Executive Officer, Zomba City Council, Mr Dyson Jangia;
District Commissioner, Zomba District, Mr Emmanuel Banda;
Parents and Guardians
University Staff and Students
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the University of Malawi Council, management, staff and students, I wish to warmly welcome you all to this University and in particular to the 4th graduation ceremony of the 2015/16 Academic year. It is indeed a distinct honour and great privilege for me to be standing here as the newly appointed Chairperson of the University of Malawi Council, which brings with it great responsibility that I shall use my endeavours to fulfil.
On behalf of the two newly appointed Councillors, Prof. Lewis Mughogho and Mrs Videlia Mluwira, and indeed on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency the State President and Chancellor of the University of Malawi, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, for according us the honour and privilege to serve our country, and for the trust he has reposed in us. It is our intension, with God’s guidance, to live up to our Chancellor’s expectations.
Invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, we are today witnessing and celebrating the 4th graduation ceremony of the 2015/16 Academic year. Graduating today are 587 individuals who have successfully fulfilled the stringent Senate requirements for various programmes. I am pleased to report that about 46 per cent of the graduands are female.
The graduands are in various key disciplines including Education, Science, Business Administration, Accountancy, and Physical Planning. To be celebrated also are 9 distinctions and 146 credits. Among the higher degree graduands are 116 who will receive postgraduate Diplomas and Masters Degrees and one who will receive a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Teaching Studies (Social Studies Education).
To you, graduands, I wish to convey my most sincere congratulations. I know that what we are celebrating today is the product of hard work that no doubt entailed, among others, your having to study hard in order to make the grades; burn midnight oil to beat deadlines, carry out a research project or write assignments. We are indeed celebrating the “fruit of your labour” supported and encouraged by the dedicated and committed team of academic, administrative and support staff in the University, whose contribution I applaud.
I am well aware that the encouragement you have had from your parents, guardians, spouses and faculty has contributed tremendously towards your attainment of what we are celebrating today. To all of them goes my heartfelt appreciation.
Graduation ceremonies are always very special and memorable occasions, and this one is much more so because, for the first time in the history of this University, we will have an Alumnus who will deliver a motivational speech to the graduands, sharing her experiences and appeal to all to get into the world with the required perspectives.
Sadly absent at this ceremony is one of the most patriotic Malawians who answered a call from the highest level of political leadership in this country for him to serve this country. The patriotic Malawian I am talking about is my predecessor, Professor Jack Wirima.
Professor Wirima answered the call, ladies and gentlemen, not because he had nothing else better to do; no, serving this nation as a medical doctor while administering his busy hospital, he was very busy; but, because he loved this country, he positively answered the call. Professor Wirima answered the call not because he sought or expected any tangible rewards; no, when he accepted the appointment, he knew that there were no such rewards; but because he loved this country, he positively answered the call.
As he served first as Councillor and later as Chairman of University of Malawi Council, Professor Wirima displayed the virtues of dignity, honour, integrity and selfless service. For such a patriotic Malawian to be so disrespected and so pushed to a point he decided to resign speaks volumes for the extent to which certain individuals appointed to positions of influence in the public sector unwittingly disrespected, by extension, the authority that appointed Professor Wirima Chairman of the University of Malawi Council.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as a public institution of higher learning, the University of Malawi relies heavily on the exchequer disbursements to fulfil its obligations. I wish therefore to thank the Malawi government, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, for the funding the University continues to receive. We are hopeful that as the University continues to expand in terms of student numbers, government will ensure a commensurate increase in funding so that service delivery is not affected. I wish also to thank institutions and organizations that provide scholarships to some of our needy and top students. It is our sincere hope that others will emulate this example.
The past two decades, Ladies and Gentlemen, have been characterised by a very powerful human rights argument that education is a fundamental right, and therefore we, in developing countries, need to do something about getting children into schooling. The international development community has also held the belief that primary and secondary schooling are more important than tertiary education in poverty alleviation. But, fortunately many countries in Africa have increasingly become aware that nations can prosper solely on the basis of their human intellectual capability as it bears on science, technology and innovation.
After observing that it is through their investments in higher education that the developed countries have managed to develop their human intellectual capability, Africa has, since year 2000, increased investment in higher education. The data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics, for example, show that in Arica the number of students enrolled in tertiary education shot up from 6.1 million in 2000 to 12.2 million in 2013.
