Speech for the Environment Day

Guests and Friends of UniSey

Colleagues and Students

Good morning.

It’s always a pleasure to speak at events of this nature, especially at a moment when students are wrapping up their studies. There are of course mixed emotions felt by all. However, I am assuming at this stage, that there is recorded failure, as everyone is smiling – the lecturers are well pleased and the students are delighted. There is this overall sign of accomplishment and this is being crowned by this poster exhibition – posters showcasing fantastic pieces of research conducted by students of this University. Finis Coronat Opus. The end crowns the work. We have good reason to celebrate and to commend all students and lecturers for their hard work.

This event today not only marks the end of an academic journey for the students but also, the end of the first phase of a journey for the BSC programme itself. We are now five years into the programme and as per the requirements of the Seychelles Qualification Authority, it has to undergo a comprehensive review. It is timely at this point in time to showcase what we have achieved thus far.

Allow me in the first instance, to commend all those minds behind the conceptualization and development of this programme. Seychelles is environment, and needless to say, environment education should be a key niche area of this university. I believe this was the main argument that was used then and believe me, I am convinced that the argument still stands today. Throughout these past five years, UniSey have trained over 15 environmental specialists, and I am happy to note that they have all been absorbed by the local labour market. This should be good news to the students. There are adequate opportunities for you in the environment field. This is also evidenced by the various calls that we receive practically every day from CEOs and DGs in various organizations seeking to recruit students from this programme. First and foremost, we at UniSey, we are delighted that our graduates have lived up to our expectations and that they are now contributing in positive ways, dealing with the daily challenges in the environment sector.

An additional fact which I believe our current students should know, is that our graduates, upon completing their programme can continue their studies in other universities outside the Seychelles, should they wish or have the means. Currently, there is one graduate from the first cohort, pursuing a doctoral degree in Switzerland. One or two other students have completed a masters programme outside Seychelles. The mobility of the programme is well assured. And speaking of mobility, this programme has attracted more international partnership than any other UniSey programme. Over the past five years, we have had welcomed visiting lecturers, students on exchange, and wonderful sponsorship schemes from several international countries and organizations. Through this programme, we have also built fantastic relationships with many local organizations, mainly NGO’s. Our students have engaged in many curricular and non-curricular projects. At this point, I have to point out that the Environment students have been extra active in portraying the image of UniSey. You would see them in almost every activity we organize. They take initiative. They form clubs. They participate in national shows. They do projects and fieldwork alongside local and international experts. They really showcase the potential of UniSey. My hope, and I am confident that other colleagues share the same, is that students from other programmes of this University embrace higher education learning with similar enthusiasm.

It is no wonder then, that graduates from this programme integrate themselves comfortably into the world of work, and many of them already, are occupying senior positions in their respective organization. The programme, ladies and gentlemen, is doing very well and we hope that the review will contribute in making it more effective. Moreover, during the next phase, that is, over the next five years, we are hopeful that we would be able to attract more students both locally and internationally. And to me, more importantly, I hope that we would be able to develop other programmes and run them  using the model embedded in the development and administration of the BSc in Environmental Science.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Environment is one of our niche areas and we need to demonstrate this fact. Prof Karl Fleischmenn, one of our retired lecturers, once argued, “Justin, the laboratory is out there. What several countries are trying to create in a small room, we at UniSey, we have it just outside”. In reality, Prof Fleischmenn was referring to the forest – his area of specialization. Indeed, the laboratory is not only out there, I now arguing, it’s everywhere in the Seychelles. I will therefore use my role to challenge lecturers in this field; to conceptualize programmes that attract more international scholars, students and lecturers to come over and venture into those labs. Through our internationalization strategy, we want to develop the concept of Education Tourism, hence, we would be delighted to see tourists taking few days or hours of their holidays to come over to UniSey and learn new ideas, and/or participate in new experiences. In other words, I am now advancing the idea of converting wildlife, the environment into labs that build knowledge, that nurture intellectual experiences, and that enrich people. I really want to collaborate with local organizations here in Seychelles, to make the concept – Education Tourism – possible. Through this speech, I am inviting collaborators to be part of this exploration.

Ladies and Gentlemen, and I promise that this will be the very last paragraph of this speech. During my inaugural address, in February, I argued that the realization of a university in Seychelles should be viewed as a national project. The reason is simple. We cannot achieve higher education in the Seychelles on our own. The mandate and aspiration to propel higher education should be derived from the national agenda and that stakeholders should be motivated and encouraged to engage meaningfully. So as part of this vision of making UniSey a national project, we want to adopt one national event. UniSey is very pleased to adopt the Environment Day which falls on the fifth of June. Through this address today, we are expressing our intention to work with the ministry or the authority which holds the environment portfolio as well as other environment–based NGO’s to celebrate the environment, in particular, Environment Education, on the 5th June. So, this activity which we are conducting today, along with other key activities, should be part of the environment day commemoration. We are also offering UniSey as the platform for that day.

To conclude, let me congratulate all students for their wonderful work, and for having taken this programme of study. You are now in the best position to market environment education at UniSey. Please go out there, demonstrate, perform and motivate people to come over and learn about the environment – study environment at UniSey. Thank you to all members of the environment department for putting up this show. Thank you to other UniSey staff who have contributed and are still contributing in making this activity successful. And thank you to our guests, you who have taken few hours from your work to come over, to be with us. Thank you and let us celebrate the accomplishment together.