In an atmosphere of joy and jubilation, and in the presence of the Minister of Education, Honourable Agnes NyaLonje, graduates of Unicaf University of 2020, 2021 and 2022 received their degree awards on Tuesday the 2nd of August 2022.
The Graduation Ceremony was held at the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe.
This was the third Graduation Ceremony for Unicaf University in Malawi, and the first held in the physical presence of graduates and their families. The University’s 2020 and 2021 Graduation Ceremonies had to be held online because of the measures to contain the pandemic.
Speaking to the graduates, their families and other dignitaries present at the Ceremony, the Minister of Education said that in today’s interconnected world, online communication and online teaching and learning are becoming more prevalent than ever before. She stressed that online teaching and learning is especially important for Africa to be able to compete with the rest of the world by working with the fruits of the 4th Industrial Revolution and its associated technologies. She then added:
‘My Ministry, in line with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and our own national vision, the Malawi 2063, is increasingly working towards the development of Open, Distance and e-Learning and its associated connection with science, technology and innovation. Both are crucial components of our education system as we strive to develop our national human capital to achieve our national goal of becoming a lower middle income country by 2030.
As a Minister of Education, especially a Minister of Education in Africa, the main value I see in online education and, more broadly, open, distance and e-learning, is its doorway to increased access to knowledge by our citizens. This of course requires adequate infrastructure, such as access to electricity and the internet, and digital devices, but once we achieve that infrastructure, we open up a whole new world of opportunities, collaborations and partnerships to our students and their teachers.’
The Minister also said that online learning can ensure high level quality assurance of the teaching and learning process, since the level of engagement between teachers and students can be monitored, facilitating better time management by all. Honourable NyaLonje also referred to the full scholarships offered by the University to top teachers in celebration of World Teachers’ Day, since 2019, and expressed her satisfaction for the graduation of the first two students today from those scholarships with a Masters in Education.
Finally, the Minister congratulated the graduates and asked them to remember that they belong to a very privileged group who were able to receive university education in Malawi and in Africa and that that brought a responsibility to serve and develop the countries of Africa.
Addressing the congregation, the Chancellor of Unicaf University in Malawi Professor Joseph Kuthemba Mwale expressed pride in the fast development and growth of the University since its founding in 2015. The Chancellor also mentioned that the online delivery model used by the University can accommodate people who are in employment, or live far away from urban centres and university campuses, while the blended approach facilitates supportive face-to-face tuition and a student community experience for those who can study on campus.
Professor Kuthemba Mwale ended his speech with the following:
‘We are proud to host this new and innovative approach to university teaching in Malawi and look forward to contributing to Malawian national development along with African and Global development through our students, our teachers, our programmes and our research.’
Unicaf University Vice Chancellor at the International Level Dr Kevin Andrews also commended the rapid expansion of the Unicaf University network, noting that it has grown to a 21st century institution, set to lead the way in addressing complex problems and challenges like higher education capacity across Africa generally and doctoral research education more particularly.
Dr Andrews then continued: ‘Our doctoral school is now one of the largest in Africa with over 1200 scholars working towards their doctorates with us. We have also set the benchmark for innovations in using data generated by candidate activities to better understand the ideal learner journey and to offer, through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, proactive student support, to ensure as many students as possible avoid obstacles and pitfalls on that journey, so they can achieve their full academic potential, continue their lifelong learning journey, and explore new pathways. The power of this model is such that the more data that enters the data lake, the stronger becomes the algorithmic engine of the predictive modelling process, allowing it to generate automated guidance and signposts that effectively train all stakeholders contributing to the lake to be academically fitter and more successful.’
Unicaf University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Robert Ridley welcomed all graduates who came from different parts of Malawi and from other countries and referred to the milestones this year marks for Unicaf University:
‘Today we celebrate our first doctoral graduate, Mr Sam Kilimvi Aitaa from Uganda, gaining a Doctorate in Business Administration. We have over 300 registered doctoral students, ranging across business, finance, marketing, education and information technology, and we therefore look forward to many more doctoral graduates in future years.
We also celebrate our first French speaking students, graduating in Business Administration, or ‘Administration des Affaires’. We now offer a number of programmes internationally in both English and French. ‘Bienvenue et félicitations à tous!’
Importantly, seven more of our programmes became accredited by Malawi’s National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) since our last graduation, while our institutional accreditation by the British Accreditation Council was extended to 2025.
Dr Ridley said that the 154 students from 44 countries graduating this year, bring the total number of students graduated by Unicaf University in Malawi to a total of 728 graduates from 80 countries. And he continued:
‘We thank all of you, your families and supporters, for the trust you have given to Unicaf University. We seek to offer a new, flexible approach to higher education in Africa and globally, and to reach students who otherwise might fail to obtain a university education.’
Three representatives of the graduates also addressed the congregation, expressing their satisfaction with the flexibility of the Unicaf University online delivery model, the generous scholarships awarded to all applicants and the opportunities to create friendships and professional associations through the interaction with fellow students from different countries.
The graduate representatives were the University’s first Doctoral graduate Mr Sam Kilimvi Aitaa from Uganda, who was awarded the Doctorate in Business Administration, Medical Doctor Kwalabotseng Annikie Mohlala, from South Africa, who gained her MBA in 2020, speaking on behalf of all Master’s Degree graduands as well as the Master’s graduates of 2020 and 2021 participating in the ceremony and Mr Davies Kabambe, from Malawi, who received the BSc Computer Science and represented all 2022 Bachelor graduates.
At the opening of the Graduation Ceremony, the graduands and graduates of previous years had entered the hall, splendid in their graduation robes and caps, led by well-known music artist, Unicaf University Ambassador and MBA student Faith Mussa. They walked to their seats to the sound of the Unicaf Song. Faith Mussa gave a short speech, explaining his decision to pursue an MBA with Unicaf University, even though he already has a successful music career. He said:
‘..I am a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, with vast experience in writing music as a tool for positive change. I am doing concerts all over the world, I work hard for my career, .., and I’m in constant search for effective ways to promote my work. To achieve this, I recognised early on that I need specialist knowledge, which had to be flexible and convenient, to suit my busy career, and which had to come from an internationally recognised Institution. This is how I found myself studying for my MBA at Unicaf University!! And the benefits so far have exceeded my expectations.’
Closing his speech, Faith encouraged everyone to check out Unicaf University and its programmes, in order to start building the future they have been dreaming of.
After the end of the Graduation Ceremony there was entertainment with a music show by Faith Mussa and a cocktail reception to celebrate the Graduates’ success.
Written by Ms. Eva Koursoumba