Malawi: Chakwera Defends Decision to Accept Luanar Chancellorship - Urges Graduating Students to Be Innovative.

19 November 2020

President Lazarus Chakwera has defended his decision to accept the position of chancellorship at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) after he earlier criticised presidents becoming chancellor's of public universities.

Speaking in Lilongwe during the graduation of students from Luanar, Chakwera said his acceptance to be chancellor of public universities may seem in contradiction with his sentiments against the tradition.

He said:"To some, my acceptance of this Chancellorship may seem a contradiction, in view of my past remarks against the anachronistic notion of having the Head of State serve as Chancellor for all the public Universities. However, my remarks calling for a review of this practice were a statement of intent."

Chakwera said he has to accept it now until the law is changed.

"I have told the Ministry of Education to work on the Act that bound Heads of State to be chancellor of universities, repeal and replace it the current act as a way of rectifying the anomaly," he said.

The President said it is his expectation that the Minister of Education, is developing a harmonized Universities Act.

He said until that time, he will continue to comply with the law.

Historically, Presidents have been ceremonial heads of public universities.

The Unima Act of 1998 in Section 13(23) states that the Chancellor of the university will be the Head of State while Section 13 (3) also gives powers to the President to appoint another person as Chancellor in consultation with the University Council.

Chakwera said is not stranger in academic circles since he passed up through to professorship.

"I am sure you are aware that I am no stranger to academia, having once passed through its hallowed halls as both a student and a professor. What I am a stranger to is the age of pandemic we live in and its creation of such novelties as this commencement," he said.

Chakwera said in view of Covid-19 pandemic, the time has come to make sure that the education system produces a new kind, capable of anticipating tomorrow's struggles.

He said as a nation, without the skill of solving tomorrow problems, the country will never be able to address such challenges.

The Chancellor challenged the graduating students to do what they learnt.

" As experts in various aspects of managing our agriculture and natural resources, we are right to have high expectations of you to make your contribution to ending the cycle of hunger that has ravaged this country for decades. Not only can you do this, but you must. It is of no value to earn a distinction or doctorate in food production if it does not result in food production," he said.

Professor Zachary Kasomekera, Chairperson of Luanar council, said the council will work with the government towards the mission to make Luanar a world class university.

Kasomekera said the council will strive to produce innovative and mindset changed students that will help in development of the country.

Inadequate funding to loans board to assist students to complete their studies and the dire need for construction and maintenance of infrastructure are some of the challenges the university is facing.

He said maintenance and construction projects are very critical to Luanar as the campuses are in remote areas and there is need to provide accommodation to students.

Luanar, which is one of the country's four functional public universities, conferring the honour on the President at its graduation ceremony at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe, where Chakwera presented certificates, diplomas and degrees at Luanar's Fourth Congregation.

Besides Luanar, other public universities are Mzuzu University, Malawi University of Science and Technology and the University of Malawi (Unima), the oldest with four constituent colleges--Chancellor College, The Polytechnic, College of Medicine (CoM) and Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN).

The Polytechnic is set to be delinked to be a standalone university as are CoM and KCN which will also merge into one university.

Inkosi M'mbelwa University in Mzimba, formerly Mombera University, is another upcoming tertiary education institution initiated during the administration of Democratic Progressive Party.

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