The Dean of the William R. Tolbert College of Agriculture and Forestry at the University of Liberia, Dr. Roland Massaquoi, has warned that no student studying Agriculture will be allowed to graduate with only theoretical knowledge as had been happening in the past.
Dr. Massaquoi sounding the warning on November 15 at a brief ceremony marking the harvest of rice belonging to the college, emphatically stressed that UL Agriculture College now has a large rice field where students can make research and do more practical, but not much is being done to use the available field space.
According to Dr. Massaquoi, some students of the College feel that going to the field to practically exhibit what they learn in classroom will make them “dirty,” condition he said they as instructors and lecturers underwent before getting where they are.
“Students today only want to learn what is written down, but do not want to get in the swamp or on the land because they do not want to get dirty. Besides what they are taught in the classroom, they are not doing much practical to identify diseases that affect plant, or even soil nutrients that one can base his conclusion on to repeatedly cultivate a parcel of land or rotate crops if need be, but rely on downloaded materials to present and graduate. Such will not be the case anymore in the Agriculture College. No practical, no graduation for any student,” he emphasized.
Dr. Massaquoi used the occasion to mandate all instructors and students to use Fridays and Saturdays for practical, stressing that there will be no lesson on these days, and that any instructor who does not take students to the field will face the penalty.
He repeatedly stressed that students will have to go with their professors in the field to practically handle what they treat in Agriculture, noting, “We want students to do more practical, whether it is Soil Science, Pathology, Insects, they can come here on this field to do research about these things.”
He observed that much attention has not been given to practical in the Agriculture College but theory; something he blamed on challenges including some students’ reluctance to do practical, lack of laboratory equipment, and limited number of instructors.
The rice, the Agriculture College harvested was planted by local farmers through funding provided by the Rockefeller Foundation with assistance from other partners including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture.
He said varieties of rice are planted on the field and various conditions exist there that students need to find out to compare with what they learn in the classroom, but they are not making maximum use of it.
He indicated, “The Central Agriculture Research Institute (CARI) has given us some varieties of rice, Narika-1 to 9. The varieties are performing differently on the same soil, and this is interesting that students study what causing the difference on the rice field.”
“Now that Rockefeller has provided the fund and the rice field is available to students, they need to make better use of it to gather specimen of diseases affecting plant and do more on Soil Science; for the one day spent on Saturday for practical is not enough,” he stressed.
Giving the background of the funding that facilitated the planting of the rice, Dr. James S. Kiazolu, Principal Investigator of the College said Rockefeller provided US$360,000 to enable the college purchase Tractor, plowing machine, vehicles and laboratory equipment, many of which he said are being bought.
He also said the planting of rice came in order to help produce certain quantity that will be tested and planted at different times to help with food security.
Dr. Walter Wiles, Vice President for Institutional Development of UL, who represented the university president, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, lauded Rockefeller Foundation and the Agriculture College for successfully implementing the project.
Dr. Wiles said the provision of the fund by Rockefeller elated the college at a higher peak, considering that everything that existed in the college was destroyed and it was beginning anew.
He said this now provides the opportunity for students to see and examine whatever they are taught in the classroom, adding, “I hope we will all help to rebuild what we destroyed.”