In its short lifespan, the University of the Gambia has been able to forge meaningful alliances with recognized institutions of higher learning from around the globe. Among the first of the many important partners is Saint Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), USA. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two institutions dates back to the infancy years of UTG, in 2000. This MoU has culminated into very important staff and student exchange programs between the two intuitions over the last decade.
On Tuesday, June 19, 2012, Saint Mary’s Staff arrived on a working visit at UTG. Among the visiting senior staff and faculty members were Dr. Beth Rushing, Dean of Faculty, Mandy Reine, Director of International Education, Professor Bill Roberts, Director of PEACE (Promoting Educational and Cultural Exchange) and Mrs. Yamai Secka, the PEACE Coordinator.
The meeting, which took place at the UTG Chancery Conference Room, in Brikama, was chaired by Mr. Jenung Manneh, the University Secretary and was attended by, aside from the SMCM team, Professor Muhammadou O. Kah, Dr. Omar Jah, Dr. Rex Kuye, Dr. Ebrima Lowe, Dr. Ousman Nyang, Dr. Lamour, Dr. Sylvie Coly, Mr. M. Lamin Tarro, Mrs. Mariam John, Mrs. Amy Aidara, Mr. John Jatta, Mr. Yankuba Mamburay, Mr. Keita, Mr. Abdul Karim Kamara, Ms. Aminata Njie, Ms. Nyansa Touray, Mr. Ismaila Jagne, Mr. Babucar Sallah, and many more. After introducing the senior UTG team, the SMCM team was given the floor to introduce their team to the meeting.
During the meeting, Professor Bill Roberts informed the meeting that they (PEACE) have been coming to the Gambia since 1996 and that they will have 18 students in the country during the summer. In fact, as we speak there is a team of 8 research archaeologists in Berefet, Foni, conducting their research. He said Beth and Mandy came over to get a first-hand experience of what is on the ground so as to have a better understanding of the program. He said in the coming year they will be inviting UTG staff and faculty. Mrs. Beth Rushing, on her part, posited that the UTG-SMCM partnership has had a tremendous impact on the SMCM campus. She said the program has been mutually beneficial to both institutions. She added that she hopes UTG will be sending more of their students for the exchange program. For her part, Ms. Mandy Reine said the partnership between our the two institutions is unique and non-traditional. She joked that she even knows how to crack a crab; thanks to the existence of the program.
Mrs. Yamai Secka, the PEACE Coordinator, dilated on the fact that there are gaps that need to be worked out, though the program has been beneficial to both UTG and SMCM. She emphasized on the need for prioritizing things. She also posited that summer programs that they (PEACE) have been embarking on every two years since 1996 has been very successful, as earlier mentioned by Prof. Roberts. Mrs. Secka also suggested that the MoU be revisited so some necessary amendments can be made.
Speakers on the UTG side included Mr. Abdul Karim Kamara, Mr. Tarro, Ngansa Touray, Dr. Lowe, Dr. Nyang, Dr. Kuye, Dr. Jah and Prof. Muhammadou Kah. Dr. Omar Jah thanked the SMCM team for coming to UTG and for working tirelessly to make sure this partnership is successful. He said the program is a win-win situation for both institutions and urged both sides not to relent. He reassured the gathering that UTG is committed to this partnership.
Professor Kah, UTG Vice Chancellor, started by thanking the SMCM delegation for coming. He said he has heard the points raised by Mrs. Yamai Secka regarding prioritizing the partnership. He emphasized the fact that UTG is committed to improving the abilities of both members of administrative staff and faculty of UTG to perform their functions and responsibilities very well. It is against the backdrop of this principle that partnerships have been forged with SMCM, University of Iowa, University of Springfield, Illinois, etc., Prof. Kah explained. He explained that he knows that finances are limited; however, he believes that officials of the university have to have adequate training for them to function well. He elaborated on the need for teacher training and good teacher education program. He gave example of some teachers at Gambia College with only bachelor’s degrees. However, “we are on the process of merging tertiary institutions into the university and in a university setting, minimum requirement for teachers is Master’s degree.”
He explained that with partnerships like this, it is possible to have excellent teacher training programs that will open doors for UTG to serve as a hub for regional teacher training. He expressed the need for UTG and SMCM staff to sit down and review the curriculum content of our syllabuses and find ways to synchronize them to make it easier for the two institutions to execute credit transfers between them. He also spoke extensively on e-learning to complement the classroom lectures. Prof. Kah also explained that UTG has conducted this program last semester with some students from North Carolina, USA. He further explained that there is good opportunity for exchange teachers to come and teach in areas of medicine and mathematics.
Prof. Kah also informed the SMCM delegates that they should visit the Science and Technology Park at Faraba Banta. He said, “Our president, His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya AJJ Jammeh, who is also the Chancellor of the university, has declared this year to be the ‘Year of Science and Technology’.” On a Final note, Prof. Kah thanked the SMCM delegation for coming and extended his warmest felicitation to the President of SMCM, Professor Hugo, for their commitment to this very important alliance.