Scholars and captains in the business and human resource industries have challenged the University of Malawi (Unima) to be more innovative and make improvements in research as it opens a new era in its history.
They made the challenge in a twitter discussion which Nation Publications Limited (NPL) initiated, centering on Unima’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The celebrations were held on Saturday at College of Medicine’s Sports Complex in Blantyre under the theme, ‘Unima at 50: Time to celebrate and reflect’.
Commenting on Unima’s contributions to the country, Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director,Dalitso Kubalasa, said the institution has greatly contributed to Malawi’s human capital.
However, Kubalasa noted that there is room for improvement, saying Unima can do more to actualise its great potential in contributing to Malawi’s development.
“There is need to maximise, consolidate gains, demand-driven and needs-based human resource research and evidence. Ensure quality/quantity and theory/practice balances in Malawi’s human capital development,” Kubalasa tweeted.
Executive director for Institute of People Management, Jallison Chaguluka, who graduated in 1974 with a diploma in education, said Unima has contributed a lot to the country, but research areas have not been good enough for the past 50 years.
He said people have tried to come up with innovations but the country has not been forth coming to encourage them.
“There was a time some local person came up with a locally manufactured/designed a Rice Cooker. Where is that initiative? Never encouraged by those in authority.
“Another person designed a mobile phone charger using a bicycle, what happened, ignored and idea not made use of. Yes, Unima has done well and shows a lot of impact of its existence in the country, but its products to some extent have lacked innovations,” said Chaguluka.
Still on the area of research, Blantyre-based human resource expert Buxton Kayuni urged Unima to work with business think-tanks in conducting industrial research.
“Let them work with MCCCI [Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry] to focus on industrial rather than academic research,” he suggested.
Steve Sharra, a renowned education activist and scholar said there was need to discuss institutions that Unima would be carrying out the researches for.
“The urgent question now is doing research for whom? Malawians or Western journals? Or NGOs?” he tweeted.
From Chancellor College, Associate Professor of Law Edge Kanyongolo noted that the Unima alumni in diaspora are contributing a lot to global development.
Kanyongolo also said the history of Unima includes that of resistance to State oppression, but sounded surprised that it was not included in the history’s narrative during the celebrations.
“Unima’s history includes that of resistance to State oppression,” he tweeted. “Unima’s history of resistance to State oppression airbrushed out of the narrative,” tweeted again Kanyongolo.
And during the celebrations at the Sports Complex, Unima Council Chairperson, Professor Jack Wilima said the institution needed to embrace new ways of doing things.
“We need to embrace modern technology, new ways of doing things to remain competitive and shade off out-dated programmes,” he said.
The vision to establish Unima was mooted in 1964 by Malawi’s first president, Hastings Kamuzu Banda in his inaugural speech on July 6,when Malawi attained independence.
Consequently, a Unima Provincial Council Act was assembled, leading to the establishment of the institution in 1965. It has The Polytechnic, Chancellor College, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing as its constituent colleges.
It offers courses in areas such as Journalism, Medicine, Education, Commerce, Environmental Sciences, Economics and Developmental Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Theology and Religious Studies and Administrative Studies.