Speech by President Peter Mutharika at University of Malawi Congregation, 8 November 2019.
These are our finest times. Earning a University degree is one of the best achievements in life. Let me begin by congratulating you for this achievement. Congratulations!
Let me also commend the lecturers and professors who worked hard to see you through. Every time you spend sleepless nights, studying, you keep your professors awake.
If you write an essay in a class of a hundred students, remember that there is a someone spending sleepless nights to read every essay, every page, every sentence and every thought of those one hundred students.
Your achievement is at the cost of the sacrifice of others. It is time to thank our lecturers, deans, professors, librarians and those who manage our University Colleges. We all get where we are because someone, somewhere helped us to be here.
This is the time to thank your parents and friends who supported you to be where you are today. But the best thanks we can give in life is to go and do to others the good things that were done to you.
Today, you have walked to this conquest. And you have proven that you are capable of achieving greater things in this life. It is a shared achievement.
We must remember that much of your education was paid by tax payers. The greater cost of your education was paid for by the farmers, street vendors, shop owners, police officers, primary school teachers and many more Malawians who pay their taxes for us to fund the University. You owe them your future.
In the spirit of patriotism, we all have a greater responsibility to serve our country. It is not the time to ask what my country shall do for me. It is the time to ask what I shall do for my country. In the spirit of integrity, let us go and do to others the best that we wish was done to us. In the spirit of hardwork and self-sacrifice, let us dedicate ourselves to serve our country more than serve our personal interests.
As you stand on the mountain of conquest today, reflect seriously about the life that lies ahead. In the great journey of life, we rise and step on a mountain only to see greater mountains ahead.
I urge you to go forward with more decisive determination. Dream big! Think big! And act decisively! In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
Your future is like clay in your hands. You shape your future with the decisions and actions you take every day. I believe that as humans and nations, we were created to succeed. We were never designed for failure!
As you move ahead, remember, what matters most is what you do from here. It is not what your degree will do for you. It is what you can do with your degree that matters most.
We come to the University to receive the wisdom of learning. The University is not a place where we know everything. In fact, the best professors are the best learners. The University is a place where we learn how to know, and know how to learn.
This intellectual humility is the beginning of our ability to find solutions to the challenges of our times.
Mr. Pro-Vice Chancellor
The theme of this graduation reminds us that this is a graceful moment of introspection and reflection. Let me reflect with you by recalling voices of the various events I have shared with the University.
This ceremony is a call for self-examination and soul searching as times that define our growth. It is a time to make lessons of the past our steps into the future.
This graduation shall be the last graduation for the University of Malawi as we have always known it. On reflecting the academy when we celebrated 50 years of our existence four years ago, we made a new testament.
We agreed that this University cannot continue to be the same way as it has been. We agreed to redefine and rebrand ourselves in order to be relevant to the future. I then asked you to decide. To be a federal system or not to be – that was the question! And I said, “Decide, manage the decision and take responsibility of the destiny you aspire for.”
As a University, we made a decision to delink the Colleges and make them universities. Now, it is time for us to assume serious responsibility of our decision. We must be ready for the change.
I want to see Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, and College of Medicine together with Kamuzu College of Nursing become universities.
Our goal is to create more university space for Malawians. We want to cultivate a culture of competitiveness in our public universities. We want to see growth and variety in university education.
Therefore, every University must find its identity and competitive edge. Every University must find its spirit. The spirit of the University lies in its ideas and character. Every University must define its character. And every University must define its place in the world.
Becoming a University is not an automatic process. You can name yourself “a university” without becoming one, if you don’t meet what it takes to become a university.
The law and the statues will not make you a university automatically. You must earn your status of being a University on the international stage.
But I have faith in the academics of this University. I believe in you. I know we can do it— and that is why I authorized the delinking of the Colleges to become autonomous Universities.
After all, the first University, the University in the world, the University of Sankore, was begun by Africans in Africa. In fact, it was an African woman who founded the first University. And I know, together, we can create the best Universities in Africa. We only need to work hard for that goal.
Mr. Pro-Vice Chancellor and All Colleagues of the University
The University of Malawi has played a very important role in the history of this country. The University was born in 1965 to train personnel for running the public service. We have done our best over the years.
We have had our weaker moments. Sometimes, we have lost our mission and believed that the job of the University is to fight the Government. The job of the University is to support Government to solve problems of the country.
I am very pleased, like many Malawians, that we are seeing a lot of positive change in the University. We are seeing new infrastructure mushrooming in every campus. We are seeing Colleges finishing their their programs within their academic calendars.
Notably, the culture of confrontation and thinking that we can solve every problem by boycotting classes has certainly declined. As long as we are humans, there will always be problems. But we decide to discuss and listen to one another.
Throughout the last campaign and the Election, the University of Malawi refused to be dragged into partisan politics. You refused to be used; you refused to disrupt classes for the sake of individual politicians.
After the Election, we have seen some political parties waging a campaign of violence. The intentions of the violence we have seen are as follows:
a) To reject all democratic processes and rule of law to seek political goals using violence;
b) To undermine security and create a state of lawlessness in order to persuade you that this Government has failed;
c) To create a sense of chaos and take away our peace.
I know, they have tried to recruit University students into the campaign of violence. For the first time in a long time, our University students have been wise and refused to join politics of destruction. As a result, we are able to finish our academic calendar and graduate on time.
This is very commendable.
We should never allow evil to triumph because we choose silence over what we know is right. As Edmund Burke says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And I say to you, in the face of evil, silence is complicity.
Let us rise up and reject political violence. We must say no to violence. Again, say no violence! Let us rise up to defend peace.
We all need to go back to the path of peace. As we go into soul searching and reflection as a nation, I am encouraged with the direction taken by the University.
This is the way to go!
For today, I cannot say goodbye. I can only say farewell— because I will come back to open the beautiful lecture theatres and laboratories I have seen out there.
God Bless You!
And God Bless Malawi!