Speech By Prof. Rose A. Mwonya
DELIVERED ON FRIDAY, 7TH DECEMBER 2018 DURING THE 39TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education Science and Technology, Chancellor Egerton University, Chancellors of other Universities present, Chairman Egerton University Council Council Members, Egerton University Chairpersons of Councils of other Universities, Vice Chancellors of other Universities, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Members of the University Senate, Senior Government Officials, Members of Staff, Graduating Class, Parents and Guardians, Ladies and Gentlemen..
On behalf of the University Management, the Senate, the staff and the students, I warmly welcome you all to Egerton University, and thank you for joining us as we celebrate our 39th Graduation Ceremony, our second graduation this calendar year. I would like to congratulate the graduating class for their hard work. I commend the parents and the guardians for the sacrifices they have made, and the lecturers for spending their time in nurturing the students to complete their studies successfully and on time.
I also take this opportunity to thank the Senate, the Faculties and the members of staff for their hard work and dedication that has culminated in this event. Across our various Faculties, today we will award 301 Diplomas, 2319 Bachelors, 92 Masters and 21 PhDs degrees. That’s a total of 2,733 students in the graduating class!
Mr. Chancellor Sir, Our success is not only reflected in the size of our graduating class, but also in the depth and breadth of the quality programs we have established here at Egerton. We are proud to be a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture, consistent with our motto of “Transforming lives through quality education,” and we are working closely with Government as it pursues the country’s Food Security and Economic Development Agenda. Egerton is home to cutting research centres such as the African Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management (CESAAM) that is sponsored by the World Bank, among others. Through such centres and the international linkages we have forged with several world class institutions and organizations, our students have unique opportunities for advancement. It will not be unusual for a student to start a Masters’ program at Egerton and then proceed for a PhD at a partner institution such as Virginia Technical College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in the USA, for example.
In order to fulfill our mission of generating and disseminating significant knowledge and to offer exemplary education that contribute to national and global development, Egerton University has opened its doors, over the last several years, to admitting students from the rest of the African continent for postgraduate studies in Agricultural Sciences. The number of students admitted has grown to 168 in 2018. We shall grow this number to make Egerton not just a national public university but a Pan-African University, serving the needs of all the peoples of Africa in realizing food security for all through high level training and skilling of Agri-businessmen, Agri-businesswomen and Agri-technocrats. We are proud to be pioneers in this effort and we ask for the continued support of our government and well-wishers to realize our dream in this ambitious but very worthwhile continental outreach programme.
We have established an Agro-Park where farmers are learning the latest in agricultural techniques and processes, and is also a one-stop resource for farming inputs such as fingerlings, mushroom seeds, goats and high yield dairy cows. Additionally, Egerton University recently hosted a conference in Naivasha in which discussions centred on plans to build an Agri-Tech City here in Njoro. This will be the first city of its kind in Africa. Through this city, bridges will be built to bring research and agribusiness together.
Despite our current progress, Egerton University, like most Kenyan institutions of higher learning, is seriously lacking in essential resources. This has had a serious impact on capacity building and it is a proximate cause of incessant struggles between management and other stakeholders. We appreciate the Government’s continued support but we request for more assistance to enable us to continue to provide for our students as we collectively work to solve the country’s food security problems.
Mr. Chancellor Sir,I now want to address the graduating class. We are honored and thrilled to be here with you today; thrilled to celebrate this milestone in your lives; thrilled for all the people who are here supporting you – the people who have pushed you, dried your tears and laughed with you from your first day at Egerton to this day. As I reflected on what to share with you today, I settled on a theme that we’re all too familiar with here at Egerton. I want to talk to you about resilience.
