Professor Goma. Here is a name almost every University of Zambia (UNZA) student and staff alike hold in high esteem; a name that belonged to a man who has come to be known as one of the greatest academicians to have ever lived in Zambia.
It is only on rare occasions that someone would mention Zambia’s greatest without giving credit to Professor Goma. This is probably because his dedication to his work yielded results that made a turning point for higher education in the country.
Times of Zambia writer Kelvin Kachingwe wrote:
“For most of his life, Professor Lameck Kazembe Haza Goma earned his bread and butter as an academician and witnessed a number of scholars on the graduation podium.”
Just like many notable Zambians we have come to know and respect, he too had a determined beginning.
Professor Goma was born in 1930 in the small town of Lundazi, Eastern Province in then Northern Rhodesia.
He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Science at the University of Fort Hare, South Africa and earned a Doctor of Philosophy at Cambridge University, United Kingdom.
Many writers have noted that he enjoyed the academic field so much that he became a lecturer. He taught Zoology at Makerere University, Uganda and the University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana.
Professor Goma joined the University of Zambia at its founding in 1966 and served as Vice Chancellor in 1969, becoming the first indigenous Zambian to hold that position.
He later held various government positions such as Minister of Higher Education and Foreign Affairs Minister among other portfolios in the field.
Eric Gondwe of the Zambian website noted that after retiring from politics, the Professor remained active writing scientific papers and addressing professional associations.
In 2002, then President Mwanawasa appointed him as Chancellor of UNZA, a position that was only held by the president.
Gondwe stated that the appointment was a milestone for Zambia because the president “freed the University from being under the Executive branch of government.”
One of Professor Goma’s lasting legacies is his Staff Development Fellowship Programme established in 1969 at UNZA. It gave many Zambians an opportunity to access higher education abroad.
The programme, which is still in existence, is accomplished by providing awards/fellowships to Zambian members of staff to enable them obtain academic and other qualifications needed to increase their experience.
Professor Goma was a man who believed in exchanging international education and emphasized its importance in his famous “The African University and Human Understanding” speech at the 7th UNZA Graduation Ceremony.
For someone has said, when strangers meet and have an opportunity to share ideas and experiences, friendship and understanding grow- differences among nations and backgrounds assume their place as part of the rich mosaic of human life,he said
As an academician, the Professor believed even some academic disciplines that people consider ‘useless’ are actually very useful. This is something most scholars who have cited him have come to appreciate, for he gave new light on the issue during a time when some disciplines were considered irrelevant. He emphasized the importance of every discipline, difficult or easy.
The usefulness, actual and potential, of the so-called useless disciplines must never be minimized. And, as I have said in the past, our universities must guard against the summary exclusion, from their activities, of those subjects or academic pursuits which may be thought to have no immediate manpower relevance,he explained.
Another one of his contributions to higher education was the book ‘The African Experience with Higher Education’, that he co-authored with fellow academicians J. Adayi and G. Johnson.
The book was reviewed by former Secretary to the Committee of Vice Chancellors Clive Wake, who said it addressed issues and problems with African universities with “honesty, frankness and toughmindedness.”
Professor Goma died in 2004 at age 74. Today as people remember how he lived, they appreciate how he turned things around in the education sector by honouring his legacy.
In recognition of his contributions to the institution, UNZA named its famous Goma lakes and Goma fields after him.
Southern African Institute for Policy And Research (SAIPAR) established the Goma Lecture Series, an annual lecture, in his honour. The institute stated that Professor Goma was a great scholar, an excellent researcher and a distinguished public servant.
First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda called him an effective Zambian.
Professor Goma laid such a strong foundation for Zambia’s higher education that has left people even in the present day inspired to build on. In this generation and the next, there is no doubt that his name will still be mentioned among the country’s greatest.