Gambian President has said that “It is accepted globally that universities are designated institutions to examine and find solutions to societal challenges, engineer growth and shape policy, among other critical pursuits. This makes their role uniquely relevant in any national development endeavour.”

Presiden Adama Barrow made the statement during the 12th convocation of the University of The Gambia at QCity Grounds on Saturday.

Read below President Barrow’s speech in full:

Your Excellency, the Vice President,

Hon. Speaker of the National Assembly,

My Lord, The Chief Justice,

Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service,

Honourable Ministers,

Honourable Members of the National Assembly,

Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps,

Chairman and Members of the University Governing Council,

The Vice-Chancellor and Members of Senate,

Distinguished Invited Scholars,

Staff and Students of The University of The Gambia,

Distinguished Guests,

I am delighted to welcome all the graduating students, their parents, friends and well-wishers to this august occasion. For me, it is a great honour to preside over the 12th Convocation Ceremony of The University of The Gambia, especially noting the huge number of distinguished personalities and academics in attendance.

Convocations are unique moments in the lives of students and, often, mark the point of separation between student and Alma mater.

With mixed feelings, sometimes, they signal the end of an educational path, and the beginning of another journey through life by those who proceed to pursue a career after completing a course of training. This makes every convocation ceremony very significant.

Today, we are here to recognise and celebrate the achievements and years of devotion to intensive studies by a band of refined young men and women.

We are here also to highlight and appreciate the unrelenting support of parents, guardians, sponsors and institutions that contributed to the success of the graduating students and the joy of this ceremony.

I heartily congratulate you on this remarkable moment, and I applaud all those who have, today, earned a degree, diploma or certificate from this citadel of learning; The University of The Gambia (UTG), which is our national beacon of hope and academic fulfilment.

Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its inception, the University has been training and graduating Gambians, who have proceeded to contribute towards shaping the destiny of our country. Together, we have witnessed tremendous achievements and gains in reshaping and redirecting Gambian history and politics.

The momentum calls for renewed determination and zeal to sustain peace, human rights, justice and development across the entire nation.

My Government is aware of the opportunities and strengths that must be harnessed to realise all our development goals and objectives, primarily as set out in the National Development Plan (2018-2021).

Furthermore, we are conscious and, therefore, alert and responsive to our responsibilities of upholding and promoting the dignity of the citizenry, and their equality and rights to the provisions of our Constitution and other legal frameworks and systems.

Such recognition exceeds race, religion, creed, political affiliation and other strands of diversity. This makes the focus of my address today, which is “The Role of Higher Education in Sustaining Peace and Stability in The New Gambia,” a relevant and an all-important theme.

Distinguished Personalities,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is accepted globally that universities are designated institutions to examine and find solutions to societal challenges, engineer growth and shape policy, among other critical pursuits. This makes their role uniquely relevant in any national development endeavour.

Universities are vital partners for progress, peace and prosperity. They are renowned for their role and involvement in providing crucial support through expert knowledge and informed options and alternatives for Governments. We honour them for the influence they have in developing human capital, and bringing out the brightest and best in society. The UTG is no exception to this rule.

Conscious of all these, the Government is committed to supporting and strengthening the UTG in order to augment their contribution towards establishing a viable and flourishing nation built on a new model of democracy and good governance.

Specifically, we will continue to support and strengthen the UTG, as well as other institutions of learning, in the areas of research, teaching and community service.

Our fervent wish is that the core activities of the University include due focus on research, data collection and exchange of information and data on all aspects of human endeavour.  Particularly relevant for our democracy are Human Rights and allied issues.

It is trendy to institute established standards of rigour in research to inform policy for development.

In The Gambia, the need is quite urgent for policy makers to engage academics, and benefit from their practice and knowledge to ensure that we embed their expertise into policy formulation processes and implementation for optimum performance and results.

For this reason, academic freedom or the independence of The University of The Gambia will be safeguarded to enhance empirical research and unbiased learning and teaching processes, which are central to the mandate of all institutions of higher learning.

This approach is meant, in part, to avail the University the opportunity to entrench internal monitoring mechanisms and to provide reliable feedback to Government and its institutions for appropriate action.

