By James Mphande
In line with its motto of “where excellence reigns”, the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) on November 5, 2019 held a colourful first graduation where 195 students in seven disciplines, received their certificates, diplomas and degrees.
To add more colour to the function, His Excellency the State President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who is also MUST’s Chancellor, presided over the ceremony.
In his speech, the President said he was pleased to preside over the first graduation of the university as it fulfilled a dream he and his brother, former President, late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, had as far back as the early 1980s while in the diaspora.
He, therefore, congratulated the graduating students and the university management for living the dream.
“On my behalf as Head of State and Chancellor; and on behalf of my late brother Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, founder of this University, let me convey my congratulations to you all. Congratulations,” he said.The Chancellor, who was also Minister of Education when the university eventually started, said he was proud to have been at the creation of MUST.
“Every University has a reason for its existence. This is our identity. This University was founded as a project of African Renaissance in this country. In whatever we teach, we must cultivate the spirit of innovation, the spirit of self-dependence and national pride.
“We must create a nation where we believe that we are a capable people. We are capable of developing this country. In this University, we believe in championing new research and innovation in science and technology that empowers us to take control of our heritage of indigenous resources” he added.
He urged MUST to prove to Malawians that the country was not poor but that only its people are poor, adding that “much of our poverty is poverty of the mind”.
“It is therefore the job of the University to teach a nation which way to think and to change a national mindset. It should be the mission of the University to wage a crusade against a negative mindset.
“Our graduating students, you are a living testimony that with determination and hard work, we can achieve our dreams. Believe in yourself. Be different,” he advised.
He urged the graduating students to go out and be creators of solutions.
“Out there, everyone expects someone to employ them. But I have in the past shared a story about three people: Everyone, Someone and Nobody. And here goes the story: Everyone wanted Someone to employ them.
But there is Nobody called Someone. In the end, Nobody employed Everyone.
“Let us stop thinking that Someone will come from somewhere to create fortune for us. We are the creators of our fortunes. And Malawi is a land of many fortunes. It all depends on whether you choose to see the positive side or the negative side of this country,” philosophized the Chancellor.
“I am delighted to see that MUST is teaching the spirit of entrepreneurship. We must be aggressive in the spirit of creating new businesses. Good education must be balanced and practical. We do not teach knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I know some of you who went through colonial education in this country. We would be told to dissect an insect and label its parts. But what is the use of such knowledge?” said Professor Mutharika, adding that it was high time Malawians were ready to break with tradition and start something new.
He also commended MUST “for beginning with a new spirit”, saying he had never heard of strikes and boycotting of classes since the university began five years ago.
The President also took time to commend the private sector for participating in the development of MUST.
“The University exists to serve Government and the private sector alike. It is in the interest of the private sector to participate in the affairs of the University because the outcomes of the University affect us all,” he said.
Taking his turn, chairperson of the MUST Council, Dr Andrew Daudi highlighted some of MUST’s achievements and challenges over the years.
For example, he said MUST has learnt a lot from sister universities by bringing quality academic services in areas of research, entrepreneurship and innovation.
“We have developed a five-year strategic plan which focuses on four pillars of external engagement, research and valorization, enabling environment, and quality education. This has helped us to realise fast growth in all critical areas,” he said.
MUST started with 150 students in three undergraduate programmes and within five years, it has grown those numbers to 20 undergraduate programmes with student enrolment at 2073.
“Our plan is to have 5000 students by 2022. Besides, the staffing of the institution has increased from less than 20 to 248,” said Dr Daudi.
The Council chairperson also thanked government for addressing water challenges that have daunted MUST since inception by linking it to the Likhubula pipeline from Mulanje Mountain under Blantyre water Board.
“However, we still have challenges in areas of staff and student accommodation. The university still has no staff houses and we would like to ask the government to support us in that area. Government helped us to identify an investor to build student accommodation units through the Public Private Partnership Commission and they came to see the area. They promised to come and start the works in November last year but up to now, there is no word, please help us,” said Dr Daudi.
On her part, MUST Vice Chancellor Professor Address Malata the first graduation shows that the university is committed to ensuring that excellence in all its activities.
“There is tough competition in the higher education sector both locally and internationally and it is our quest to endevour to be competitive and the raise the stakes higher to meet international standards.
“We want to be a global player through high impact research, excellent teaching and outreach, and innovation built on a strong technological platform,” said Professor Malata.
“We do not develop the programmes just for the sake of developing programmes. Our programmes take into account all the development blueprints such as Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II and III, the Africa Agenda 2063 and the UN SDGs,” she said.
Malata then challenged the graduating students that being the first fruits of the university, they needed to be good ambassadors of the university by being professional, innovative, competitive and have integrity.
The graduating students received undergraduate and postgraduate certificates, diplomas and degrees in Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials Engineering, Earth Science, Meteorology and Climate Science, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.