Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of The Gambia and
the Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, Adama Barrow
Your Excellency, the Vice President, Dr. Isatou Touray
Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly
His Lordship, the Chief Justice
Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service
Hon. Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and other Cabinet Members Present
Hon. Members of the National Assembly
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corp
Coordinator General, OIC-COMSTECH, Prof. Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhary
Chairman and Members of the University Interim Governing Council & Past Governing Councils
Mayors, Governors and Sefolous
Service Chiefs, Managing Directors and Heads of Agencies
Venerable Religious Leaders
Distinguished invited Vice Chancellors and Scholars, and Colleague Faculty Members and Senior Management of The UTG
Staff and Students of the University of The Gambia
Friends of UTG
Members of the Media
It is a great honour and privilege to welcome you all to this historic event marking the 13th Convocation ceremony of the University of The Gambia for the award of degrees, diplomas and certificates.
I give Allah the Almighty the glory for the opportunity that I have to stand before you today to deliver my fourth convocation address as Vice Chancellor of UTG. On behalf of the Council, the Senate, Management, staff and students of UTG, I welcome you all to this auspicious occasion.
I am specially honored to have the Chancellor of the University; His Excellency Adama Barrow presiding for the fourth time as the Chancellor of UTG. I warmly welcome Your Excellency and your entire Cabinet. I also welcome all distinguished eminent scholars and international guests who traveled long distances to be here with us.
The presence of the Hon. Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Mr Badara Joof, is highly appreciated for his kind and consistent support to the UTG.
We equally appreciate all the Government functionaries and the Graduands
We have assembled here today to observe the academic tradition of conferring degrees and other academic awards, which we refer to as the Convocation ceremony. This annual event is the climax of several years of hard work by students and commitment by the academic staff of the University. It is with deep regret that because of the COVID-19 surge on the second wave, we have to restrict the attendance which is beyond our control.
Your Excellency and Chancellor, before I deliver my address, I am saddened to announce that; we begin our convocation proceedings on a somber note, as we have lost two dynamic academic staff during the period under review. The deceased staff are: Mr. Landing Jaiteh-Mathematics Lecturer and Mr. Gabriel Ndow-Physics Lecturer. May I request you, Sir, and the whole convocation, physically gathered here, to observe a minute of silence as we remember them.
Your Excellency and Chancellor, the year 2020, have been a year unlike any other. A year of firefighting to contain a global pandemic and to continue our vital research, teaching and administration under new and challenging circumstances. I would like to recognize the enormous effort that colleagues have made to adapt to novel ways of working when COVID hit The Gambia, and how rapid and successful our adaptation has been. You, the Graduands and the staff have displayed the indomitable spirit of UTG. The spirit of resilience and the commitment in pursuit of excellence. Even amid ravaging effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, you did not falter. You remained steadfast until we have accomplished the mission.
Amid the anxiety, fear and uncertainties COVID-19 brought along, the UTG proved its worth as a pacesetter, rose to the occasion, to ensure the continuation of teaching and learning. We delivered lectures through online technology based platforms such as Google G-Suite package which includes Google classroom, Google Hangout and Google Jam board to over 6000 students. We provided all full time and part-time lecturers with unlimited internet data cards and dongles to facilitate the delivery of lectures. In a similar vein, we provided all registered students with free 1500 megabytes for their individual and academic research purposes. The access to all online lectures was free for the students. The UTG was among the few Universities in the sub region whose academic calendar was not severely disrupted by COVID-19.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted the traditional face-to-face lecture delivery method, it had also presented an opportunity that UTG can further explore to introduce technology based platforms for teaching, learning and research. I wish to report that UTG has now institutionalized a blended system of lecture delivery.
We are very pleased to graduate 973 students in various fields of learning:
Agriculture & Environmental Sciences -33;
Physical & Natural Sciences-103;
Humanities & Social Sciences-178;
Business & Public Administration-281
Medicine & Surgery -21
Public & Environmental Health-23
Planning and Design-14
Journalism and Digital Media-10
We have equipped our graduates with relevant skills and we believe they are competent and globally competitive. Part of these Graduands are our first cohort of home grown PhD candidates. We will make history today by conferring the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Administration on these five gallant candidates who have followed the prescribed course of study and passed the prescribed examinations. I would like to appreciate and express gratitude to the team of Professors and supervisors from Obafemi Awolowo University and the UTG for their pioneering role in the conceptualization and successful implementation of the PhD Programme. I equally appreciate the external examiners for a job well done. I urge the graduands to look for opportunities beyond their discipline and comfort, and be innovative and adventurous. Seize every opportunity that comes your way. Tackle the challenges that you encounter and try to solve people’s problems for therein lies the opportunity for innovation and success.
