Speech: First Graduation Exercises of Haile Selassie I University
FIRST GRADUATION EXERCISES OF HAILE SELASSIE I UNIVERSITY
….. Academic freedom, unless it conforms to the common good of the society in which it is expected to be exercised, is meaningless …..
In as much as your country has provided you with this special opportunity, you are duty-bound, upon your gradua-tion, to devote all your knowledge to the betterment of your motherland. What is expected of you is not academic achiev-ement alone. In fact, as it is at the expense of the government that you have been educated, what is expected from you is commensurate with the extent of your knowledge. Education is not an end in itself, but an aid to assist you to distinguish between good and evil, between the harmful and the useful. Academic attainment, untested by practical experience, does not put one in any better position than that of the uneducat-ed. Higher education entails comparatively higher responsib-ility or obligation.
The purpose of university training is to produce people capable of achieving the progress and advancement of the nation. People of such caliber are expected to possess deep insight, high academic discipline and intellectual zeal to crave and search for truth, to know not only the causes but also effective remedies for any ills that affect the society. Unless one is guided by such noble objectives – to know, not only the maladies and how to expound them in vain words but also to present effective solutions and accomplish them – the possession of degrees alone does not classify anyone as fully educated. This is particularly so at this period, crowded as it is with continuous change and improvement. Moreover, since our educational system is essentially based upon the exper-ience of other countries, the impact of modernization could create contradictions in our long-standing African traditions. We can only lay a sure and stable foundation towards rapid progress for Africa if We foresee the consequences of every step in its true aspect, and try to apply effective and appro-priate methods to the problems of each country.
We have never failed to observe this approach in all stages of achievement in the past. The very valid proof of this is that, although it is more than a decade since institu-tions of higher learning have been established in Ethiopia, there has always been sound co-operation between the administrative bodies and the students. The basis of this co-operation has been a collective effort for the common goal, the interest of the country always paramount. In the future also, it is Our wish and determination that all higher studies shall be co-ordinated and guided by this University. Ethiopia is endeavouring, like many other countries, to achieve a high stage of technological progress. In this period of concentrated effort, she cannot afford to be handicapped by trivial problems based on selfish motives …..
The world today has become oriented to science, which has developed and progressed to a remarkable extent. Apart from the will of the Almighty, in this 20th Century peace is determined by the will of the technologically advanced nations which dominate the sentiments of mankind by this privileged position. Intent on freeing themselves from such fear and insecurity, developing countries are using the level of progress of these advanced nations as the yard-stick of their own progress. Developing nations, however, must first attain the basic standard of civilization by stamping out illiteracy through mass education. To be able to provide mass education, co-operation, peaceful co-existence and dedication to the common good are needed; because to arrive at higher scientific achievement, one has to discipline one’s mental attitude and work with the aim of being the recipient of true knowledge.
So far, the continuous co-operation of Our people and the small cadre of elite we have produced have enabled Us to devise successful short-cuts in guiding Our country towards the goal of progress. One such method was, side by side with educational expansion, to launch simultaneously more than one programme of development, by acquiring the ser-vices of skilled foreign experts and establishing industrial and other development schemes, without waiting until We had Our own qualified experts. This University, which today is granting you your degrees and diplomas, is in itself the fruit of such combined effort which we have made in the past.
The Need for Home Training
You also know that to be able to have our own qualified people even before establishing local institutions of higher learning, We have been sending students abroad for advanced studies, and that there are many who have come back, and are rendering disinterested service to their country. One of the many fundamental purposes for which We have establi-shed this University is to have a greater number of qualified people who will augment the efforts of those already in service and of those who will come in the future, and, thus, to have a larger corps of trained people not completely divorced from our traditional heritage. Although a few learned people of our own are returning from foreign lands, We have foreseen and are convinced that Our country’s pace of progress can only be accelerated if there is a high influx of educated Ethiopians at one and the same time.
Economically also, the expenditure needed to help a single student through higher studies abroad is quite sufficient to train a number of students locally. The reason why higher studies on a large scale were impossible in the past was mainly this: foreign training was very expensive. But We believe that it is clear to everyone that the establishment of our own University will give us great and valuable opportu-nities for expanding higher education in Ethiopia. In addi-tion to this, it has a significant economic contribution, in that it helps us to save foreign exchange which we need for investment in other fields by avoiding the transfer of money abroad to finance our students studying in foreign lands. You most probably know that there are many great men produced in their own home institutions of higher learning.
In as much as higher education needs much money, the expansion of higher learning is one of the major problems facing developing and economically poor countries. Hence it can be said that their pace of development is highly deter-mined by this single factor. In the case of Ethiopia – the only bearer of the torch of freedom for the rest of Africa in the past – to prove that she is not behind in the pursuit of modern education also, she is obliged to give opportunity of access to education not only to a few but to as many as possible. To this end, We are also quite aware that one university is not enough but many universities must be est-ablished in the future.