Institutional independence is aimed at discouraging external interference in curricular issues and processes.

However, as a segment of society and, similarly, a reflection of it, universities should complement Government efforts by organising regular conferences, workshops and seminars at national and international levels. Their programmes or courses have to be functional and responsive to societal needs. Furthermore, compliance with best practices and engagement of experts for academic and material benefits should be paramount.

On the issues of human rights, good governance and transparency, my Government will continue to allow other institutions on Human Rights, such as the Ombudsman, the National Human Rights Commission, the Labour Unions, the Courts and litigation offices to perform their duties according to their mandates.

Through them, more awareness of the people’s rights and freedoms would endure. It is assumed that this will minimise ignorance, and allow for unleashing the creative potentials of the citizenry. The public will become more politically inclined and informed, which is in the best interest of the state. In the process, our general attitude, which has been a serious challenge to true governance, will have to be rebranded and reformed.

In addition, academics in our educational institutions, notably the University, must be objective, empirical and rational in dispensing their responsibilities and in handling issues, discourses and matters of national interest.

Academics must also toil for the emergence of true patriotic citizens in a new socio-political context, wherein the orientation will create the new Gambians for sustained peace and development.

The objective is to enable the ‘New Gambia’ to be built on and around an ethical template to forge a society free from the shackles of hunger, need and greed.

The vision is a nation that the University and all educational institutions should help to build: a nation free from extremism and prejudice, and a nation built on equity in a New Gambia whose institutions are robust, accountable and able to stand the test of time. It is evident that Gambians have the energy and determination to promote and protect freedom, peace and stability, and uphold the highest level of human rights.

As a fundamental priority of my Government, Gambians will increasingly enjoy the rights and freedom that enhance development across all spheres.

I must remind you that, although Government is expected to manage the affairs of the nation, without peace and stability, there cannot be any sustainable development.

Sustaining peace is both a goal and a process of building a common vision for a united community.

It calls for taking into account the needs and rights of all segments of the population in activities aimed at preventing the outbreak and escalation of conflict, while ensuring national reconciliation.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the quest to nurture and sustain peace in the New Gambia, we have adopted measures to strengthen the rule of law, social cohesion, respect for human rights, good governance, dialogue and mediation, justice, sustainable development and national reconciliation.

As law-abiding citizens, it is obligatory for all of us to reject divisive politics, and put the interest of The Gambia first. No citizen should allow our political or religious differences to corrupt our judgement, and derail the march to prosperity and a better and peaceful Gambia.

It is mandatory upon all peace-loving citizens to be civil and disciplined, and to exhibit peaceful dispositions both in their relationships with other citizens and the state.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we rejoice today, let us be mindful of our collective responsibilities, as citizens, to make our country peaceful, developed and prosperous. In my opinion, patriotism is part of the solution to our troubles.

To be patriotic, citizens must have the spirit of nationalism and good citizenship, love their country, defend their country, sacrifice personal interests, where necessary, and contribute to the greater good.

These are the cardinal principles required in the conduct of a good and active citizen. Development is urgent, and cannot be delayed or postponed. Therefore, we call on you, as patriotic citizens, to be catalysts of peace and development.

To the new graduates, I say, being patriotic simply translates into consistent discharge of one’s responsibilities and obligations accordingly.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Until recently, The Gambia was a renowned bastion of peace, human rights, justice and democracy on the African continent. We are hopeful and convinced that all patriotic Gambians, including the new graduates here, will work with Government to reclaim and retain that lost mantle as a peace-loving and just nation.

We trust that, together, we will strengthen our much-cherished interpersonal relationships, as well as our freedoms, peace and stability for the sake of our common progress and prosperity. I challenge you all to rise to the task, and protect our new-found glory.

Once again, I congratulate the University community, the graduating students, their parents, guardians, sponsors and friends as they celebrate another successful convocation ceremony.

In particular, I congratulate the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology on the achievements realized within the sector, in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and all their partners, stakeholders and practitioners. I wish you all every success in your noble endeavours.

Thank you for your attention.

Ends

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