Spanish Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire, H.E. Rafael Soriana Ortix, and the authorities at the University of Liberia (UL) have held a crucial meeting to build and strengthen collaborations between UL and Spain.
Amb. Soriana was accompanied at the meeting on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at UL Capitol Hill campus by Spain’s Honorary Consul to Liberia, Madam Hele Eid Hariz, Managing Director, Royal Grand Hotel in Monrovia.
Regarding cooperation, the Spanish Diplomat said this is an area with a lot of potential which deserves the full attention of both sides.
“And I can assure you that the new EU [European Union] Ambassador … is very keen on working [in] this field; she’s been in Monrovia only for some weeks, and I’m sure she will soon visit your university and will present to you some options to work together,” said Amb. Soriana.
He said the visit to the University of Liberia was to have a personal meeting with the Members of the Board and then explore the possibilities.
He also said he wanted to pass the message that education should be the pillar in these objectives of rebuilding the bilateral relationship between his country and Liberia.
Regarding the teaching of the Spanish language, he said it is very important for the Spanish foreign policy.
Ambassador Soriana noted that he would be very happy to see Spanish being taught in Liberia as an option, stating that the University of Liberia is perfectly suited for that.
In the framework of an agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), he said every year Spain subsidizes the participation of young diplomats in the region in international relations course in Madrid.
He said they have people from Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, and Guinea, but they have never had a Liberian diplomat being trained in Madrid. Amb. Soriana added that the opportunity is magnificent.
According to him, everything will be covered by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for participants to get one-year training in diplomacy in Madrid.
According to him, 600,000 Ivorian students in the secondary school are learning Spanish, besides roughly 3,000 university students who are also learning the language. Amb. Soriana emphasized the need to take advantage of this opportunity, saying the requirements are very basic.
In response, Madam Benetta Joko Tarr, UL Vice President for Administration, thanked Amb. Soriana, assuring him that upon the return of UL President Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarolo Nelson, Jr., he will be thoroughly briefed about the meeting.
She said they will know how to continue the collaboration and strengthen it particularly with Spain’s Honorary Consul in Liberia Madam Hele Eid Hariz.
Madam Tarr said she is very optimistic about the collaboration with the Spanish government will be good.
Earlier, UL Vice President for Institutional Development and Planning Madam Weade Kobbah-Boley explained that most of UL’s collaborations in the areas of joint research, faculty, staff development, student exchange, and support for specific programs, among others.
“And I think faculty collaboration is an area we will be very anxious to foster relations with. And they can be on a semester basis, or if necessary, long term,” said Madam Kobbah-Boley.
Additionally, she said as part of the University’s language programs, UL is interested in doing something with Spanish, noting that the institution currently has French and Chinese programs.
Also speaking, Dr. Bernice Dahn, UL Vice President for Health Sciences, explained that the College has four schools, and there is a plan to introduce two PhD programs.
However, Dr. Dahn said the biggest challenge for the Ph.D. programs is to have faculty and mentors.
“So we are looking for partnerships that can provide such opportunities to … supervise students’ research or [that] can provide some teaching to students,’ said Dr. Dahn.
Additionally, Dr. Dahn said the College has infrastructure problems, particularly in classrooms and laboratory facilities.
For his part, Cllr. Norris L. Tweah, Vice President for UL Relations, explained that over the last several years, the University has been rebuilding after suffering a massive brain drain caused by the civil war in Liberia.
Cllr. Tweah said he thinks Liberians will be interested in formally learning Spanish and the culture, as there can be a lot of opportunities to build relationships through that.-Edited by Winston W. Parley