The Wealth of Our Heritage
The establishment of our own University is an effective aid in combining modern education with our noble traditions. Accordingly, it is Our earnest desire that this University shall jealously guard the wealth of our heritage and pass it on to the succeeding generation with all its richness and glory as reflected in modern education.
We say this with the understanding that any foreign training not assessed in the light of one’s long-standing tradi-tions, is detrimental to the well-being of the individual and the country, and in no way useful. We are confident, there-fore, that this University will produce useful citizens by inculcating these views in the minds of its students.
University training entails deep research and intensive studies. Any research should be related to the requirements and conditions of our country. We are very optimistic that there are many historically valuable things to be discovered. The students of this University are particularly lucky to be of school age at this particular time, and it is Our hope that you will avail yourselves of this exceptional opportunity and contribute to the knowledge of your country in particular and that of mankind in general, by revealing the hidden, great, historic lore. Our University, therefore, has also a special contribution to make in this field.
One of the fundamental principles which the establish-ment of a university brings forth is the idea of academic freedom. Academic freedom, if used for the sole purpose of acquiring true knowledge is undoubtedly the very foundation of the pillars of education; and it is universally recognized that it has been jealously guarded by all institutions of higher learning. An honest and persistent quest for truth is essential to the attainment of higher learning. In the past, both in our country and in the rest of the world, it has always been vital to lay down such prerequisites for intellectual achieve-ments in order to produce philosophers, scientists, writers and men of academic prominence in other fields. These pre-requisites have also been the source of law and order.
We have also clearly guarded this particular right of academic freedom by clearly stating it in all the Charters issued in the establishment of our various colleges. But what We want you to understand very clearly is that academic freedom, if used for any other aim than that for which it is designed, will defeat its own purpose and be harmful rather than useful.
Academic freedom, unless it conforms to the common good of the society in which it is expected to be exercised, is meaningless.
Academic freedom affords a base for higher studies. And the aim of higher studies is to serve the society which is waiting for the leadership of the educated elite. Academic freedom that does not reflect this aim has lost its very foundation for it is no more than an instrument for the pro-tection of that particular right, dedicated to the true quest for knowledge that is useful for the society. Academic free-dom, on application, should be tested always against the true end of satisfying the interest of the society. As a proof, if academic freedom as has been applied in one country is copied and fully applied in another, there would be a diver-gence, because the purposes and aims which it is expected to fulfill can never be identical, as the interests of the people of no two countries completely coincide. Apart from this, the interests of each country also vary with time and circums-tance.
An additional reason why academic freedom is held in high esteem and respect is that it makes possible for human beings to improve their ideas and improve their standard of living. For, without academic freedom, human life would remain hopelessly stagnant. However, to use this freedom, which is given for such noble purpose – to divide a peo-ple struggling to improve its life and thus make vain all its effort cannot possibly be considered as a valid exercise of academic freedom. In some other countries, too, this is the precise manner in which academic freedom is practised. Such attitude is in fact to undermine the wide application of academic freedom itself.
Parental Agreement on Education
One of the important contributions We are dedicated to bequeath to Our beloved people is education. When We first launched Our programme of educational expansion, it was necessary to struggle against the interest of parents in sending their children to school. But now the people, under-standing the benefits of the programme which We have been intent to prosecute for their own betterment, are not only co-operating in sending their children to school upon their own initiative, but many have expressed their desire to share in the great burden of educational expenditure which had fallen solely on the government treasury until today, some by cash contribution and some by building schools. This has very appropriately proven to Us that the Ethiopian people, as in time of crisis, are still behind Us and co-operating even in all Our administrative efforts. This has given us encour-agement and further determination to dedicate Ourself for the people to the extent that We feel it is for their lasting welfare. Hence We have decided to further expand education.
With the help of a limited number of educated people we have been able to reach the present point of progress. Encouraged by the continued service of this devoted cadre who have served Us faithfully, We shall embark upon an extended educational programme.
Within a single generation, We have seen parents who had to be cajoled to send their children to school become so convinced of the value of education that today, those who have the means are assisting Us in bearing the financial burden of education, and many of those who are unable to do likewise continue to stop Us on Our way to request that their children be given places in the school-house. This is highly gratifying and is a source of encouragement for Us to extend Our efforts in education. We shall end-eavour to work for the betterment of Our people by apply-ing funds from Our private purse, utilizing simultaneously whatever assistance Ethiopia can receive from friendly governments.
Jul. 12, 1962.