I am humbled and honored to deliver the 8th Convocation Address in front of such a dignified audience. It has been a trying, difficult journey to get to this historic moment in the annals of The University of The Gambia. Standing here at the podium, looking as far as the eye can see, and gazing at graduands in beautiful gowns, I cannot help but be emotional and elated at this beautiful sight!! You are indeed the hope and future of our nation and we return our heartfelt gratefulness to the Almighty God and to our Chancellor for making this scene a reality in our beloved nation, The Gambia!!
On behalf of the Interim Chairmen and Governing Councils of UTG and the Chairman of the Gambia College, hardworking faculty members and the entire University staff and community, I welcome all of you to this important function in the lives of our young ones, the University and College and indeed in our country. And, on behalf of the University and College Community, I particularly wish to welcome our Chancellor, the President of The Republic, H.E. Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh for presiding over this 8th Convocation Ceremony. To all our distinguished guests and colleagues, who have come from outside our borders to witness this occasion, we are pleased, touched and are most grateful for your collaboration, partnership, friendship, support and faith in the educational development of this country- The Gambia.
Today, I am happy to report, Seven hundred and twenty-six (726) of these students will be graduating with various bachelors degrees. Twenty (20) will be receiving their graduate/masters degrees – thirteen (13) MBAs in collaboration with Amity University in India through our e-learning programme and seven (7) with MSc in Responsible Tourism in collaboration with Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK. We also have three thousand one hundred (3,100) students who will be receiving diplomas and certificates from the Gambia College.
I wish to rejoice with all our graduating students and I congratulate you and your families on the successful completion of your studies. All of us are very proud to be associated with your success. It is our hope, indeed our trust that you will not only change the trajectories of your futures, but that of your families, communities, our beloved country The Gambia, Africa and humanity at large. Therefore, as we celebrate today, let us clap our hands to return gratitude to God and to thank profoundly, our Chancellor His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya, A.J.J. Jammeh for his boldness and vision to bring university education to the doorstep of every Gambian, irrespective of socio-economic standing.
Please allow me to give a brief overview of the last two years in the life of a University barely fifteen (15) years young, yet tasked to play a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of our country-The Gambia while deeply engaged with the modern world. I am glad to come back to you to report that the state of our University is stronger. The rich history of UTG has evolved from inspiration to impact and we are putting more emphasis on supporting teaching and research with a view to the long-term future of the University. Not one household in The Gambia can say that it has not been touched and positively impacted by the University of The Gambia.
UTG is fully cognisant that world changing discoveries and ideas have to be nurtured and is aware of the expectations placed on us to be a developmental University substantively addressing the needs of our society, fully engaged in innovations and coming up with solutions to the socio-economic problems facing The Gambia, Africa and beyond. A major initiative in the last few years has been the delivery of international academic excellence for the benefit of The Gambia, our region and beyond. Our key objective is to provide excellence in quality teaching and research, and to benchmark UTG against peer institutions. We are well on the way to achieving that objective. We continue to revamp and improve our academic structures, increase our course offerings and curriculum, and continue to recruit qualified academic and professionals.
Our focus on continuous improvements in the areas of teaching quality, research, programme delivery and learning outcomes ensures that we stay the course in our bid to put UTG on the path to become a World Class University. Equally, our efforts and commitment at the Gambia College continues to improve the supply of teachers in our School system, strengthen the quality of teacher education, nursing & Public Health professionals and Agriculture extension workers. The total number of students graduating at the University with various degrees, certificates and diplomas and at the Gambia College with various certificates in key need areas is a testament to our humble efforts. You are the fruits of our collective labor!
Update on the Faraba Banta Permanent
Campus and the University Village
The Government of The Gambia has already received funding valued at Fifty-Three Million US Dollars (US$53,000,000) for the construction of the first phase of the UTG’s permanent campus from Islamic Development Bank, BADIA, Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Fund, OFID/OPEC and the Government of The Gambia. Thus, the entire financing is in place to complete the first phase of the long awaited UTG campus at Faraba Banta, which will mainly cover civil engineering works for the construction of the different schools and departments, administrative buildings, services and social amenities, students’ and faculty housing, electrical and mechanical, communications, landscaping, drainage, internal roads and surrounding fences. This funding also covers the supply and installation of equipment and furniture for the University.
The Pan African Consultants and Engineers (PACE) from Tunisia have completed and presented the architectural drawings and plans for the ultramodern, futuristic campus to our Chancellor last month and we are happy to report the designs have received our Chancellor’s approval. The consultants succeeded in finally capturing and reflecting the vision and ideas of our Chancellor, designing for us a world-class campus infrastructure that is second to none and is certainly futuristic and will enhance and improve access, quality and rigor of learning, research and innovation for this country. The bid documents for the international tendering for the actual construction will be completed by Mid-2014. We anxiously look forward to the laying of the foundation stone very soon, God willing.
All our sciences, computing and Information Technology programmes have moved to the Science Park at Faraba Banta at the US$2 million University Village sponsored by the Peoples’ Republic of Venezuela, to implement our Chancellor’s vision to provide long-term support for the training of a new generation of Gambian scientists, engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, software developers and IT professionals; and put in place attractive incentives to employ and retain them. The key is to create an environment to generate new ideas appropriate to The Gambia’s situation and challenges and also to create a stock of skilled labor capable of technological innovations, which will be commoditized and monetized not only for the benefit of The Gambia but the world at large.
