The student population of Nimba County has something to smile about this New Year as the African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) and the Nimba County Community College seal a MOU to collaborate in providing access to quality education for students in the county.
AMEU and NCCC over the weekend signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a Dual Degree program (DDP) with emphasis on the English and Mass-Communication disciplines. The program which is considered a pilot academic project will be offered on the campus of NCCC in Sanniquelie.
It presents a unique partnership between both institutions and provides a rare pathway for students enrolled at NCCC to earn quality, accessible, and affordable Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees. The DDP is expected to commence in September of this year with two baccalaureate degree programs from AMEU.
The MOU was signed on Friday, January 9, at the Ezzat Eid Resource Center on the Campuses of AMEU. The President of AMEU, Dr. Joseph T. Isaac and NCCC president, Dr. Yar D. Gonway-Gono, signed for their respective institutions.
The DDP is based on a formal agreement between AMEU and NCCC under which students will spend three to five years completing requirements of both institutions. Students will be awarded an associate degree from the community college and a bachelor from the University.
The program also has a vision to help transform the deplorable education system in the country and place it on a proper footing for advancement of the youth who make up over 60% of the nation’s population. The beneficiaries of this program, though beginning with Nimba students, are those young people outside the nation’s capital where such opportunities tend to be concentrated.
AMEU envisages an ambitious plan that is on the verge of transforming the education system of the country and provide quality education to a larger student population, many of whom are in the leeward counties, Dr. Isaac noted.
This will also help to alleviate the pressure on students who in an effort to come down to Monrovia to obtain higher education have to hustle for school fees, transportation, shelter and fend for themselves.
The AMEU president noted that he was happy and excited that the collaboration had gotten underway. He narrated that the DDP vision was conceived when he attended the World Innovative Summit for Education (WISE). Two months ago while on his way back from the US, he had the opportunity to attend the WISE in Qatar where educators from all over the world gathered to brainstorm about innovative ways to impact and reach a larger student population globally, said Dr. Isaac.
WISE is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation (QF). It spends millions of dollars each year on the WISE with organizers inviting thousands of educators from different countries.
“At the summit, we were challenged to become innovative about how we deliver education to our home institutions and think about new ways to develop education.
One way we decided to make use of the knowledge we gained at the WISE is through collaboration like this, Dr. Isaac said, adding , “unfortunately, leaders in education in Liberia think the best way is to collaborate with foreign institutions. “It is so easy for us to call up institutions that we attended or we know of, most times big names, and collaborate with them.”
“One thing we are not doing well is to collaborate internally, not just institution of higher learning, but with high schools as well. Even agencies and ministries of government do not collaborate as they should. There are a lot of things that we at the Universities and colleges can do to solve most of the problems we face in our education system when we collaborate with others,” declared Dr. Isaac.
So while on his way back from the summit he decided to email Dr. Gonway-Gono and Dr. Levi Zangai of Bassa Community College. “And I told them we can bring AMEU to your campuses, because nothing is stopping us, just our thinking. We can start small with one or two programs so that your students, when they graduate, will not have to come to Monrovia unless they want to or unless we are not offering the program of their interest.”
Dr Gono responded positively and the conversation started. She visited us first and we talked and she invited us over and they agreed to collaborate not just in the chosen disciplines, “but in other areas we are going to explore so that we can strengthen our capacities. So both faculties can have conversations and maybe we can do joint research and student exchange programs as well.
He admonished his colleagues from other universities and colleges in Liberia to take advantage of the WISE program. He noted that the summit is free of charge, Qatar Foundation pays for everything.
Dr. Gono, truly overwhelmed at the signing ceremony, commended her counterpart for conceiving the vision. “As an administration I have really been worried about the future of my students. So when this opportunity came I was really overjoyed,” she said.
She indicated that the students at NCCC are very enthusiastic about education. “Our students, I can say, are over ambitious. They are eager to learn. They always want to do something. I can’t rest since we began talking about this program because they are always in my office inquiring about when the program will begin, said Dr. Gono, who won best Community College president of 2014. NCCC was also chosen as the CM of 2014.
Meanwhile, the DDP is intended to help address two major national development issues. Firstly, the overarching problem of Liberia brain-drain and the need to decentralize socioeconomic development, especially access to higher education. The complexity and scale of the “brain-drain” exacerbated by the civil crisis and the current demand for decentralized social services requires integrated solutions to build around human development.
It has been well established that in order to accelerate effective and efficient service delivery across Liberia, government and its partners, with the private sector included, need to develop and strengthen the capacity of county and local institutions.