It is part of missionary legend that Robert Laws, who came from Aberdeen to northern Malawi in the late 19thcentury, dreamt of his base at Livingstonia, in northern Malawi, becoming a University. To many this seemed far-fetched, considering he was on a remote hilltop in the interior of undeveloped Africa. Through his long career Laws defied the nay-sayers by turning Livingstonia into a renowned educational centre which played a huge role in making Malawi the country it is today. But his dream of a University was never fulfilled.
Until now. The dream was never forgotten by the Livingstonia Synod which arose from the work of Laws and his colleagues. And in the early 21stcentury they decided the time was ripe to turn dream into reality. Once again there was no shortage of nay-sayers. But once again there was a Laws-like determination to defy the odds.
Beginning with just 35 students in 2005 the University of Livingstonia has grown prodigiously, expecting to have a total enrolment of some 3,000 students by the end of this year. No less impressively, it has established a reputation for quality education that has won recognition from the national accreditation council and attracted students from all over the country.
Of course, it is still work-in-progress with challenges on every side. But already the missionary legacy has proved to be an inspiration that is highly relevant today. Malawians are voting with their feet to come to teach and study and build an institution of higher learning with strong values and high standards.
For me it is very exciting to be invited to become part of it. After an introductory visit over the past few days I am honoured and delighted to become a Visiting Professor at the University of Livingstonia. I look forward to being there at regular intervals and contributing to the rapidly developing academic life, particularly through the supervision of postgraduate students. Mine will be a small part in a big adventure but a great privilege to be part of it.
Dare to dream!