Demand for a University of The Gambia’s education is stronger due to improved student pride, motivation and attitude towards learning, improved staff and faculty morale, and an overall improvement in the image of the University and client goodwill. Most of our enrolment targets have been met and several exceeded. In fact, UTG has now doubled its total enrollment from about 1,800 (one thousand eight hundred) when I took office in 2009 to more than four thousand (4,000) in 2014.
The students we are admitting today, including those coming from the region, are also academically stronger with better results in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). We have also augmented our entry requirements to make sure that we accept not only stronger students, but also motivate secondary school students to work harder and ensure that a UTG education is highly sought after and respected.
UTG has started a tradition, a proud tradition for that matter, and that tradition is we continue to graduate students who go on to pursue degrees at the masters and Ph.D. levels in top-notch universities around the world such as Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University of Birmingham, University of Louisville, Howard, The Middle Eastern Technical University, Turkey, Bilkent University, Turkey, etc. Our graduates are found progressing, excelling and competing in reputable international organizations such as the IMF, UN, IDB, etc. UTG Alums who have earned PhD’s abroad are now faculty members in Universities and research institutes abroad. Locally, there is no organization of value in this country where you will not find UTG Alum’s and judged as amongst the best and most committed. Increasingly, UTG/UEP Alum’s are now progressing in their Professional ranks – Secretaries General & Ministers; Permanent Secretaries; Directors General; Commissioners; Lecturers; Magistrates; Entrepreneurs, Senior Bankers; etc. Wow… Ladies and gentlemen, I can keep going on! And, you know what, And… they said…. It will not work! That a UTG degree will not amount to anything and the UTG will be a failed project of His Excellency! How wrong the skeptics were and continue to be! Today, there is no Gambian household that is not touch positively by the UTG! Just look at you- our graduands…. Ladies and gentlemen, whoever thought that a day will come in the history of this country that here at July 22nd Square- we will witness this achievement and accomplishment and will be celebrating award of degrees and not march pass of School Children!
I for one who have marched here many times when I was a young student at Campama Primary School, here in Banjul, could not have imagined or dreamt that one day 1000’s will gather here at July 22nd and be celebrating a University graduation with Gambian students receiving academic degrees and certificates, let alone for me to be the Vice Chancellor of that University! Indeed, Allah is Great! This is all made possible by a unique, committed African leader poised to uplift the youths of this country through education, knowledge and hard work. We owe you a debt of gratitude and thank you Your Excellency for bringing the UTG to make it possible for a day such as this to be celebrated here at the July 22nd! It is indeed symbolic and historic, given the symbolism and history of this Square!
As our reputation grows, the University continues to attract students as well as faculty from all over the world as we continue to work hard at building partnerships and Linkages. I am pleased to note that UTG has welcomed faculty members and administrators from the United States, Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Canada, England, Senegal, etc.
More than twenty (20) institutions/universities have signed partnership agreements with UTG, with activities such as faculty and student exchanges, joint research projects, etc. already underway. We have a steady stream of students from St. Mary’s College in the USA who opt to spend a whole semester at UTG and we also have UTG students having the opportunity to go overseas as exchange students in the USA. The office of University Relations manages these partnerships.
Research at UTG is also taking shape as our capacities and capabilities improve incrementally. This is underlined by the forging of a number of partnerships with many local and international institutions, which have grown into mutually beneficial academic, research and consulting collaborations. We are proud to have competent faculty members who continue to contribute to many local studies via consulting and publishing peer reviewed research work with local content. In addition, at the individual faculty level, a large number of research links within Africa and throughout the world exists. These collaborations contribute to furthering education and research in The Gambia, as well as internationally.
Our new campus at Faraba, will enable UTG to commit and deliver on our institutional strategy for internationalization by engaging with the world thus enabling the execution of more international student exchange programmes with the associated increased revenue from international student fees, encourage collaborative innovation among academic units/Schools with partner institutions especially in the development of the consciousness of our youth, their patriotism, ethics and leadership.
UTG has also launched new programmes of studies with a Bachelors in Tourism, in collaboration with Teesside University in the UK and a Masters in Responsible Tourism with Leeds Metropolitan University, also in the UK. Though UTG’s strategy is to focus and strengthen our undergraduate teaching, the School of Graduate Studies and Research at UTG, which was launched in 2009, continues to grow. UTG offers an M.A. in African History; M.A. in French (in collaboration with University of Limoges in France); M.Sc. in Nursing; and an M.A. in Responsible Tourism (in collaboration with Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom). We also have a digital campus programme with UNESCO Pole de Dakar offering a Post graduate Diploma in Sectoral Analysis and Management of the Education System with plans to upgrade it to an M.SC.; an MBA in International Business with Amity University in India; and a Masters in Mathematical Modeling with University of Gaston Berger.
In partnership with the University of Iowa, USA, UTG’s School of Medicine & Allied Health Science’s Department of Public and Environmental Health in early 2011 was awarded a competitive grant from the United States’ National Institute of Health (NIH) in Washington, DC, for the establishment of a Multi-disciplinary Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) hub at UTG’s Department of Public and Environmental Health. This young regional research center continues to attract research grants with a recent award to study occupational injuries. We also recently won a competitive grant from our German colleagues through WASCAL and have the UTG designated as one of the Centers of Excellence for Climate Change Education. We now are currently running a Masters Degree in Climate Change Education at the UTG North Bank Campus at Farefenni.
Yes… ladies and gentlemen, UTG now has a North Bank Campus located in Farafenni. And Insha Allah we will gradually have campuses at each region of this country. That is the wish of our Chancellor and we have already set the ball rolling! We welcome support from our partners and friends to realize this important objective of the UTG.]]>