President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday justified his acceptance to be Chancellor of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), saying he will take up the ceremonial role until relevant laws are reviewed.
Thus, the President said his installation was in no way a contradiction on his earlier pledge to relinquish such ceremonial powers.
He said at the time when he appeared before Parliament on September 10 2020 to answer questions from legislators: “In this new century where our goal is to increase the number of public universities and establish them as bastions of free thought, academic administrators must be fully empowered to run our universities. Each of these changes is unprecedented, but needed, nonetheless.”
But in accepting the Luanar chancellorship yesterday, Chakwera said currently the laws establishing pub l i c universities bind the President to be Chancellor; hence, he had to comply with the tradition.
Said the President: “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.
“It is my expectation that the Minister of Education, here present, is developing a harmonised Universities Act to repeal and replace the current Acts as a way of rectifying this anomaly.
“Until that is done, I am duty bound to comply with the laws presently in force, including the Luanar Act No 9 of 2011, which bestows this title upon my office.”
The Luanar Act No 9 of 2011, on structure and governance, states that the Chancellor is the head of the university with powers to confer degrees and grant diplomas, certificates and any other awards of the institution.
The President then proceeded to confer degrees, diplomas and certificates to graduands during the congregation held at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe with strict enforcement of Covid-19 precautionary measures, including wearing of face mask and restrictions on gathering which now allow half the capacity of indoor venues; hence, no parents, guardians or family relations were allowed into the hall.
In all, there were 1 090 recipients of doctorate, master’s and bachelor’s degrees as well as diplomas. The graduands the were split into two groups, with
the President presiding over the first group and Luanar Vice- Chancellor George Kanyama Phiri doing the honours later in the afternoon. were split into two groups, with
In his address, Chakwera said it is high time universities started producing graduates able to anticipate problems and solve them long before they cripple national development.
He said: “We must produce a new kind of student capable of anticipating tomorrow’s problems and coming up with innovative solutions to those problems ahead of time.”
Chakwera said while most of the developing world introduced innovative ways such as e-learning, many nations were stuck to the old way of education from brick and mortar structures which are counter-productive and limiting, especially in the face of Covid-19.
But he saluted Luanar for introducing new programmes and attracting partners, saying that fits in well with Malawi’s projection of a more prosperous Vision 2063 programme to be launched soon.
On his part, Luanar Council chairperson Professor Zachary Kasomekera said the university has been expanding tremendously, despite challenges like under-funding, limited accommodation and the Covid-19 pandemic, which has paralysed institutional economies.
In an interview later, Kanyama Phiri said Luanar was trying to improve its income through income- generating activities such as erecting a filling station at its Bunda Campus.
He said: “We are supposed to be getting a subvention of between four to K10 billion, but we normally get only 50 percent of that. This is only enough for salaries.”
Luanar, which has Natural Resources College as a constituent college and satellite campuses in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, awarded three PhDs, 14 master’s degrees, 216 bachelor’s degrees and 917 diplomas.
Luanar became an autonomous public university following its delinking from the University of Malawi, the country’s other public university alongside Mzuzu University and Malawi University of Science and Technology