University of Liberia Hosts 23 African University Heads of in Monrovia
Monrovia – Twenty-three African universities’ heads are presently in the country holding meetings with Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, President of the University of Liberia and heads of other higher learning institutions on ways at improving higher education in Liberia.
Report by Alaskai Moore Johnson, [email protected]
This one-day event, which is a side meeting of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Board Meetings also taking place in Monrovia, will be a national symposium on higher education and will be jointly hosted by the University of Liberia, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, the National Commission on Higher Education and the RUFORUM Secretariat.
Dr. Weeks is hosting her colleagues from 12 countries on the continent. The 23 presidents/vice-chancellors, principals and deans are from highly ranked African universities that are offering academic programs in agriculture, engineering, science and technology. They are in to Liberia to attend their 18th Executive Board Meetings.
The Meetings, which are expected to be held from April 24th to 26th in Monrovia has gathered delegates from Benin, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.
Speaking Wednesday, April 24, at the formal opening of the Meetings, Dr. Weeks, who is the Deputy Chair of the RUFORUM Executive Board, welcomed her guests and gave some historical perspectives of the continental body.
“We are glad that Liberia is hosting these distinguished individuals, who are heads of universities to be here and to network, to interact with Liberian heads of universities and government officials to talk about the need to work together to build capacity as a team. Nobody knows what is better for Africa than ourselves,” Dr. Weeks stated.
She also used the occasion to speak about opportunities the organization provides for its members. Dr. Weeks disclosed that eight UL faculty members are presently doing their PhD as a result of UL’s affiliation with RUFORUM.
“Governments can’t do what needs to be done alone so partners need to help government meet the needs of its citizens,” she added.
Also speaking, Prof. George Kanyama-Phiri, RUFORUM Chairman, spoke of the “very warm welcome” that has been accorded him and the rest of the delegation since their arrival.
Prof. Kanyama-Phiri told Dr. Weeks that she has set a standard, which he thinks will be “very hard to maintain.” He, however, promised they will do all to meet the standard.
He spoke of how RUFORUM, a consortium, which has grown from 10 universities in 2004 to over now 105.
“We have challenges but with the support of the University of Liberia and other members of RUFORUM, we believe that we will make more steps ahead with the idea to capacitate this continent in the area of agriculture.”
Also speaking, Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, RUFORUM’s Executive Secretary, who has been with the secretariat much longer than Dr. Weeks and Dr. Kanyama-Phiri, stressed that the founding spirit of the organization was to promote networking among universities on the continent.
Prof. Ekwamu said the organization’s secretariat, which is based in Uganda, works primarily to service the network of universities to make sure all the member universities are working together to support the development agenda of the continent.
“Second, to make sure that we as universities will all agree to support human capacity development for our continent; and we hope that through this networking together, we will train, develop the new generation of scholars, who love and believe in our continent because the responsibility to develop our continent lies in ourselves,” Prof. Ekwamu added.
According to him, they have gathered in Liberia to define RUFORUM’s next course of actions to support development processes at national, regional and continental levels.
He further stated that their gathering also presents an opportunity for the organization to join hands with other universities in Liberia to see how best RUFORUM can help strengthen the higher education sector in the country.
Prof. Ekwamu disclosed that three years ago former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had invited them to come back again to Liberia and they are back in Liberia.
The UL became a member in 2017 of RUFORUM, which was established in 2004 by 10 universities in East and South Africa.
RUFORUM’s vision is to achieve “vibrant transformative universities to catalyze sustainable inclusive agricultural development to feed and create prosperity for Africa”. As part of its drive on transformation of higher education and mobilizing the role of private sector in higher education in particular to facilitate entrepreneurship development and increasing the delivery of hands on exercise and the need to respond to disadvantaged and post-conflict states higher education needs, RUFORUM is undertaking a mission to Liberia. Liberia is one of the post-conflict countries in Africa, that years of civil unrest crippled its higher education sector. The country is in dire need of rebuilding its higher education sector and the broader education value chain. Understanding the depth of these needs as well as mobilizing key actors including the Government of Liberia and its private sector is an important undertaking that RUFORUM is committed to participate in.