Eden University comes of age

PROFESSOR Robert Serpell (left) being conferred with the chancellorship of Eden University. Right, Eden University students.

IN AUGUST 2010, Eden Institute started as a small teacher training college affiliated to Rusangu University, formerly known as Zambia Adventist University (ZAU), a private Christian university based in Rusangu Mission in Monze.
It started with 17 students only. Today, it is a university, located in Barlastone Park, Lusaka West, with over 3,000 students.
Last month, Professor Robert Serpell was installed as chancellor with Professor Mutuku Mutinga as vice-chancellor.
It was a momentous occasion.
Eden University chief executive officer and president Kelvin Kaunda recounted how the institution has evolved over the years.
The institute acquired its university status in December 2016, with two schools, the School of Education, which is the oldest, and the School of Health Sciences which Mr Kaunda says will be transformed into the School of Medicine by January next year.
While Mr Kaunda recounted the history of Eden University, Sherry Thole, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technical and Vocational Training, gave a brief background of Prof Serpell.
He is a man who needs little introduction having served as University of Zambia (UNZA) vice-chancellor. He is also one of the longest serving lecturers at UNZA.
Prof Serpell, born and raised in England, first arrived in Zambia in 1965 as a junior research fellow of the Human Development Research Unit, on the founding staff of UNZA. In 1979, he became a naturalised Zambian citizen, where all of his children were born and started their formal education.
He has held a number of positions including director of UNZA’s Institute for African Studies (1977-83), director of Graduate Studies programme in Applied Developmental Psychology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), USA (1989-2001), and vice-chancellor of UNZA (2003-2006), professor of psychology at UNZA, and coordinator of the Centre for Promotion of Literacy in Sub-Saharan Africa (CAPOLSA). He was convenor for the 2010 International Congress in Lusaka of the ISSBD [International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development] and is a member of the International Executive Committee of the Society.
In addition to contributing to a wide range of scholarly journals and edited volumes, he has published four books, “Culture’s Influence on Behaviour” (1976), “Mobilising Local Resources in Africa for Persons with Learning Difficulties or Mental Handicap” (1984), “The Significance of Schooling: Life-Journeys in an African Society” (1993), and “Becoming Literate in the City: The Baltimore Early Childhood Project” (2005).
His primary interests are in cultural aspects of human development, intelligence, multilingualism, literacy, assessment and intervention services for children with disabilities and their families, and educational curriculum development, with special attention to cultural context, and to the region of sub-Saharan Africa.
Mrs Thole said Prof Serpell, who has also been involved in various influential and forward thinking organisations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), is a receipient of numerous awards as an academician and researcher.
Former Bank of Zambia (BoZ) governor and UNZA vice chancellor Dr Jacob Mwanza installed Prof Serpell as the founding chancellor of Eden University.
Dr Mwanza urged Prof Serpell to render his selfless service to Eden University much the same way he has done to other institutions that he has worked for over the decades.
He also pledged his support to the newly installed chancellor who he has known for a very long time.
His door also remains open for consultations whenever Prof Serpell feels necessary considering that he himself has served in that portfolio as chancellor for many years.
In his acceptance speech, Prof Serpell extolled the virtues of education.
“Education has been at the heart of Zambia’s national aspirations from the very beginning of our nation’s political independence,” he said.
Prof Serpell said that when he was invited to take up the role of chancellor, several of the university’s objectives were especially appealing to him.
“…Supplementing of governments efforts in the provision of tertiary education; to promote women’s participation in science related training; to promote the participation of disabled and other disadvantaged persons and to improve quality assurance using national and international bench marks,” he said.
“I hope that in years to come, these generations of professionals will be proud to announce that they graduated from an institution renowned for the quality of higher education certified by the award of a degree from Eden University.”
The installation of Prof Mutinga as vice chancellor was initiated by Prof Oliver Saasa, himself chancellor of the Mulungushi University, which is located just outside Kabwe and started out as the President’s Citizenship College (PCC).
Prof Saasa said Eden University has an important challenge in the country, where, for a very long time, the provision of university education was a preserve of the government.
He invited Eden University to form partnerships with other universities both public and private and excel in research and innovation.
On his part, Prof Mutinga said that Eden University will continue to have very solid academic programmes that are relevant and useful to society.
“To accomplish, this Eden University will attract and recruit the best minds in the various areas of instructions in order to shape our youth to be competitive in the world arena for creation and dissemination of knowledge,” the vice chancellor said.
And Barclays Bank managing director Mizinga Melu said as the first chancellor and the vice chancellor of Eden University, the challenges are big. However, Ms Melu said she believes that in Prof Serpell and Prof Matinga, the institution has selected the right leadership.
“Between the two, they share over 100 years’ experience,” she said.
Ms Melu indicated that the university had vast experience coming from a college to a university, and because of that, she expressed confidence that Eden University will do even better.

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