Using its intellectual forum Lux Talk to discuss the role of academia in national planning on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the University of Liberia (UL) says it is well – positioned to mobilize and coordinate the academic community here in the setup of a National United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Ahead of a panel discussion Wednesday, 30 September in the auditorium of the university’s Capitol Hill Campus, UL president Rev. Dr. Julius Sarwolo Nelson made a “committal” for and on behalf of the University of Liberia” in support of the Decade of Action on the Implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals at the national level.
He says UL has already applied for membership to the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) to forge global networks and partnerships of universities. According to Dr. Nelson, the purpose is to strengthen both national and global problems solving.
He announced that preparations alongside the university’s application process have already started, adding that UL has also embarked on the process of establishing institutional link with the Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi), an international network created in 1999 by UNESCO, United Nations University (UNU) and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya Barcelona Tech (UP).
Touching on UL’s “committal” in support of the decade of action on the implementation of the SDGs, Dr. Nelson cites the creation of new academic programs for the undergraduate colleges, graduate and professional schools, biodiversity, climate change and environmental science, public health, nursing and midwifery, the Honors College of Research and Gender Studies and an entrepreneurship program.
He assures that UL will continue to create new organizational units to house many or most of its programs of sustainable development. Dr. Nelson also reveals that UL’s new educational programs will enable students to be trained in sustainable development, ideally at each level of higher education.
He concludes by announcing a plan to establish networks linking the SDSN, the United Nations Academic Impact, the United Nations University, the International Association of Universities, the World University Network and others, partnering together to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs.
Speaking at the program, Liberia’s Education Minister Prof. D. Ansu Sonii urges the re-initiation of the association of Liberian universities so that universities are seen here as an enterprise that has a role to play and they can present their roles.
“Fortunately for, for institution of higher learning, it has been good part of my life in this, so I would be happy to promote a cause of the institution of higher learning to any place where it needs to rise,” he says.
According to Prof. Sonii, sexuality education has now found part of the curriculum, funded by UNFPA, revealing that there’s a small research being done on why girls drop out of school, especially secondary.
According to him, a World Bank project allocates US$5m exclusively for girls, announcing that 3,000 girls are going to be selected across the country as of the 9th grade moving to 10th grade “and provide them all that a girl would need to go to school.”
He says they will be monitored to see if all financial needs are provided, what else would cause them to drop out of school notwithstanding.
World Bank Country Manager Dr. Khwima Nthara suggests that sometimes the answer to development challenges is not just about money, but it’s just about how to do things differently.
“How to do things differently requires knowledge and this where the university is very critical,” he says and announces that his institution is looking forward to partner with the University of Liberia.
During the panel discussions, UL Vice President for Institutional Development Prof. Weade Kobbah Boley spoke of major investment plans of the university, including a printing press, and a public – private partnership aimed at developing facilities that are mutually beneficial.
She notes that UL’s Fendall campus technically has 5,800 acres of land, majority of which says has been allocated to the university’s Agriculture College due to the institution’s commitment to food sustainability and preparation of students.
“We have to put out graduates that are not just job seekers, but are also employers,” she says.
Also speaking as one of the panelists, Assistant Prof. Thomas Kaydor, a Deputy Foreign Minister, calls on countries to take practical actions to ensure that they can achieve either all of the goals in the SDGs or some of them.
He says UL and all other universities got three major responsibilities which include doing evidence – based research and publication; teach, mentor and supervise; and to do community service or practical engagement in the development process.
Serving as one of the panelists, Mr. Bobby Musah, a Development Practitioner from the Ministry of Finance, says countries now have to factor into their national development plans how to address the issue of ending poverty, environmental sustainability and education in an effort to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.
By Winston W. Parley