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The Embassy pays tribute to Professor Father Michael J. Kelly SJ

The Embassy pays tribute to Professor Father Michael J. Kelly SJ

This January 15 marks one year since the passing of our friend Prof. Fr. Michael Kelly.

Shortly before his passing, he wrote to a friend "... Unashamedly I can say that I am excellent myself, not a complaint under the sun, apart from the slowness of old age...." 

Professor Father Michael J. Kelly was born in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland in 1929. He studied at University College Dublin and earned a B.A. in Maths and Mathematical Physics in 1952, both with first class honours. He went on to attain his degree in philosophy in 1955.  Shortly thereafter, he travelled to Zambia and began teaching at Canisius College in Southern Province. It was a measure of his standing in Zambia, and his commitment to the country, that he became a Zambian citizen in April 1968.

With his warm-hearted, compassionate and respectful personality, one can’t mention Fr. Kelly without talking about his learning and academic brilliance. From the 1990s, at the advent of HIV/AIDS Fr Kelly took a keen interest in the educational dimensions of the epidemic. His work in this area contributed greatly to the knowledge base in not only Zambia or Africa, but worldwide. Fr. Kelly wrote and acted vigorously on behalf of better educational opportunities for girls. He believed that the advancement of women and girls was important for social, economic and development progress in Zambia

Fr. Kelly’s work in this area gained recognition from both President of Ireland H.E. Michael D. Higgins, and former President of Zambia H.E. Kenneth Kaunda.

Over the years Fr. Kelly worked very closely with the Irish Government in informing our policy on HIV/AIDS. To pay respect to Fr. Kelly’s work in this area, the Irish Government established an annual lecture series on HIV/AIDS in his name – the Professor Michael Kelly Lecture on HIV/AIDS, often timed to coincide with World AIDS Day (1st December).

In addition to the value of his work to Irish Aid, his legacy is still evident in the workings of the Embassy in Lusaka today. Through the development of our new six year Mission Strategy, where we will prioritise a focus on young people supporting the strengthening of education and skills for employment opportunities, Fr. Kelly remains an inspiration.


University of Zambia hosts Conferment of the Higher Doctorate Degree upon Prof. Michael J. Kelly

The University of Zambia, an institution where Fr. Kelly held prominent positions including Pro-Vice-Chancellor/Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and Professor of Education, held a Posthumous Award Ceremony on December 9 in his memory. Fr. Kelly held several other professional positions in the Zambian education sector throughout his career.

During his time at the University, Fr. Kelly was closely involved with the development of education in Zambia. He participated in the educational reform movement in the 1970s, contributed to the production of the 1991 policy report Focus on Learning, and in 1996 the development of the current education policy “Educating Our Future” which is still in use today.

On the ceremony day itself, Ambassador Carr spoke of her delight that the University had decided to honour him by re-naming one of the lecture halls in his name. She mentioned how Fr. Kelly considered education as the single most significant investment for any nation, and that the Embassy shares this conviction.  Ambassador Carr thanked the University for their foresight and wisdom in conceiving the award.

In keeping this vision alive, the Embassy is working with the University to support renovation and maintenance of the Lecture Theatre. In memory of Fr. Kelly, the Embassy is in discussions with the University to identify a new Fellowship Award in his honour, for study at Masters Level in Ireland.



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