I am very glad to be given this opportunity to deliver a congratulatory speech at the Centenary Celebrations of the University of Yangon today.
The University of Yangon which was born on 1 December 1920, and which holds a most prestigious place in the history of Myanmar’s education would have completed exactly 100 years today, the 1st of December 2020.
It is a rare occasion and opportunity for us to experience the 100th-anniversary celebrations of the University of Yangon. Although we planned to hold the 100th anniversary of the University of Yangon on a grand scale, we are celebrating it only on a modest scale in line with the current circumstances and restrictions caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In accordance with the university’s motto “There is no friend like learning”, the University of Yangon is a place that provides education, which is like a good friend of the citizens. During its first 100 years, the University of Yangon has encountered various experiences according to the vicissitudes of life and is now celebrating its Centenary Celebrations.
The University of Yangon, the first-ever university of Myanmar, is the greatest and most prestigious university in Myanmar’s history. Fulfilling the demand for Myanmar’s history, the University of Yangon became a pivotal point of Myanmar’s education, Myanmar’s politics and Myanmar’s independence.
The colonial government established the University of Yangon on 1 December, 1920. However, the colonial government’s “Rangoon University Act” had the effect of restricting the majority of the people of Myanmar from pursuing their university education, so the senior university students and patriots went on strike to oppose the Act. Because of the boycott based on strong patriotism of the university students and the citizens, the Act was finally amended by the colonial government.
So, the University of Yangon made a good start in the history of Myanmar’s nationalist struggle, and the boycott awakened the wishes of all national ethnic people of Myanmar to fight for the country’s independence. The university was able to produce good leaders capable of winning Myanmar’s independence. Even after independence, the University of Yangon has produced many leaders for the world and the country and many educated young people.
The University of Yangon was one of the top universities in Southeast Asia in the pre-War World II era and in the early years of the post-independence era. Its campus and surroundings were among the most beautiful in Southeast Asia. Students from other Southeast Asian nations came to study at the University of Yangon because it was a top university in Asia. For various reasons, although the standard of the University of Yangon has deteriorated in recent times, at the present moment, we are all doing our very best to elevate the standard of the university once again with our combined efforts.
In order to create a peaceful, modern and prosperous Democratic Federal Union, the universities need to be of high quality to develop high-quality human resources. We need to focus on nurturing and recruiting intellectuals, and we need universities that can play an important role in the development of the country. We need to be able to nurture human resources that will have knowledge and skills for different communities and workplaces, and we need to conduct the necessary research for the development of the country. What I wish to say is that universities need to be upgraded in order to meet the needs of the country.
To create a modern developed nation, it is important for the students who are pursuing higher education at various universities, degree colleges and colleges, including the University of Yangon, to have high-quality education and become wise, rational and good people. Only good people will become good citizens who will benefit the country and the world. The progress and decline of each nation and the entire world depend on the intelligence and wisdom of the people.
We cannot rely on natural resources to make our country modern, developed, and dignified, and be able to proudly stand side by side with other nations of the region. Sustainable development can only be achieved if it is built with human resources endowed with knowledge, wisdom, ideas and vision.
Moreover, all of us know that in our diverse multi-ethnic country, we are still struggling because of suspicion and mistrust among us.
We will be able to achieve the Democratic Federal Union, which we all aspire only if we are free from mistrust and have a mutual understanding.
That is why we have to prioritize making investments in education in order to create an educated, open-minded society. In doing so, we believe that the University of Yangon would be able to maintain its good tradition and produce high-quality human resources to participate in the various nation-building tasks of our country.
So, we must pay special attention to upgrading the University of Yangon, not only in this centenary occasion but also in the future. In order to strengthen these processes, working committees and working groups have been formed, and a Master Plan has been drafted and implemented. Our aim is to make the University of Yangon an Autonomous University.
It is learnt that the curriculum will be adapted to the changing world situation and revised to the needs of the country and that the University of Yangon would accelerate cooperation with international universities.
Plans are being implemented to create a better campus environment of the University of Yangon. Classrooms and student dormitories have been renovated. Officials are also working hard to make the university campus a clean, healthy and safe environment. Roads and sidewalks around the university have been renovated and widened, and the Adipadi Road has been renovated to make it more beautiful and green.
In doing so, we will try to conserve historic buildings which are very important for the University of Yangon.
The ceremony to launch the Centenary Celebrations of the University of Yangon was held on 2 December, 2019, at the Convocation Hall of the university.
Five objectives have been set for the Centenary Celebrations of the University of Yangon. They are:
(1) To maintain and promote it as an honorary university of Myanmar.
(2) To develop a high-quality university education system that will be compatible with the political, economic and social systems of the country.
(3) To produce high-quality human resources for education-based socio-economic development.
(4) To develop an education system that can efficiently promote lasting peace and national unity.
(5) To make it a world-class university that can benefit the country and the world.
During the one-year period; from December 2019, when the centenary of the University of Yangon was officially announced, to the end of December 2020, we plan to hold various events including discussions among alumni and new generation students, reading sessions of academic research papers, seminars, sports competitions, performances, art exhibitions, ethnic literary and cultural exhibitions, educational talk shows, educational exhibitions, literary and linguistic competitions, fashion shows, book fairs and funfairs. We have planned to make it a well-attended and joyous event from all aspects.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centenary Celebrations could not proceed as initially planned; only a virtual celebration can be held via videoconferencing. Events in which students’ paying homage to teachers have also been held. Daily newspapers published articles marking the 100th anniversary of the University of Yangon. The MRTV broadcast music concerts and traditional Ah Nyeint Performances of students to mark the 100th anniversary of the university. We also published booklets marking the 100th anniversary. Literary contests, such as the poetry competition and essay writing competition, were also held. Despite health-related restrictions and obstacles, we held various events as much as the circumstances allowed. I would like to thank all those who participated in these programmes.
No matter what difficulties or changes we have encountered, isn’t it a demonstration of the power of education in finding and implementing ways to achieve objectives?
On 1 December (today) 2020, the University of Yangon celebrates its 100th anniversary, and it has been able to endure many of the vicissitudes of life, overcome several obstacles and maintain its good traditions.
The first 100-year period of the University of Yangon has ended, and the second 100-year period has begun. We must continue working hard to maintain the great tradition of the University of Yangon, and make it a world-class university. I would like to conclude my congratulatory speech on the occasion of the Centenary Celebrations by praying that the University of Yangon will endure for thousands of years till the end of the world.
May you all have good health and well-being!
(Translated by Maung Maung Swe)