Building A Culture of Togetherness (part 1)

- Advertisement -

The Law Faculty at Kanifing now boasts of a new 3-storey multipurpose building, which will be used by our growing law student body.  This facility will also house UTG’s Legal Clinic and our Masters in Law Programme which will be developed in collaboration with other universities. These two major buildings are funded entirely by UTG from our modest tuition revenues.

Let me quickly touch on the Integration of Tertiary Institutions into the University of The Gambia. The integration process is progressing smoothly, yet has been deliberately gradual to ensure we build on synergies and get the necessary ”buy-in” and support. The legal instruments are being consolidated by the Government’s legal arm, which, will be presented to the Legislature (National Assembly) in due course. This integration, we sincerely hope, will ensure the rationalization and optimal use of scarce physical, human and financial resources, thereby having a greater impact on capacity building, employment creation and socio-economic development. 

Please allow me to update this esteemed gathering about our Human Resource and Succession Planning strategies at UTG. The UTG boasts of a total staff count of four hundred and sixty-four (464).  Our academic staff strength is two hundred and thirty-three (233) Full-Time and eighty-five (85) Adjuncts or Part-Time Lecturers. The UTG also has one hundred and forty-six (146) Administrative and support staff. 

- Advertisement -

It is important to note that there is an aggressive effort by the UTG’s administration to encourage and hire top graduates as future academics and administrators. Some of these teaching/graduate assistants hired by UTG have been deployed to teach at the Gambia College. Majority of the hired teaching assistants are given priority to pursue Masters and PhD degrees when scholarships are available. We are collaborating with the European Union’s Karibu and Erasmus Mondus Projects for graduate scholarship. This continues to bring many opportunities for our students. Some of the graduating class not with us today are being supported to pursue Postgraduate programs through these projects.

The salaries of the academic faculty in particular and administrative staff, especially senior administrators, need urgent improvement to attract the best. We are therefore working hard to upgrade the academic faculty and administrative staff salaries to what prevails in the market place and at peer universities in the ECOWAS region. This commitment, in addition to equipping and stocking laboratories and libraries; and rehabilitating current learning space and building few more classroom blocks will make a huge difference towards our efforts to transform and realign UTG towards the path of a World Class University. 

Please allow me to get to the theme of today’s convocation address: Building a Culture of Togetherness. The past two academic years of 2011-2012, were difficult years with the UTG receiving negative press, which threatened the integrity and sanctity of the academe. Institutional change and transformation to put UTG on the path towards becoming a world class university is difficult and differences of opinion should not be personalized and we should all learn to respect one another and understand the other’s posture even if we do not agree with his/her position.

I believe that cordiality and mutual respect beget cordiality and mutual respect; together their sum builds collegiality.  Collegiality is important in fostering institutional status, maintaining academic freedom, prompting individual pride, and as a method for information exchange. My administration’s focus is how to maintain collegiality and how to prevent its disruption, i.e., how to strengthen and maintain internal relationships and foster the attitude that ”we are in this together.” In effect, each member of the  UTG  fraternity  must  work  actively  to  maintain collegiality  or  it  will  disappear  and  be  replaced  by confrontation. UTG is greater than her Vice Chancellor, faculty, staff or students. UTG is an institution, which will outlive all of us, and it has a central role to play in the socio-economic and cultural development of our nation and humanity. Therefore, the need to cultivate collegiality and build an academic culture anchored on teaching, research and service to our communities cannot be overemphasized. UTG should be in the news for breakthroughs, innovations and cutting-edge research, not personalised attacks and allegations.

Thus, to our graduating students of 2012 and 2013, my advice to you as you go into the world to leave your mark on the sands of time is to build the culture of togetherness.  The success of the person sitting next to you does not diminish nor take away from yours.  As a people we have to learn to work together and to be cognizant of the fact that together we are more powerful and more formidable.  Infighting, rivalry and maligning one another ends up creating a toxic environment in our homes and workplaces and stifles socio-economic progress.

This is a message I have heard our Chancellor, His Excellency, speak about on several occasions. However, the centrality and poignancy of this message became more evident in the last two years as I, as your Vice Chancellor, witnessed an assault on my integrity, my credentials and my persona, in order to derail me and my colleagues at UTG from working hard to build a world-class university.   However, I decided to make this the theme for this year’s Convocation after reading the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013 “The Rise of the South:  Human Progress in a Diverse World”.  Please allow me to quote:

“Global challenges such as climate change and stressed ecosystems require countries to cooperate even more than before.  While the rise of the South is reshaping power relations in many important respects, hard-won gains in human development will be more difficult to protect if cooperation fails and difficult decisions are postponed… Furthermore, the promotion of social cohesion and social integration, a stated objective of development strategies of countries such as Brazil, is based on evidence of the positive development impact of a unified society.  More equal societies tend to do better in most measures of human development … than do unequal societies.  This finding is borne out by studies in both developed and developing countries.  These society-level aspects of development have been under-appreciated in past conceptualizations of development but are proving to be essential elements of any viable and desirable long-term development path”. (Page 2- 3)

So you hear it from international panel of experts; we must learn to build the culture of togetherness by building teams, seeking knowledge, engaging in innovations, building powerful institutions and becoming agents of progress. Your generation can build this culture by each of you individually deciding to embrace this mantra at home and at work.        

