By James Mphande, Communications Manager
That Malawi has predominantly been an importing and consuming nation is well documented and it is sad. The goodness is that Government has finally decided to do something to make the country a predominantly producing and exporting nation.
And looking at the majority of countries at the centre of production, manufacturing and export, one thing is clear: They have embraced and are utilising science and technology. For Malawi, this means it too has to take the same root.
But first things, first. Malawi needs to develop knowledge and skills in science and technology with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship so that when industries are opened, there is a steady flow of human resources to transform raw materials into technologically inspired usable commodities and items.
This is probably where Malawi’s fourth public university comes in. The Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) was established by an Act of Parliament No. 31 of 2012 with the aim of promoting the development, adaptation, transfer and application of science, technology and innovation for macro- and micro-economic development of Malawi.
Its vision is to be a world class centre of science and technology education, research and entrepreneurship which is being realised through the provision of conducive environment for quality education, training, research, and entrepreneurship, and outreach activities.
Officially opened on October 24, 2014, when fully operational MUST will have four schools i.e. the Malawi Institute of Technology (MIT), Ndata School of Climate and Earth Sciences (NSCES), Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), and, Bingu School of Culture and Heritage (BSCH) to be led by Executive Deans.
Currently, two schools–MIT and NSCES—are operational with MIT being the first to open in 2014 and NSCES following a year later. The other two schools are being set up with the Executive Dean for BSCH already on campus.
“The University started with three undergraduate programmes in engineering and two postgraduate programmes in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the latter at masters level. In the two or three years of the university’s operation, the number of undergraduate programmes has increased to ten,” explained Dr Davies Mweta, Executive Dean for MIT in an interview.
Dr Mweta’s school houses six undergraduate programmes and the two postgraduate programmes while the NSCES currently has four undergraduate programmes.
With three intakes so far both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, MUST now has a student enrolment of 931, seventy six of them being postgraduate students. Out of the 931 students, 200 are females representing 21 percent female enrolment.
“Apart from academic schools, MUST also has the Directorate of Postgraduate Studies, Research and Outreach which is responsible for research and outreach activities. Some research and outreach activities in the first two years of existence of the university include the hosting of the University open day in 2015 and the first ever national all-girls science camp in 2016,” said Dr Mweta of the impact of the university in its three year history.
“MUST is also engaged in research on techno-feasibility assessment of decentralised bioethanol production in Central Region district of Nkhotakota while other research projects are in planning stages. Some of the research and development activities MUST staff will be engaged in are toxicological and nutritional assessment of locally produced food products; curbing deforestation through usage of charcoal briquettes from biomass waste; establishment of forensic DNA testing capacity in Malawi; mitigation and adaptation to climate change through use of renewable hybrid energy generating plant in Chikwawa district; modelling Malawi lakes and rivers drainage system to prevent flooding; development of a methodology to facilitate healthcare technology deployment and impact through patient-aware care flow modelling: diabetic retinopathy in Malawi; clinical trials for visualisation of spine of patients with scoliosis using d-flow applications; designing and manufacturing modern and affordable prosthetic leg, incubator for non-mature babies, affordable oxygen machines, portable auto-transfusion device for injured people such as soldiers and other people on higher risk jobs; and design of multi-variable vital signs measuring device, electrically powered metal recycling furnace, biomass waste processing machine, machine for processing mango and producing mango-powder modern water purifying plant without use of chemicals.”
According to Dr Mweta, MUST is also hosting a Technology and Innovation Support Centre (TISC) whose main objective is to assist researchers in Malawi access information on prior art in different technological fields.
The University also boasts a research department called the Industrial Research Centre (IRC), formerly known as the Malawi Industrial Research and Technology Development Centre (MIRTDC) which has been involved in industrial research, technology development and transfer programmes to for over 20 years with the aim of improving the quality of life for Malawians.
Past research and technology development and transfer efforts by the IRC include development and implementation of technologies for agro-processing, irrigation, portable water supply, energy and transport.
Starting this year, MUST has started enrolling international students at undergraduate level and has implemented three entry points for all undergraduate students, namely generic, mature and those able to pay economic fees.
While other universities took more than a decade to achieve these feats, MUST has demonstrated that despite the uncomplimentary tag of being the youngest and smallest public university in Malawi, it is ready to herald a new thinking in higher education by aligning itself to Malawi’s development aspirations.
The University Registrar,
Malawi University of Science and Technology
P.O Box 5196
Tel: +265 1 478 000/ 278
Fax: +265 1 478 220