SPEECH BY THE CHIEF GUEST, HIS EXCELLENCY LAZARUS CHAKWERA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI, DURING THE 42ND COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY OF THE UNITED STATES INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY-AFRICA HELD ON SEPTEMBER 26, 2020.
Board of Trustees
The Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
Faculty, students, staff and alumni present
Parents and guardians,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
And the Graduating Class of 2020
I am glad to join you today as we honor the graduating class of 2020. Commencement is a time in which we have the opportunity to not only celebrate our accomplishments, but to also reflect, listen to the lessons of others, and to look to the future with hope. I would like to congratulate you for your unrelenting will to forge forward as the world is battling a global pandemic. We have seen the world’s resolve to fight and defy the pandemic and celebrate the small wins. We have been privileged to see and hear stories of hope during these dark times and this has been clearly demonstrated by healthcare workers across the globe who continue to put their lives at risk everyday as they battle the pandemic.
I am glad to know that today, we commission the first cohort of Pharmacy students who will be joining the healthcare workforce as they find lasting solutions to deal with this pandemic and future pandemics. I am also delighted to know that at today’s ceremony, we will be sending out these young women and men, whom we hope will give much to the society and to the world at large, just as USIU-Africa has given to them.
I strongly urge you to learn from these unrelenting individuals and to have a glimmer of hope as you step into the next phase of your lives. If we are to learn one thing today, it is that we should celebrate the small wins in our lives daily.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are here today because of the legacy of USIU-Africa which traces its history to 1927 when the Balboa Law College was chartered as a private graduate institution in San Diego (USA). In 1967, the university’s name was changed to United States International University (USIU) and established branch campuses for different world regions: namely, Tokyo in Japan, London in the UK, Mexico City in Mexico, and for Africa, Kenya was selected. The university registered 5 students in 1969 and this continued to grow to 8383 by the end of the 2017-2018 Academic Year offering 29 Undergraduate, Masters and Doctorate degree programs. USIU-Africa is the only university in the region with dual accreditation in Kenya by the Commission for University Education (CUE) and the United States of America (USA) by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
This 51-year old journey has led this great institution to where it is today and you, the graduating class of 2020 are part of that history. Be proud of it!
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are in a different era, a different shift and a different realization that we should all embrace. The education sector across the world experienced shifts never seen before. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that close to 90 percent of the world’s student population continue to suffer as a result of prolonged closure of learning institutions across the world affecting over 1.2 billion children and youth. Additionally, the digital divide has made it very difficult for learners from marginalized communities to access online classes. The challenges of infrastructure and access, equity, quality of teaching and learning and assessment are alive now more than ever as the world moves to embrace online teaching and learning. These challenges have far-reaching impact in Africa where the majority of learners do not have access to internet services and IT learning devices. UNESCO has further documented several adverse consequences of school closures which include interrupted learning, poor nutrition, high economic costs, increased dropout rates which have led to increased teenage pregnancies and petty crimes among the youth, social isolation and challenges in measuring and validating learning.
Most African countries have not been able to safely reopen schools and some which have attempted have gone back to indefinite closures. South Africa took a bold step towards the reopening of schools but had to rescind that decision as the cases in the country continued to increase.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We must all play our part to ensure that our students continue to receive the education they need during this period. The highlighted consequences will have lifelong impact on young children and adults. We must be careful to ensure that we maintain the gains made in the implementation of the Social Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. If we do not, the gains made so far will be reversed and there will be no significant growth to achieve this goal. We must collectively come together to ensure that our children, young women and men continue learning during these times. I implore governments in Africa to come together and find a long lasting solution to this problem. We can’t over emphasize on the importance of education especially in Africa. We have experienced transformative impact across Africa as a result of quality education and we continue to see successive governments invest heavily in education to ensure that our continent rises above poverty, famine and despair.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am glad that USIU-Africa has demonstrated that it can rise above the challenges and provide the solutions needed to embrace online teaching and learning. These e-learning milestones started in 2010 when the university invested heavily in robust ICT systems that would see them navigate through this period smoothly. The students graduating today are a success story that has been championed by this great university.
To the Class of 2020
You are joining a network of over 25, 000 alumni across the globe making their impact in their own little ways. Engage with your soon-to-be Alma mater, so that this university continues to make meaningful contributions to national, regional, and global transformation and development.
I hope that USIU-Africa remains a place that you will always come back to often after graduation, not only in memory, but also in person, because you will always be welcome here.
Go ahead and make your unique mark as you start this new journey.
Congratulations and Thank You!