The desire to transform universities to world class is now gaining currency all over the world as nations are coming to grip with the fact that economic growth and global competitiveness are increasingly driven by knowledge and that universities play a key role as incubators of ideas and knowledge.

 

We are therefore poised to transform UTG into a model world-class 21st Century university, which is recognised worldwide for its academic excellence, vibrant academic culture and diverse University community; and for the quality and impact of her scientific research, teaching and service. UTG aims to be ranked amongst the world’s truly great universities setting standards for the creation and dissemination of knowledge in service to her community and the world.  UTG aims to become a university where staff will find the highest levels of fulfillment and satisfaction in an atmosphere of intellectual excitement and academic freedom, guided by international standards of intellectual excellence; a university that will advance knowledge through the innovative use of technology and collaborate to educate and support a student body that is recognized for its scholarship and integrity equipped with the knowledge and skills for self-actualisation and national development.  

 

We want our graduates to be among the most sought after by the world’s best employers and who become leaders in their communities and accomplished professionals in their chosen line of work.  UTG wants to be known for her public engagement, and productive partnerships with leading institutions throughout the world and where the quality of our physical facilities and campus will be consistent with world-class status; a university that will help The Gambia transition to a knowledge economy and help solve our most challenging social, cultural, technical, and health-related problems.

Please allow me to conclude by thanking our sponsors. Chief among them is HE, the President, our Chancellor for daring to dream big, for being our greatest advocate and always making time to offer valuable advice and wisdom to chart the direction of UTG. We thank you for your generosity and for subsidizing our graduation expenses, for sponsoring hundreds of students at UTG and for the academic prizes. His Excellency has also relieved us of the difficult and costly task of feeding such a large and esteemed group. We thank you, Sir. 

My sincere gratitude also goes to MOHERST, MOBSE, Ministry of Works, and the entire university community including the tertiary institutions – Gambia College, MDI and GTTI. Our special thank you goes to our University partners and Scholars who have travelled far to witness this important day. I thank everyone who has worked to make today a reality and a success including the event organizers and caterers!! We appreciate all the support we continue to receive from the entire Gambian population and friends of the UTG abroad.

Please allow me to close with four sound bites of words of advice to our graduands. As you match out of July 22nd Square, as educated citizens of this and many other nations, I hope you will continue to carry forward the spirit of UTG and all that we have worked so hard to teach you. Your generation is going out to face the world at a very critical time. The challenges humanity faces such as environmental degradation, warming, civil wars, terrorism, financial meltdown and the need for re-architecturing of the global financial system, etc. are unprecedented. Yet, the power of knowledge generated in universities such as ours, has become more potent than ever before. Each and every one of you must therefore take responsibility to become part of the solution. 

Our Chancellor, HE Sheikh Professor Dr Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh has planted the seeds for a Science Park and our state-of-the-art permanent campus to engage us to play our rightful role as the hub where innovations take place. We are expected to become great innovators, not only addressing the urgent needs of our people but humanity at large. Here, at UTG we are expected to become architects deeply engaged in building a better and more egalitarian future, therefore:

1. Continue to espouse the values we inculcate in you of civility, tolerance and the courage to stand up for what you believe, all informed by the highest standards of integrity and mutual respect, building and nurturing a culture of togetherness. 

2. We need more teachers in our primary and high schools and at the University. I have been informed that if the foreign teachers packed up and left our shores our primary and secondary educational system will collapse. I therefore urge you to seriously consider becoming part of the teaching fraternity.

3. We taught you to become agents of change. Therefore, as you enter the job market, do not limit yourself to just finding a job. Start businesses or community based organizations, reach out to your communities and let your social entrepreneurial spirits soar!! 

4. Join hands with His Excellency to be in the forefront in the fight against poverty. Poverty, which takes the promise of a whole life ahead and stunts it into a struggle for day-to-day survival.  Poverty, which provides a breeding ground for the ideas and actions of those who promote conflict and terror. Poverty and hopelessness can lead to exclusion, anger, and even conflict. Therefore, whenever you find yourself in a position of conflict to act selfishly for your own benefit at the cost of this nation, remember you are UTG ambassadors – tasked to build a culture of togetherness. 

5. However, a quote that resonates well with me, I’ll share. Please take note! I learned that the only way you’re going to get anywhere in life is to work hard at it. Whether you’re a musician, a writer, an athlete, or a businessman, there is no getting around it. If you do, you’ll win. If you don’t, you won’t. – Bruce Jenner

6. Second, I share a quote that resonates well with me from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole Soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

* This reflects our chancellor’s efforts, commitment and foresight to found and establish the UEP and the UTG and now many from our country and beyond continue to earn degrees, certificates and diplomas in all academic disciplines and the University of the Gambia continue to match forward towards the path of World Class University.

 

7. Another quote that I will share with you is, Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe. Gail Devers

 

8. Lastly, I will also share this quote I got from President Obama- Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes Patience, it takes Commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you Learn from it; whether you choose to Persevere- Barack Obama

Keep the UTG’s flag flying high and demonstrate to the world that this is Africa’s Century!!  Class of 2012 & 2013, Once again, Congratulations and go and go out of our doors to Serve God, Your Communities; Our Country and Humanity!  God bless you and your earned degrees!!

]]>

- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

‘BARROW SHOULD RESPECT 3 YEARS AND THEN…’

By Lamin Cham Bou Jarju, a former prominent member of the United Democratic Party who crossed over to the APRC shortly before the December 2016...