Honourable Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST) represented by his Permanent Secretary, His Excellency, The Ambassador for the Republic of Senegal, Former Rector of the University of Dakar (UCAD) and my colleague and brother, Prof. Salieu Ndiaye; Colleagues from the University of Gaston Berger, St Louis (Ndar), Senegal, DVC, Deans of Schools, Heads of Department, faculty, graduands and general student body, I want to wish you all wonderful afternoon.
We have all converged here this morning to witness an important ceremony marking yet another historical and groundbreaking achievement in the academic trajectory of this university, our University: The University of The Gambia (UTG). We are here to witness the completion of the very first cohort of academics who have just completed and defended their Masters theses in Mathematical Modelling, thanks to the expertise and unflinching commitment of our academic colleagues from the University of Gaston Berger, one of our most trusted educational partners in the sub-region. This now adds to the continuing and growing graduate programs at the UTG. This new Msc program is now added to the Masters degree program implemented and on going at the UTG, MA in African History, MA in French Language, Msc in Msc in Public & Environmental Health, Msc in Education and Sectoral Analysis and Msc in Climate Change & Education.
The fact that this ceremony is occurring within days of the celebration of our 50th Independent Anniversary, is indeed a testament to the strides we have made in higher education in The Gambia. A nation, which did not have a university during the colonial era and almost 34 years post-independence!! We have reason to celebrate and return gratitude to Allah and our Chancellor and Founder.
“Why a Master’s in Mathematics?” I presume this is the first question most of you would ask if you were required to do so. I will definitely give an answer but not without relating a short historical background to this important initiative. When I assumed the mantle of Vice-Chancellorship of this University in 2009, after consultation with our Founder and Chancellor, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, one of my first assignments was to find out what was and is still responsible for the appalling student intake in the Division of Physical and Natural Sciences at the University and why the WAEC Examination Reports in the last ten years has been showing a steady decline in performance in science and mathematics.
I continue to observe challenges faced by our senior secondary schools to recruit and retain quality qualified teachers in the STEM area, especially Gambian’s. Qualified science and mathematics teachers are in very short supply across the country. For this country to shift her economy positively and optimise her productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, we must aggressively develop our youthful populations in large numbers in the STEM area. This must include increasing the number of qualified teachers and lecturers and researchers in the STEM area.
Certainly, my immediate impulse is to find urgent interventions given the poor state of affairs in the STEM area. And we did just that! My colleagues at the UTG and I saw wisdom in taking Mathematics as an entry point in our drive and intervention to curb the sciences and mathematics challenge the country continues to face. We believe, probably just the same way as you do, that a strong background in Mathematics, the bedrock of all sciences, will help the learner develop a passion for the sciences.
I do not need to convince anyone here about the importance of science and technology in transforming the socio-economic trajectory of a nation. The Gambia has an important role to play in the League of Nations and we fervently believe the University of The Gambia is an important player in making sure we assume our rightful position in the shortest possible time.
We are very fortunate to have an ambitious and audacious Chancellor and Founder, His Excellency, Sheikh Prof. Dr. Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, who is always ready to give moral and financial support to our programmes as long as they are in line with the ideals and aspirations of the Second Republic.
We are equally fortunate to have partners such as the University of Gaston Berger under the stewardships of the then Rector, Professor Mary Teuw Niane, now Minister of Higher Education and his successor Professor Lamin Gueye as well as the current Rector, Professor Baydallaye Kane.
They have amply demonstrated they are true brothers and committed academics to the importance of South-South cooperation, by agreeing to send Lecturers to the University of The Gambia with the sole purpose of teaching our Masters students in Applied Mathematics with a concentration in Mathematical Modelling. We cannot thank enough our colleagues from the UGB Mathematics department, who in the last three years have been quietly driving back and forth from Saint Louis( Ndar), Senegal to our campus to lecture, nurture and mentor our graduate students. We are most grateful!
Msc Candidates and Distinguished Guests
To you the Msc in Applied Mathematics with a concentration in Mathematical Modeling cohort of this pilot programme, I wish to heartily congratulate you on your resounding success albeit the numerous challenges to reach the finishing line; defend your theses and receive your attestations of completion today. We are proud of you!!
However, I would like to caution you, having a “Masters” is one of the most misunderstood nomenclatures. It does not mean you have mastered it all. You will not even master it all when you earn a PhD in the subject! You will soon realise and be humble that, you still have loads to learn! There will always be room for improvement, and a very big one, indeed.
Therefore, you are expected to continue to work hard to prove to both near and far away communities that you have indeed earned this prestigious degree and will utilise it for the socio-economic development of our nation and the world at large. We expect you all to continue to pursue your PhD degree programs in Mathematics soonest possible. You will equally realise as soon as you complete your PhD degrees in Mathematics that the real learning f Mathematics will just begin and that learning never stops and you will be expected to continue the study of Mathematics for the rest of your lives.
In addition, please do not forget you have been trained for a purpose: to help build the mathematical capacities of our youth in this country and beyond, in order to build their passion for the sciences, for science is central to our country’s development aspirations.
The University of The Gambia (UTG), under my Vice-Chancellorship, will continue to encourage any student who wants to come to The UTG to read the sciences. In that regard, the Senate ( the academic policy making body ) has supported the initiative and aggressive intervention to problem solve our national challenge in the STEM area.
I proposed to Senate our resolve to immediately (starting this semester, Spring 2015) extend UTG STEM scholarships to all current/continuing students in the Division of Physical and Natural Sciences (DPNS) majoring in our Bsc in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, who do not currently hold a Scholarship (MoHERST Government Scholarship or the Gambia Ports Authority Science Scholarship or others). This will remove the financial challenges often faced by our students pursuing a degree in the STEM area as long as these continuing students maintain a CGPA of 2.5.
Further, in the coming 2015-2016 academic year, September 2015 entry class and Spring 2016, January 2016 entry class, the UTG will also extend UTG STEM merit scholarships to the best ten students admitted and enrolled in each of the following UTG undergraduate degrees:
1- Bsc in Mathematics
2- Bsc in Physics
3- Bsc in Chemistry and
4- Bsc in Biology and
Best five students pursuing an undergraduate degree in the following areas:
5- Bsc degree in Computer Science
6- Bsc degree in Information Systems
Once again, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh and Gaston Berger University for making this pilot programme in Mathematical Modelling a reality.
I would also like to thank the acting dean of the School of Arts and Sciences (Dr Pierre Gomez) for coordinating and piloting this programme to a successful conclusion.
Thank you for your kind attention. God Bless!!]]>