Delivered by Dr. Mercy Mwangangi, CAS, Ministry of Health

The Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, Dr. Manu Chandaria, the University Council, the interim Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Freida Brown, the Management Board, the University Senate, Faculty, Staff and Alumni present, Parents and Guardians, the Graduating Class of 2021, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good Morning,
I feel greatly honored and privileged to be the Chief Guest at this 43rd Commencement Ceremony.

USIU-Africa is my Alma Mater and therefore I am delighted to deliver this speech to you today and to witness the enormous progress that this prestigious university has achieved over the years. As USIU-Africa celebrates 52 years of existence, we continue to see the unrelenting vision to provide holistic education to its students. From being the Nairobi campus of USIU-San Diego to becoming one of the leading private universities in Kenya today, USIU-Africa has over the years improved its education facilities; from ICT accessibility to learning tools such as Blackboard that facilitate online teaching and learning, e-learning resources in the library and modern learning spaces that are set up to optimize learning and knowledge sharing.

Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a big milestone today as we converge here during this Commencement Ceremony amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; this being the second Commencement Ceremony to be held during these unprecedented times. We are able to come together because various vaccine developers and regulatory experts have worked round the clock to ensure that we continue with our lives as they sacrifice to find a lasting solution to this pandemic. When the first COVID-19 case was reported here in Kenya, the Government took drastic containment measures in order to manage its spread. The education sector was hardest hit; the economic Survey Report of 2020 published by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that this affected over 17 million enrolled learners across the country which led to losses in learning and increased dropout rates. Globally, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established that school closures impacted close to 90 percent of the world’s student population with over 1.2 billion children and youth not able to attend school. This had adverse effects on children’s growth and their development milestones as has been highlighted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). But we have seen the education sector adjust its schedule during these difficult times by providing solutions and designing protocols that have ensured that our children continue with their learning safely.

I am impressed that USIU-Africa was among the first institutions to immediately pivot to online teaching and learning which has seen the delivery of quality education to thousands of students. This I understand was made possible due to the robust ICT infrastructure currently in place that ensured that students attended classes and even sat for their exams online. I commend USIU-Africa for this foresight in investment which resulted in flexibility and instant continuity; an admirable achievement that other institutions should emulate for the future. The commitment and efforts that the university has put in place to implement phased re-opening demonstrates that the safety of its students, faculty and staff is a key priority.

Ladies and Gentlemen
All is not lost as we progressively turn the curve as far as this pandemic is concerned. We are grateful for the milestones that have been achieved but there is a lot more that needs to be done particularly on the African continent before we return to normalcy. We are witnessing western countries successfully inoculating their populations in large numbers while data from the World Health Organization estimates that less than 2 percent of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
This vaccine inequality is an opportunity for us in Africa to make a difference and I am specifically challenging universities in Africa to develop programs in emerging fields and conduct cutting-edge research especially in medicine that will develop and supply our own vaccines. The strength of any university is in its research productivity and I urge African universities to come together and pool resources to ensure that we effectively fight this and future pandemics.

We already have one initiative that is currently running. In 2020, Kenya started conducting trials of the Oxford Coronavirus vaccine through its Kilifi based KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, a collaboration between KEMRI, the University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom. We look forward to a positive outcome of these trials, and we will make an announcement once the vaccine is declared safe for administration.

We at the Ministry of Health are open to Public Private Partnerships that will progress the collective efforts towards fighting this pandemic. I am aware that USIU-Africa through its School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has started several projects aimed at joining in this fight: -

  • To complement the Ministry of Health’s efforts in COVID-19 pandemic management, the School has launched a short course on Immunization and Vaccines Management in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya for capacity building of healthcare providers to enhance safe and effective deployment of vaccines.
  • To support the government on regulatory issues of medicines particularly generic drugs, the School is at an advanced stage of setting up centers of excellence such as center of bioavailability and bioequivalence studies for evaluation of pharmaceuticals and herbal medicine products.
  • Also, the School’s leading professors in collaboration with experts from government agencies including KEMRI, Pharmacy & Poisons Board and Kenyatta University Hospital have developed a natural product based supplement that is currently under review for application on home-based COVID-19 patient care. We applaud these efforts and I encourage you my Alma Mater to continue being at the frontline of fighting this pandemic.

And finally, to the Class of 2021
I cannot begin to imagine what you have gone through in the last year and a half. Most of you completed your final year during this pandemic; you are the true definition of resilience. We are proud to be commissioning you into the industry, ready and eager to make a difference in the world.

When I stood here a couple of years ago to receive my Master’s Degree, it was a day filled with opportunity and hope and I believe that it is the same for you today. I applaud your great achievements and especially your parents, guardians and the faculty who sacrificed to take you through university during one of the most difficult economic times. I encourage you to forge on, this is not the end, and your journey has just begun!

Congratulations to each and every one in the graduating Class of 2021.
Thank You.

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