ZTU’s most remotely located student, Kissah Malongo, starts her 3-day journey
from Nthalire to Zomba for a residential Masters session.
As the new academic year cranks into gear in Zomba, life in the Dean’s office is hotting up. Fortunately, my Dean responsibilities are confined to the postgraduate side of Zomba Theological University. Currently, this means it is much focussed on our pioneering group of 21 MTh students, now entering their second year.
The Dean’s office has not been idle during the vacation as assessment of the students’ work needs to be coordinated. Once our own Faculty have marked the assignments they need to be sent to our External Examiner, Prof James Amanze. We are grateful to be able to lean on his vast experience in higher education in southern Africa. Especially with a new programme it is critical to ensure that it meets international standards, so the external examination plays a key role. At the end of the process grades need to be presented for approval by the University Senate.
At the same time, the wheels of the new year need to start turning. At this stage, when everything is being done for the first time, there is a lot of preparatory work needed to get everything in place. There is committee work to be done, especially with the excellent Postgraduate Studies Committee. There are students getting in touch about a whole variety of matters – “shoulder to cry on” is part of the Dean’s job description.
Day-to-day, much of the work is done on a remote basis, sitting in front of the computer screen. But then the programme sparks into life when the students come for an intensive two-day session on campus. Of course, there are classes from morning till night but there is a balance to be struck. When theology is your subject, you cannot ignore the spiritual dimension so there are daily prayers to be arranged, knowing that we can depend on committed participation.
Then there needs to be a social side. We have developed a tradition of starting and finishing the semester with a communal meal, always a time of joyful fellowship. I hasten to add that the Dean is not the cook but fortunately there are plenty of willing hands around. The Dean can be contented with an MC role and ensuring that everyone ends the day well-nourished in body, mind and spirit.