Address by Chief Guest Honourable Justice Professor Dr G.W. Kanyeihamba
LLB, BAL, LLM, PHD, LLD, SC
Chancellor, Kampala International University
Chancellor, Kabale University
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
H.E. Saidullah Khan Dehlavi and other Board members,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
President of the Aga Khan University,
Members of staff, parents, graduands, students, ladies and gentlemen, all protocols observed.
It is a singular honour and a privilege for me to be guest at this auspicious occasion when this edifice of higher learning is holding its graduation ceremony. To-day is a most glorious day, and especially for the graduands, parents, guardians and friends.
May Allah, God, the Great Creator, Giver and Protector of Life, bless you all, bless the Aga Khan University, bless those who have graced today’s ceremony and those who will do so in many years to come as professors, teachers, managers, administrators, parents, guardians, students, guests, well-wishers and visitors.
I salute the Aga Khan and his industrious workers for having thought about the needs of Uganda and generously founded this magnificent centre in the middle of our City Kampala to cater for the educational needs of our people.
I acknowledge the contribution made by His Excellency, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the National Resistance Movement government for having created the ideal conditions and environment in which many Universities and institutions of learning have been founded and multiplied greatly under peace and security. The President should be personally credited for having done much to encourage and contribute generously to many institutions of primary and higher education in this country.
I would like to extend my appreciation to the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, His Highness the Aga Khan for his immense contribution to the development of education in our country and in the East African Region. Indeed, the commitment of His Highness to the region through the Aga Khan Development Network goes back over 100 years to Bagamoyo in Tanzania where his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, began small and informal schools to help impoverished families educate their children. This humble beginning grew into the well respected system of Aga Khan Schools that now punctuate the educational landscape of East Africa and serve thousands of students.
Though the Aga Khan Development Network, the East African region has benefited with schools, hospitals, health clinics as well as initiatives for economic development and cultural preservation. Two generations of investment and support in East Africa demonstrate commitment to the enhancement of desirable institutions in education and healthcare that are part of the foundation for the overall development of the region. They have had a significant impact on the well-being and quality of life of East Africans.
I do not share the concern which is sometimes expressed that this country is establishing many Universities and producing a great number of graduates while it is not in a position to absorb them all in gainful employment. In my opinion, this fear is not borne out by the requirements and needs of our nation, and it should be discouraged. I believe it would be even more beneficial if we could afford to establish more Universities than we presently have in the country. Ideally, all Ugandans should be graduates. I do not see anything wrong with that principle even if some are unemployed by Government. Many will be absorbed in the private sector of our economy. Others will initiate and run their own private businesses. In any event, it is my belief that unemployed graduate is more capable of fending for himself or herself and the country than an illiterate or less educated person. If there were more graduates than we have today, I reckon Uganda would be more developed than it is now. Many graduates in other countries such as India, China, Singapore and Hong Kong do what can be called manual or manipulative tasks but those same countries are better off because of the fact that their ordinary workers are graduates. The greatest asset in the developed countries consists of the educated, professional and technical members of their respective populations.
In Islam as in other religions, education and to be highly educated are desirable goals. One distinguished scholar on Islam wrote that according to the teachings of the Holy Quran, ignorance is the most important factor that contributes to a man’s failure to resort to reason and his fitra (or intuition). A man without learning and education lacks a sense of reasoning and discrimination, weakens his consciousness and enfeebles his good and noble propensities and is easily led towards the wrong paths.
In Surah 20:114 of the Quran: there is the prayer, “Oh Lord increase knowledge in me.” It is also written in the Quran that ignorance is the source of evil. Emphasis is put on education because of the belief that the absence of good knowledge helps to let loose the forces of evil whereas constructive knowledge blesses men and women with the light of wisdom and perception and helps to cement their faith, springs of love, mercy and beauty in all of them. Prophet Mohammad is reported to have said that Allah has created nothing more in excellence than reason which is the essence of knowledge.
Mr Chairman, there is also the related question of who should decide whether an educational institution such as the Aga Khan University should be set up, and thereafter who should administer, teach what and to whom in that institution. I believe that state government should only be in the business of licensing educational institutions for purposes of weeding out bogus and fraudulent ones and, of ensuring that such institutions meet basic expectations. Beyond that, government should only play very little or no role at all in the micro-management of educational institutions such as those relating to the finances, the courses, the staff and the qualifications and type of students to be admitted to educational centres of higher learning. The distinguishing characteristics of a University from other institutions are that it is not only universal, but it has the freedom and responsibility to admit whomsoever it wishes, to give instructions in whatever subject it chooses and to teach whoever its own regulations allow. These characteristics should be more pronounced in private Universities such as the Aga Khan University.
It is the character and performance of its graduates, the products of an institutions, its degrees, diplomas and certificates that are the concrete evidences by which its excellence is assessed and judged. The adequacy of its graduates’ qualifications and competence will be tested not by some central body but in the national and international centres of interactions, employment and services. A University’s reputation is judged by its graduates’ technical and professional knowhow and performance. The initial viability of a University is judged by scholars who agree to teach there, the parents and guardians who choose to send undergraduates and other students there and, above all, by the character, integrity and performance of its products. It should not be forgotten that many of our best performing schools in Uganda started and some continue today as private centres of learning, having sprung up without anyone examining what they were going to teach and how. Many were founded voluntarily by religious missionaries.
At this juncture, let me recognise and thank an important group of distinguished supporters of the University, namely the parents and guardians of all the students who may or may not be present here today. Without their faith in this University and the sacrifices they have made, both financial and moral, in their determination to sustain their children and wards at this University, we would not have gotten this far. Education is the best legacy a parent or a guardian can ever bestow on a child.
Let me also congratulate the Board, management, faculty members and support staff of the University who have guided the graduands in their academic journey and without whose efforts, today’s function would not have been possible.
Now a word to the graduands, remember that you are graduating today from an institution with a strong history beyond the borders of Uganda. Even in its short life, the University has proven its ability to make an impact in the lives it touches. It has certainly made a difference in your own life. The future depends on you. What you accomplish, the difference you make in the world, your ability to share your knowledge with others and to remain modest in the face of success are what matters.
The University has kept the promises it made when you first came here. It has justified the trust, you, your parents, guardians and friends placed in it which is the belief that it would instruct and guide you in your respective disciplines to perform to national and international standards. The University is now releasing you from here with pride and expectations that wherever you go, whatever employment you get and, with whomsoever you interact, you will be the reason for supporting the Aga Khan University and the revelation of the fact that the Aga Khan and his Foundation did not fail in the mission they undertook.
In passing all your examinations and fulfilling the other requirements of the University you have become of age. The University authorities happily thank you for your faith, patience, endurance and hard work exhibited in these past years in which you have been doing your degree and other courses. This is a memorable day for you and all of us who have witnessed your graduation.
I urge you to always wear the badge of the Aga Khan University with honour and gratitude and to display it with honesty, integrity and hard work. You are the ambassadors of the Aga Khan University and of the Aga Khan Foundation. Always consider and appreciate the rights, interests and needs of others before yours. Aspire to leave behind something good for which you will always be remembered and admired. Conduct yourselves in such a way that those who come after you and of future generations will recall and emulate your good deeds which should epitomise a complete and fulfilled human being, regardless of status, circumstances and environment.
Lastly, I wish to thank the Aga Khan Foundation, directors, managers and staff of the Aga Khan University for having kindly invited me to attend today’s ceremony.
I thank you.