These achievements would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of our staff and students and the endorsement of the Governing Council under the leadership of our indefatigable Chairman and seasoned educationist, Mr. Matthew P. Ndure and the support of our line ministry (Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology) under the distinguished leadership of Hon. Minister Badara Joof.
Hon Chancellor Sir
As we mark our 13th Convocation ceremony, I want to celebrate our achievements and to speak positively, indeed glowingly, of the work UTG is doing. Space and time constraints prevent a detailed exposition at a forum like this. I have therefore concentrated only on our strategic goals:
HUMAN RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
The University is proactively taking deliberate steps to brand itself and to add value to its staff and students. Therefore, for UTG to be relevant in the discharge of its statutory mandate, it must meet all the requirements prescribed by the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority (NAQAA) for accreditation of all its programmes. Hiring the full complements of staff is key to meeting this objective. We have therefore invested heavily in the recruitment of staff and postgraduate training, both at home and abroad. We are proud to report that from 2016 to date; we have trained many of our staff to attain higher degrees at different levels: BA/BSc (31), Master’s (141) and PhD (25).
In addition, we have recently recruited many highly trained academics at professorial and senior lecturer levels.
As part of our mandate to community service, for the past four years, we have awarded tuition fee waivers to many students and institutions amounting to D73, 656,600.00. We share this figure as follows: UTG staff (D19,755,600.00); children of the staff (D4,320,800.00); Vice Chancellor Excellence Award for science students (D41,226,200.00); Gambia College Staff (D5,322,800.00); MDI staff (D2,425,600.00); and GTTI staff (D605,600.00) to pursue various undergraduate and higher degree programmes at UTG. As you can see, UTG’s contribution in the development of capacity building in these tertiary institutions is enormous.
STAFF WELFARE AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE
UTG continues to improve the welfare of both staff and students. UTG successfully negotiated with S & S Properties for the allocation of plots of land to junior staff at Jambajelly dubed Jamm City. To further boost the confidence and morale of our staff, the Governing Council at its 11th Ordinary Meeting, approved the recommendations to increase the staff’s salaries and allowances by twenty-five percent, abolish all contract appointments, and confirmed and placed staff on permanent appointment with effect from 1st January 2021. However, academic staff who are below the rank of a Senior Lecturer must meet the prescribed terms and conditions within three years after confirmation. Equally, those in the administrative/ancillary and professional cadre must also meet the prescribed terms and conditions. Let me hasten to add that it will never be business as usual.
Implementing this landmark Council Resolution is in progress.
As we look forward to the completion and inauguration of the UTG Faraba Banta Campus, we have taken stop-gap measures to address the perennial space constraints our students and staff continue to grapple with. In the meantime, we have added two extra floors on the PEACE BUILDING at our Kanifing campus. This facility has classrooms, offices and laboratories. A four Classroom block, a store and changing room for ancillary staff is under construction at our Kanifing Campus. Other major projects successfully executed includes the 80,000 Euro WASCAL Building, the Agricultural Experimental Farm at FARABA, and the Confucius institute established in partnership with the Chinese Government.
In addition, we constructed six classrooms and computer laboratory at Brikama, and two extra floors at the School of Medicine in Banjul.
We have accomplished the refurbishment and renovation of the new UTG Library at MDI premises. The Library is well stocked with up-to-date books and journals. We have committed funds for the purchase of a software on plagiarism and academic writing to protect academic integrity.
We have also negotiated with EBSCO to have access to thousands of journals in different disciplines. This will accord UTG staff the opportunity to access the same journal databases as it is the case in top notched universities (17,986 journals from 5,886 publishers). We expect this will boost and elevate our research culture to the next level.
We have created new vistas in research with the launch of The Gambia Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences (GJHSS). It shall serve as a forum for a wide range of subjects, and it will encourage interdisciplinarity between them. In this way we hope that a significant increase in Gambia focused research can be achieved. The Journal is going to be the first-ever scholarly journal devoted to the study of the Gambia—the country and its people—covering important themes relevant to contemporary Gambia, in a globalized world, and also serving as an outlet for research on regional and global issues carried out in The Gambia and elsewhere.
The expansion works at the School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences have been completed. It comprised two additional floors, including offices and laboratories. The Government of The Gambia funded the building project. Funding for equipment of the laboratories, ICT and skills centre has been jointly pledged by IDB/TIKA through Reverse Linkage Project.
