By Alfigio Tunha, OFM
Guest of Honor Honorable Douglas Syakalima represented by Madam Gladys Ntele, Members of the SBU Executive Board, Superiors of the Franciscan Families, Major Superiors and delegates of Various religious Orders, and All our distinguished guests, Members of the Diplomatic corp of the 13 African countries represented here, and Members of different ministries of Zambian governments, Priests, Religious, Teaching Staff, Administration staff, Ancillary Staff, our collaborators, friends and relatives, our graduands and all the students at large- ladies and Gentlemen- All protocol Observed.
On this special day when success in academic engagement is being celebrated here at St. Bonaventure University, we also cease the same moment to reflect on some related pertinent issues such as integrity in education. This reflection is entitled Interrogating the Relevance of Veracity in education in the light of Value Creating theory of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. We do so to honor the hard work which has been exhibited by our 87 graduands who are today partially liberating themselves from the shackles of ignorance, an amnesty from the cave. As I congratulate them for their meritorious and laudable effort, let me at the same time lead them into a partying reflection as their academic viaticum:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends;
As the world celebrates the birth of a digital child on one hand, on the other hand, there are also dissenting voices that are lamenting over the condition of academic integrity. Seemingly, the digital child has nudged academic earnestness to a precarious vantage. The academic world has hailed the emergence of the internet and the proliferation of knowledge on different platforms. Paradoxically, the advancement of technology has made it increasingly easier for learners to both make use of and misuse the available resources. It is the concern of most educators to balance between the productive use of technology to acquire knowledge and the inevitable abuse of the same to destroy the tenet of integrity in academics. When education runs the risk of being innocent of integrity, it subsequently entails that a certain intervention has to be called in for. Academic dishonesty has stark implications for society. If learning institutions begin to produce incompetent professionals who are void of quality and others who are mediocre professionals, then those will be clear signs of the degeneration of society. Once education loses the delicacy of integrity, it leads to societal malfunctioning. Our contemporary society has clear prints of academic dishonesty. This reflection seeks to propose a philosophical solution to this pending threat.
A twentieth-century Japanese philosopher and educator, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, offers a plausible philosophical theory called value-creating theory. A theory that seeks to respond to the perennial problem of academic dishonesty in a more practical manner. The theory advocates for value-creation education and pedagogy, where academics is not viewed as a link to a professional qualification but rather as a process of seeking happiness through creating values from the knowledge one is acquiring. The theory also promotes nurturing creative life enhancing the potential of each learner and inspiring students “to employ that potential for the great benefit of humanity”. According to this theory, “University education should not be limited to the teaching of specialized knowledge. The lack of distinction between knowledge and wisdom is a prime source of the crisis that modern society faces.” (Soka University Mission statement). Society stands in need of learners who utilize acquired knowledge to bring forth the wisdom which answers the challenges humanity is currently facing. Makiguchi emphasized in wisdom rooted in a rich humanity. This anthropocentric approach to academics quells the objectifying tendencies of some systems of education where man is instrumentalized and treated as a means not an end.
My dear graduands why are you happy today? Is your happiness not like that of the disciples who upon returning from the mission were so happy because of subjugating the evil spirits? Only to be told by the master “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20) I say to you also do not rejoice in the completion of your philosophical studies or in the acquiring of a certificate but rather rejoice for the happiness and values you have attained through your studies. There is fullness of happiness in those who have imbibed wisdom. You celebrate today because these three years of study have been a path leading you to happiness. You are moving away from here as arsenals of wisdom who will joyfully partake in enriching humanity. From your academic persuasion, it has dawned on you that only those values that are helpful for the propagation of human growth and happiness are worth pursuing over those temporary relativistic opinions that this world sometimes offers. You have learned the joy that comes with hard work which lasts more than that which comes with instant gratification. You disciplined yourself in the last 3 years and here you are today standing at the threshold of the world of possibilities. You are facing the future without any anxiety because you have learned to be contented with the values that you created during your time here. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi advocated for “humanitarian competition as the ideal form of competition between nation-states…. This is whereby nations compete in terms of their humanitarian contribution to global society” away from the “military and economic competition that has dominated human history.” (Soka University Mission Statement) The way to go today is to become “creative individuals motivated by a sense of humanitarian competition to promote humanity’s state of happiness and peace.” My fellow brothers be guided by the inspiration of Ikeda, the successor of Makiguchi when he was addressing his students, he paused a question? For what purpose should one cultivate wisdom? In response he said, only labor and devotion to one’s mission give life its worth…” (soka.ac.jp/en/about/philosophy/mission).
Like an army general at the brink of a battle, he shouts and commands. I, at the threshold of your next step in life, also command you in the words of Paul Tillich, German theologian and philosopher who asserted, “It requires a great deal of courage to live…” Being what you have become today also requires courage. Remember what Mandela said “After climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb.” Undoubtedly, you have climbed the great philosophical hill, only to realize that there are more hills to be navigated. Take heart and be courageous, a thousand-mile’s journey was begun by a step. May the inspired words of the psalmist console you: Those who were sowing in tears, will sing when they reap! (Psalm 126: 5-6). Today your victory song is resounding!
On this day, indeed your special moment, we wish you great success in the future laying ahead of you. We thank you for allowing us to journey with you, to challenge you, and to adjudicate you. I thank all the lecturers, the ancillary staff, the formators, the benefactors, all your superiors, your parents, and your family members, and above all, Praise to the Almighty who permitted the process to unfold. I am proud to see you leaving this place because I know what you are made of and what you can do. I do not hesitate to dare the world’s problems because I now know that there is an answer to some of those problems. Go, therefore, and unleash your epistemic cognitions and the world will be transformed.
I end with the great philosopher of all times, Socrates when he said “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light…” Today we placed light into your hands and it is up to you, to fear or to use it.