Ladies and Gentlemen, those in Africa, who plan to pull themselves from the league of socio-economic laggards, by increasing investment in higher education, must always bear in mind that we are in the 21st century and that a higher education system for the 21st century, required by a 21st century economy, is one that has certain key characteristics. The first observable characteristic is that colleges and universities must be responsive to the needs of a given country. For them to be responsive, they must have a clear understanding of a country’s economy and needs of its people.
The second characteristic is that colleges and universities must be adaptable, flexible, and market-driven. As technology, competitors and products change, the higher education system needs to quickly respond to new demands by creating new curricula, practices, and organisational structures. In a knowledge-based economy, postsecondary education should seek to align its offerings—curricula, research, and partnerships—to the needs of the marketplace.
The third characteristic is that the colleges and universities must be collaborative, transparent, and open in order to ensure that new information is quickly shared with other researchers and the public is instrumental to building the appropriate knowledge base to accelerate innovation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the University of Malawi is endowed with talent. I therefore strongly believe that the University of Malawi Council, Management and staff can collectively together commit themselves to ensuring that the University is so transformed that it becomes an institution of higher learning for the 21st century and responsive to the 21st century economy. In saying this, ladies and gentlemen, I am not so naive as to believe that a transformation of this University can be achieved under an environment of mutual mistrust and disrespect, both of which lead to one or two of the four colleges closing. Such closures cause disruptions of academic programmes, irregular and unpredictable academic calendar, and so bringing the whole institution into disrepute, causing parents and guardians, be they local or external, to be hesitant to have their wards enrolled at this University.
Council is of the view that not all disagreements can be considered as conflict, but that all conflicts involve disagreement. A disagreement becomes a conflict when it goes beyond the normal intellectual difference that characterises academic life to the emotional realm to involve feelings of anxiety, or anger. The latter usually occurs under an environment in which there is no mutual trust and respect. Recognising this fact, Council, at its recent extraordinary meeting, agreed that there was an urgent need to nurture and maintain an environment of mutual trust and respect. To this end, Council established a Committee on “Staff and Students Welfare” and charged it with the responsibility of:
- offering a proactive and rapid response to the needs of staff and students,
- initiating activities that address the root causes as well as the triggers of a dispute, and
- providing a platform for contact and dialogue in order to ensure that the University meets and advances its core objectives and obligations to society.
Since my appointment as University of Malawi Council Chairman, I have had an opportunity to meet with Chancellor College Academic Staff Union, University Workers Trade Union, the Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee of Welfare, and Kamuzu College of Nursing Academic and Administrative Welfare Committee. An arrangement will soon be made for me to meet the Students Union and the soon to be registered Association of Parents. These are mainly what one might call listening meetings.
Council’s decision to establish the Staff and Students Welfare Committee and the meetings I have so far had and intend to have serve as a message to the unions and welfare committees in this University that it is Council’s desire to engage them whenever there are issues regarding their welfare in order to reach amicable solutions.
It is a way of saying let us turn over a new leave and embrace constructive dialogue in order to ensure that those who come to this University complete their training programmes on time, undisturbed by our failure to resolve constructively and amicably our differences. It is a way of reminding ourselves that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Let us together resolve our differences amicably, maintain tranquillity at this University and ensure that this University, which has contributed so much to the development of this country, must remain second to none in the delivery of quality education, and must be the place of first choice by those who look for places at institutions of higher learning for their wards.
The new initiatives reported here, Ladies and Gentlemen, are also meant to say to all of you whose achievements we are celebrating today that Council has resolved that the University must change for the better so that those among you who wish to come back for postgraduate programmes of study should not hesitate to do so.
For those of you who will decide not to come back, I have but one piece of advice: go out there and productively exploit the knowledge you have acquired and your innovative skills to become great pathfinders, innovators, and entrepreneurs. If you do that, you will be able to contribute towards creation of jobs - you will become an employer.
Those of you who decide to join public or private sector as employees, I call upon you to be always guided by this University’s six core values, which are Commitment, Professionalism, Integrity, Openness to diversity, Responsiveness, Entrepreneurship. As members of the UNIMA Alumni community, remember that you are life ambassadors of this university. I sincerely hope that you all will join those alumni who have provided great support to this Institution.
As I close my remarks, Ladies and Gentlemen, permit me to thank the Senior Leadership of this University, the University Senate, the leaderships of the Constituent Colleges for the professional manner in which they have managed the University and the way they have conducted our academic programmes, including examinations. It is on account of their good work and the dedication of academic staff that we are able to graduate students today. To the University Registrar and his team, I say thank you for a well organized and colourful congregation.May God bless all of us gathered here and Mother Malawi!