We are also thrilled to announce that UTG has established a Directorate of Research and has subsequently awarded research grants to 41 faculty members.
In addition, in order to enhance our students experience, we have, for the first time, established a Career and Wellbeing Center.
We have just commissioned our multi-million solar project at the Kanifing Campus in collaboration with MoFEA, UNIDO, MOPE and ECREE-ECOWAS. We expect the project to be inaugurated soon.
Similarly, we have floated tenders for the construction of a Dentistry block to house our new Bachelor of Dentistry Programme at the Polyclinic premises in Banjul.
As a mark of victory for all of us, from internally generated funds, UTG has recently awarded a contract worth six (6) million dalasi for the procurement of laboratory equipment for the physical and natural sciences. This is unprecedented in the annals of UTG. We expect a similar amount to be spent in the coming weeks in order to purchase additional lab equipment. UTG is changing for the better.
INTRODUCTION OF NEW PROGRAMMES
As part of our initiative to response to both the capacity needs of the university and that of the nation, we have introduced new PhD and Master Degree programmes, besides the existing ones:
- PhD Law ,
- PhD Agronomy
- PhD Climate Change
- PhD Biology
- MSc Crop Protection
- MSc Agronomy
- MSc Biology
In collaboration with Gaston Berger University, we will start new Master’s degree programmes in Telecommunications Science, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Statistics and Data Science to complement the NDP agenda in capacity building.
In the same vein, we will run new BSc programmes such as
- BSc Midwifery
- BSc Nurse-anesthesia
- BSc Pediatric-nursing.
- BSc peri-operative nursing
- BSc Physical Education and Health
As part of the General Education Requirement, we will teach Gambian National Languages throughout our campuses, next semester.
Management had disbursed funds towards the improvement of internet connectivity across the various campuses. Plans are far advanced to improve internet capacity and widen the coverage of internet access within the University community. We will connect all campuses with fibre optic before the end of this semester. Funds have been allocated during FY2021 to improve the use of the Internet to support teaching and learning in the University.
My administration has developed policies and created an environment where people feel appreciated and are motivated. We have fashioned out policy documents and conducted trainings for staff in the following areas:
Ø Developed a comprehensive admissions Manual
Ø Developed a detailed Job Description for both Administrative and Academic Staff
Ø Developed a UTG Data Card Policy
Ø Revised the UTG Conditions of Service
Ø Formulated a UTG Strategic Plan
Ø Formulated a Research and Consultancy Manual
Ø Formulated a UTG Quality Assurance
Ø Formulated a UTG Procurement Policy
Ø All UTG curriculum reviewed, just waiting for external assessors to complete this exercise.
Ø Conducted a training in Budget and Budgeting for Administrative Staff
Ø Conducted a training in Quality Assurance
Ø Conducted a training in Pedagogy
Ø Conducted a training in Syllabus Design
Ø Conducted a training in Project Proposal Writing
More trainings are being lined up for the staff in the coming months; all geared towards building capacity and enhancing quality.
LINKAGES AND PARTNERSHIPS
Linkages and collaborations are critical in knowledge transfer and development of skill sets in higher educational institutions. For this reason, The University relations office has developed a strategic document to guide its activities. It details its strategy of engaging targeted stakeholders to lure in more opportunities for the university, foster internationalization, and Alumni engagement.
As the current pandemic has underscored, our development goals can only be achieved by working together. At UTG we foster partnerships, regionally and globally, that are committed to transformational change and driven by purpose and passion.
The major accomplishments during the period under review include:
- The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to collaborate on implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in The Gambia. This collaboration follows on another first of its kind – our UTG-UNDP Think Tank to accelerate SDG and strengthen the linkages between university research and public policy on critical matters for activating The National Development Plan. This lead to the establishment of the following:
. UTG Careers and Wellbeing Centre
Centre for Sustainable Development and Policy Studies (UTG-Think Tank)
- Established working collaboration with leading University. This includes, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford and University of Reading
- Hosted the British High Commissioner to The Gambia, His Excellency David Belgrove, and discussed the possibility of forging linkages with British Universities.
- Joined the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
- UTG has successfully applied for Erasmus Plus in partnership with the University of Jean, Spain. This will provide scholarship for UTG staff and Students to study in Spain through exchange programme.
- UTG has officially joined COMSATS to harness South-South Cooperation. For this reason, COMSATS has offered UTG staff scholarships to pursue various Masters and PhD programmes.
- UTG has also become a member of the Union of Afro-Asian Universities.
- UTG is working with NAWEC to develop a scheme that will enable women and girls to take part in STEM programmes with fully funded scholarships by World Bank.
