By Mohammed Hassan Loum
The President of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), Dr. Kakha Shengelia visited the Gambia last week from the 8th to the 10th May 2018.
Through the good offices of the Honorable Minister for Higher Education Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST), the IAUP president met with the Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia, Her Excellency Mrs. Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang.
Dr. Shengelia also held talks with MoHERST Minister, Mr. Badara Joof as well as with the following the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Gambia, the CEO of the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority (NAQAA), the Director of the Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI), the President of the American International University West Africa, the Vice Chancellor of the International Open University, and the Director of Operations of EUCLID University. The IAUP is a Non-Governmental Organization holding the highest ECOSOC consultation rights at the United Nations and formal consultation rights with the UNESCO.
The founding fathers of the IAUP were university leaders from the US, South Korea, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Liberia, who came together in 1964 to discuss the creation of a worldwide organization that would facilitate communication among higher education leaders from various countries, promoting friendship and collaboration between them. The IAUP’s foundational triennial conference was held in Oxford, England in June 1965, with the participation of about 120 representatives of universities from 21 countries. Over the years, IAUP has contributed to the strengthening of the international mission and quality of education of its member institutions. The rich series of international academic events and activities of the IAUP have attracted global attention and the respect of many world leaders.
Some of the official partners of the IAUP are the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU), European Universities Association (EUA), Association of Universities of Asia and the Pacific (AUAP), Qatar Foundation, The United Nations Department for Public Information (UN DPI), and The World Bank – Research Alliance for Development to mention a few.
During his meeting with the Vice President, Dr. Shengelia explained that his vision for the next 3 years as IAUP President is dedicated towards maximizing higher education opportunities for African countries, including the Gambia. He further emphasized his global mission to help improve the academic relevance and quality assurance standards of African Higher Education Institutions to become acclaimed centers of teaching and learning excellence, modeled along the lines of the best universities in Europe and the United States.
For this reason, his mission to the Gambia as well as other select African countries, is to embark upon a systematic research and documentation of the training and development needs of universities and colleges. Working in close collaboration with the Gambia’s Ministry of Higher Education, the IAUP President promised to make available free of charge multidisciplinary scholarships at graduate and post graduate levels for Gambian students to study in the Caucasus University in Georgia where he is also president, as well as in other universities and colleges all over the world who are affiliated with the IAUP. Dr. Shengelia also officially extended an invitation to the Vice President and the MoHERST Minister to visit his native Republic of Georgia and Caucasus University.
The Gambia’s Vice President, on behalf of His Excellency President Adama Barrow, the Gambian Government and its people, warmly welcomed the IAUP President to The Gambia and thanked him for his exemplary vision for Africa and the Gambia, especially at a time when higher education is most needed to assist African nations increase their youth employment and employability portfolios, while reversing the current trend of illegal migration to Europe. Madam Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang promised to work closely with the MoHERST Minister whom she praised as being very enthusiastic and passionate about the qualitative and quantitative improvement of higher education in The Gambia, so as to ensure that a planned official visit to Tbilisi, Georgia, becomes a fruitful reality. Such visit both parties agreed, could pave good opportunities for the establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation agreements and a sustainable bilateral relationship between The Gambia and Georgia.
At the age of 47, Dr. Kakha Shengelia is the youngest IAUP President and the first to be appointed to that position from an Eastern European country. Dr. Shengelia is also the first IAUP President to visit The Gambia. He holds an MA Degree from Tbilisi State, an MBA Degree in Management from the University of Hartford (Hartford, USA), and a PhD Degree from Georgian Technical University (Georgia). Dr. Shengelia was a Member of Parliament in Georgia, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Education, Science, Sport and Culture, and Committee of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Shengelia was also a Vice-Mayor of Tbilisi in Social Affairs.
Dr. Shengelia is awarded the Presidential Order of Excellence by the President of Georgia and the Ring of Honor by the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria. He is awarded by the Government of France for the popularization of French Language and Culture. Dr. Shengelia is an Honorable Doctor of Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. He is fluent in English, French, Russian and Turkish. The visit of the IAUP President was facilitated by EUCLID University’s Director of Operations in The Gambia (through the EUCLID Secretary General who is an official member of the IAUP since 2012).