Each of you has walked a unique path to reach this day. Some of you faced real trauma. All of you faced challenges, disappointment, heartache, loss, illness – all of these are so personal when they strike – but they are also so universal. We are not born with a certain amount of resilience. It is like a muscle, and that means we can build it. We build resilience into ourselves. We build resilience into the people we love or care about. And we build it together, as a community. That’s called “collective resilience.” It’s an incredibly powerful force – and it is one that our country and our world need a lot more of right now. It is in our relationships with each other that we find our will to live, our capacity to care, and our ability to bring change to this country.
Today’s graduating class: you are particularly suited to the task of building collective resilience because you are graduating from Egerton. You’ve been part of that here, whether you knew it or not. As you go off and become leaders – and yes, you will lead, you are destined to lead – you can make the organizations you join – and the communities you form – much stronger.
Building collective resilience also means trying to understand how the world looks to those who have experienced it differently – because they are a different race, come from a different tribe, or have an economic background unlike yours. We each have our own story but we can write new ones together – and that means seeing the values in each other’s points of view, and looking for common ground.
Is anyone here a little bit anxious about your future? Not sure where the future is taking you? Sometimes, I am too. And do you know what helps you combat that fear? A very big idea captured in a special word: HOPE.
Mr. Chancellor Sir, Let’s talk about hope. There are many kinds of hope. There is the hope that as you sit here your stuff will magically pack itself in your residence halls. As your Vice Chancellor I have the hope that this year all my graduating students will be able to practice in their areas of study. There is even the hope that before you start your career, there will be no more corruption in the Kenya. But my favourite kind of hope is called grounded hope -- the understanding that if you take action, you can make things better. We normally think of hope as something that’s held in individual people. But hope – like resilience – is something we grow and nurture together.
This should be your legacy, my dear graduating class of 2018. You should carry it with you – that capacity for finding resilience in yourselves and building resilience in the people around you. The truth is, each of you will face unique challenges. In particular, be prepared to fight malfeasance, which will likely manifest itself in many forms. You will be shocked to learn that the corrupt also have their own way of expressing resilience. Their fight-back will often be vicious. Your recourse will be to insist on transparency; to insist on process; to insist on procedure; and to insist fairness. Not so long ago, corruption and acts of bad faith seemed invincible. We accepted them as natural fate. In truth it has mostly been just a product of institutional weakness. So, if you persist, you will build institutions and environments governed by process, responsibility and goodwill. If you grow weary in your journey, just remember that when it is all said and done, they can fight you but at some point we all leave the scene, and in the fullness of time, we die. At that point people want to remember you for what you did for them, not what you did to them.
So as you leave this beautiful campus and set out into the world, build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that deep inside you, you have the ability to get through anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined. Build resilient organizations. Speak up when you see injustice. Lend your time and your passion to the causes that matter. And know that there are systems instituted which protect law and order. Being justified and righteous does not license a path to disorderly misconduct. There are established process to airing grievances which minimize unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings. I expect high standards of you.
This is your challenge, graduates. What kind of country, what kind of world, will you help build? What values will you respect? What will drive your life and the lives of others? Ten years from now, when the class of 2028 stands here and prepares to graduate, what will you have done to help them?
My New Year’s resolution last year was to write down three moments of joy before I went to bed each night. This very simple thing has changed my life. Because I realized I used to go to bed every night thinking about what I did wrong and what I was going to avoid doing wrong the next day. Now I go to sleep thinking of what went right. And when those moments of joy happen throughout the day, I notice them more because I know they’ll make the notebook. Try it. Start tonight, on this day full of happy memories.
Graduates, on the path before you, you will have good days and you will have hard days. Go through all of them together. Seek shared experiences with all kinds of people. Write shared narratives that create the world you want to live in. Build shared hope in the organizations you join and the communities you form. And above all, find gratitude for the gift of life itself and the opportunities it provides for meaning, for joy, and for love even. Tonight, when I write down my three moments of joy, I will write about you. I will write about the hope and the amazing resilience of this institution. And maybe you’ll write that I finally stopped talking. You have the whole world in front of you. I cannot wait to see what you do with it.
Congratulations and I wish you nothing but success!