- As a part of Vice Chancellor’s initiative to establish a Centre for Food Technology and Nutrition in order to address food insecurity and agriculture value creation, UTG has partnered with the Ministry of Agriculture to establish a Centre for Food Technology and Nutrition.
Initiatives like these are rooted in our university’s current strategic plan, which is sharply focused on revitalizing the National Development Plan, and developing a culture of resilience at UTG.
We have made promotions for various categories of staff from 1st October 2020 to date. 13 are Academic staff and 14 are Administrative staff. We promoted one academic staff to the grade of Associate Professor.
This would serve as a source of encouragement to enable the promoted staff to continue working harder towards attainment of the goals of this university.
The University recently underwent a statutory quality audit exercise by NAQAA. The review focused on governance, infrastructure, academic programmes, resources and finance, as key variables. A host of recommendations for implementation followed this assessment. UTG has recruited a Director of Facilities, Director of Student Affairs, Director of Research and consultancy, and Chief Security Officer during FY2020. These filled positions in UTG’s human resources added to the previous recruitment process during 2019/2020 attracting Gambians from the diaspora have significantly improved the current staff profile of the UTG. In addition, we have created new budget cost line items in the recurrent budget, such as the research grant of D 58 Million and contingency cost line of D 3.1 Million.
We have embarked on the review of all the courses offered at the University. We have assessed the cost implications of this implementation and to evaluate their relevance to the needs of the industry, repositioning and aligning programmes to the market trends, impacts on society and their sustainability.
We expect the outcome of this assessment to systematically weed out redundant and overlapping courses and programmes. We will interrogate the depth of content coverage in the delivery of curricula and inculcate appropriate practical skills. We shall integrate industry in the teaching and research at the University.
We intend to review our research exploits to encourage vertical progression in pursuit of new knowledge, standardize and laterally integrate the curricula with entrepreneurial spirit and culture. By next semester, under the General Education Requirements, it will be mandatory for all students to do a course on Entrepreneurship and Innovation before they graduate.
Despite the humble achievements this past year, we are still constrained by inadequate funding and learning infrastructure, resulting in huge unrealized receivables; and non-competitive salaries and conditions of service which, hinder our ability to attract the best and brightest in the country to academia and to attract foreign scholars.
It is urgent we face up to the reality that quality higher education requires adequate funding, not only from Government but also from the private sector, development partners and all other stakeholders in the country and abroad. I feel extremely positive about the year ahead, despite the effects of COVID-19.
I would like to thank most sincerely the Members of the Governing Council for providing the policy framework, strategic direction, and stewardship. Despite many challenges, you have provided the right environment for Management to adequately discharge the objects and functions of the University.
We would also thank the Government of Cuba, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Peoples Republic of China, ECOWAS-ECREE, the German Government through WASCAL, the UNDP, UNIDO and World Food Programme for their tremendous support in the development of UTG.
We also extend profound gratitude to the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, Gaston Berger University, Alioune Diop University, Ibadan University, Obafemi Awolowo University, OSUN State University, COMSTECH and COMSATS for their continuous support and partnership.
We also like to thank QCELL, QCITY, GAMCEL, GPA, MOBSE and Ministry of Finance for their support.
Above all, I thank the Government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Higher Education Research Science and Technology, for its continued vigorous support and guidance to this University and its leadership.
To our gallant Graduands, I congratulate you on the conclusion of your academic pursuit in UTG. The road has surely been rough and the journey tedious, but you are here because you are finishers and you endured it all. As we all know, we do not reward efforts, only success is. Learning does not end with graduation. If you want to continue being relevant and competent in fields we have trained you on, you must attach special importance to continuous learning and application of knowledge. You must strive to be innovative in whatever we have trained you on. You must continue to seek for and apply new knowledge.
As ambassadors of this University, be guided by, and exhibit the core values of the University: Knowledge, Truth and Development. Besides these values, I urge you, and by extension, the youth of this nation to also aspire to be disciplined, honest and modest in all your endeavors.
Before I take my seat, I have one commitment to make to you as your Vice Chancellor, that I will give opportunity to each one of you as allowable by the ACT and Conditions of Service to grow your career to the pinnacle. How each one of you treads your career path to the pinnacle however remains your responsibility.
Once again, I thank you all for finding time to come and celebrate with us on this auspicious occasion. I crave your indulgence to celebrate with your family at home bearing in mind the current circumstances we all find ourselves because of COVID-19.
University of the Gambia
Professor Dr. Faqir Muhammad Anjum Chaudhry
Ph.D. (UAF, PK); Fellow, IFST (UK)