As Zambia emerges, along with the rest of the world, from the third phase of the covid-19 pandemic,Eden university continues to face challenges of balancing the demards of preventive public health against the importance of engaging in face-to face communication-which is the basic diet of education(I was going to say “bread and butter” ,but let’s call it our nsima and musalu of education!)
I am delighted to see gathered here today the shining faces of our new graduands as well as their teachers and many of their family supporters.
We are gathered to celebrate the culmination of several years of effort devoted by each of you, graduands, to study of key disciplines and relevant, reliable knowledge in preparation for a professional career in the field of health, education or another important field of human endeavor. Congratulations on successfully mastering that knowledge to the satisfaction of your examiners!
This is the first graduation ceremony since the installation of our new Council and I salute them. Eden is grateful for your commitment to monitoring the institution’s performance and holding the administration to high standards of transparent governance.
This is also the first graduation since the national election of a new Government, whose manifesto includes commitment(and I quote) to “re-aligning the education sector programmes and National Development Plan to prioritize the education, Science and Skills Development Sector as one of the key potential sectors for job creation and economic development in the country”.
It is indeed encouraging for us in the university sector to note the Government’s intention to “provide a platform for the government to engage with professors, teachers, scholars and students through a consultative and not confrontational approach”.
We look forward to growing recognition by government of the contributions made by Zambia’s own universities, not only to the training of human resources, but also to society’s knowledge and understanding, through conduct of high quality, systematic research in science, technology, the humanities, social sciences and law, on topics of direct relevance to social progress.
Over the past six months , Eden University has recruited 33 new academic staff, bringing the total number of academic faculty with a Master or PhD degree to a total of 49.Many of them are still at an early stage of their career, and will be expected to continue their professional development through research for a higher degree and/or for publication in a recognized technical journal.
A Research Manager has been appointed to facilitate formulation of research proposals and submission for funding, and to support implementation and dissemination of the findings through publications, paper presentations and/or policy briefs. Members of staff have been encouraged to form research theme groups and research teams, and there are promising teams coming up in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and School of Education ,Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as a multi-disciplinary,cross-faculty team. Moreover, several Eden scholars have collaborated with colleagues in other universities and co-authored research reports with them.
I look forward to seeing the fruits of those strategic measures, in the form of an enhanced profile of Eden University on the internet ,and I am pleased to learn that research courses are embedded in almost all the undergraduate programs of study.
Graduands should therefore carry with them into the wider society an appreciation of the excitement and complexity of conducting systematic inquiry, as a basis for adding new knowledge and understanding to society. For that is an important part of what it means to be “an educated person”: to know the difference between opinion and fact, between informal journalism and systematic research, between fake news and responsibly documented information.
In my view what makes university education at its best distinctly different from most high school education is the emphasis placed in university courses on the students exploring independently in search of their own understanding, rather than passively receiving and committing to memory ideas discovered by others.
I like to think of the greatest general contribution of university education to society as nurturing the spirit of inquiry in the next generation of youth. The courses of study we provide to our students are like maps that need to be open to revision by the student as she travels towards her destination.
I hope, dear Graduands, that, as you reflect on the opportunities afforded by the proclaimed “New dawn” in Zambia politics, you will take seriously your responsibility as educated youths to hold decision-makers accountable by adducing evidence to support their decisions, and to assert your rights as educated citizens to study that evidence and subject it to critical scrutiny.
I wish you success as you move forward in your life-journeys beyond graduation in co-constructing a more just and progressive society!
Prof. Robert Serpell
Chancellor of the University