Addis Ababa University Celebrates Its 70th Year Anniversary

Addis Ababa University (AAU) held a commemoration of its foundation that happened 70 years ago, at Sheraton Addis Hotel on the 4th of March 2021.

His Royal Highness Emperor Haile Silassie I spoke at an event, “Discipline of the mind is a basic ingredient of genuine morality and therefore of spiritual strength. Indeed, a university, taken in all its aspects, is essentially a spiritual enterprise which, along with the knowledge and training it imparts, leads students into more wise living and a greater sensitivity to life’s responsibilities.

A fundamental objective of the University must be the safeguarding and the developing of the culture of the people which it serves. This University is a product of that culture; it is the grouping together of those capable of understanding and using the accumulated heritage of the Ethiopian people, (Dec. 19, 1961).”

H.E. Sahle Work Zewde, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, participated with her video message in the AAU’s 70th Year Anniversary with the following speech translated from Amharic.

“It is clear to everyone that Addis Ababa University’s 70-year journey has been full of ups and downs. Many criticize the adoption of European and American curricula, especially in terms of curriculum design. It has been widely reported that this has paved the way for students to forget about existing learning styles and to adopt foreign lifestyles and philosophies.

We still remember the tragedy that befell our country when the students of AAU, who were the main leaders of the revolution of 1973, wanted to fully embrace the ideology of the East and the West not in a way that suited their country, culture and traditions. I believe that Addis Ababa University should examine whether the curriculum has played a role in the fact that our most generations have not developed a culture of peaceful discussion to resolve their common problems.

When we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Addis Ababa University, we must not forget the then Haile Selassie I University’s contribution to enlighten higher education scholarship opportunities to our African brothers and sisters who were under the yoke of colonialism. Many of these students have reached the highest levels of leadership and authority in their respective countries.

When our university celebrates its 70th anniversary, it should assess not only its contribution to the good deeds, but also to the shortcomings of the university. It is widely believed that our country’s education system is not up to standard due to various internal and external factors. The reason for this and recommended solution indications are expected from the university.

At the same time, it is your responsibility to work hard to make our country a center of excellence in the field of science and technology. Work diligently to find a national solution to our national problems. In addition to science and technology, especially in the social sciences, in the fields of history and philosophy, find solutions to our social problems.

I recommend you to do all you can to increase the academic and leadership position of female students at your universities and other institutions of higher learning.  Because educating a girl and raising her to a higher level, is raising the country to a higher success, as the great Indian Mahatma Gandhi said.

I also urge you to intensively invest your time, energy and knowledge to place our university among one of the best and prestigious universities in the world. And remember we are always on your side.”

Professor Tassew Weldehanna, President of AAU, in stated in his entire speech: the establishment and growth of AAU, the benefits it has brought to our country, the sectors it has focused on during its activities, the challenges it has faced in the process and its current efforts to move to higher international level, etc.

According to Prof Tassew, AAU was born when Haile Selassie I handed over the palace of the Prince, Genet Leul, to the University with its entire campus. It was established in 1943 E.C. including the College of Engineering, Building College, Alemaya Agricultural College and Gondar Community Health College.

“In 1945 E.C, the current Arat Kilo College of Natural Sciences was added and renamed Addis Ababa University College. In 1954 E.C, the newly born university was renamed Haile Selassie I University. This is a historic event that has always been praised the Emperor for his positive attitude towards education.” Prof Tassew said.

As stated by prof Tassew, now, AAU comprises a population of about 50,000 students and more than 3,000 academic staff, from 33 students and 9 teachers at the beginning; there are hundreds of courses in undergraduate and postgraduate programs of which 112 are PhD fields.

Addis Ababa University has graduated more than 250,000 students during its 70-year journey and provided highly trained professionals in various fields of work that played great roles in the country’s economic, social and political spheres; Prof Tassew stated, became a base to ignite democratic and good governance questions like the historical question of “land to the tiller” which sacrificed a number of students in Addis Ababa.

Prof Tassew said that AAU has played a leading role in the development of education in Ethiopia, contributing to the development of curricula from elementary to tertiary education, training teachers through regular, summer and evening programs, developing and improving text and reference books, education policies and others.

“AAU has made significant contributions to agriculture, health extension work, veterinary research, community-based research, consulting on national projects such as the Grand Renaissance Dam, allocating large sums of money in the wake of the recent COVID-19 epidemic, conducting research on the virus, developing 15 innovations and providing quarantine services, etc.,” Prof Tassew stated.

According to Prof Tassew, AAU has been subject to many challenges, obstacles and influences, financial constraints, and programs and curricula due to the ever-changing political lines of the regimes; Improper interventions in student enrollment, the opening of extracurricular educational institutions, forced enrollment of students who did not meet institutional standards, and so on were serious challenges.

In order to make AAU a better place at the national, continental and world level, by producing qualified and problem-solving graduates in its programs and conducting national problem-solving research, generating research, fully transforming and modernizing the university system, a 10-year strategic plan has been developed and is being implemented.

By making AAU a charter-run institution with full legal rights to self-government, it will be able to sustain its work if it is given the freedom to decide on student enrollment, program improvement, curriculum design, teacher and staff recruitment, etc.; this also frees it from direct influences from higher officials.

By: Abraham Girmay

Photo: Fikremariam Beyene