The chairman of the Statutory Committee on education at the House of Representatives, Professor Johnson G.N. Gwaikolo, says food security remains the gateway to good health, innovation and active life, indicating that the quality in higher education will bring food security to Liberia and Africa at large.
Serving as guest speaker, Prof. Gwaikolo made the assertion on Friday, April 26 at the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM)’s Symposium on Liberia Higher Education under the theme: “Promoting Higher Education in Liberia,” when he said higher education or extended agriculture training in school will increase food security for the continent.
The forum brought together Rev. Dr. Herman Browne, president of Cuttington University (CU); Dr. Emmett Dennis, former president of the University of Liberia (UL); Prof. Ansu Sonii, Liberia’s Education Minister; Mawine G. Diggs, director general of National Commission on Higher Education in Liberia; Madam Leymah R. Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa; as well as presidents and vice chancellors of various member universities in Africa.
Prof. Gwaikolo said institutions must shift their thought process towards agriculture education that considers market participation and value addition, adding, “studies have shown that the problem of food is one of the greatest challenges of mankind and has been pronounced for developing countries, including Liberia.”
“Institutions must look at preparing students not to only produce agricultural products abundantly, but to add value to it and market same. Farmers or agriculturists must be trained to know that pork sausages are made out of hog meat; and adapting of curricula and syllabi to prepare students to take on these additional knowledge and skills is worthwhile,” Prof. Gwaikolo, a former president of the United Methodist University (UMU) said.
He said if Liberians realize today that the country has been bequeathed to us for our habitation and betterment, then it corroborates our proposition that it behooves everyone to determine a higher education that is ideal and relevant for all Liberians.
“We do not demand a special type of education extraneous to our planet; suggested in this argument is the desire for higher education that will render us Liberians a serious people. Needed most is higher education that undermines complacency while simultaneously rejuvenating a competitive spirit that leads us to look beyond our border and behold Abidjan, Accra and Abuja, [and] realize that we are lagging far, very far behind in almost everything,” Prof. Gwaikolo said.
Prof. Gwaikolo said this year’s forum by RUFORUM remains ideal and provides Liberians and Africa in general the platform on which to determine the education-the higher education that is appropriate, realistic and workable for Liberia and also higher education that will infuse in Liberians the genuine love for country.
“Inarguably, Liberia is a century-plus older than almost all African countries. Interestingly, she sits on the lowest rung of socio-politico echelon and ranks the least in education only, with a very few other nations. This reality validates the theme of today and renders even more cogent the need to promote higher education in Liberia,” said Prof. Gwaikolo.
Prof. Gwaikolo said the pregnancy and of illiteracy and unfavorable status of higher education in Liberia warrants a concerted and sustained effort as the only means to salvage the system of education in Liberia from mediocrity, with a particular emphasis on the higher education program.
Prof. George Y. Kanyama, RUFORUM’s Board Chair and vice chancellor of the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi, called on presidents of Liberian universities to utilize the opportunity to network and make Liberia a great place.
Mawine G. Diggs, Director General of National Commission on Higher Education in Liberia, expressed gratitude to the organizers of the RUFORUM, which will help improve Liberia’s education development.
“This is an exciting moment for Liberia, looking at the region. With emphasis on higher education, I strongly believe that career education will develop Liberia and the continent. Additionally, we must ensure that our curriculum and programs work in line with the job market,” Madam Diggs said.
She called on the participants to engage into more dialogue and conversation, because education remains the currency of the future, especially the youthful population of Africa.
Prof. Ansu Sonii, Liberia’s Education Minister, said working together will ensure that the Africans see the development they wish for. “I’m very convinced that universities can begin the change we want to see years ahead. In the absence of developed minds, there will be a liability on the continent,” Prof. Sonii said.
Professor Adipala Ekwamu, executive secretary, RUFORUM, said African universities are well positioned to contribute to the development of Africa and RUFORUM will link UL and other African universities for the development of Africa.
“We will work with the government and train students in different universities around Africa. RUFORUM will support UL to establish graduate programs to empower students in technology, agriculture and engineering,” Prof. Ekwamu added.