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Universities urged to shift education toward agriculture

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Liberia’s higher education institutions have been admonished to shift their thought process towards agriculture education that considers market participation and value addition.

The call came during the climax of a symposium in Monrovia on Liberia’s higher education under the auspices of Africa’s higher education group Regional Universities Forum (RUFORUM) for Capacity Building in Agriculture.

RUFORUM which has expanded its network to 105 universities across Africa, had three days engagements with Liberian higher education institutions including state – run University of Liberia (UL) to push for collaboration among universities here to support human capital development and to develop a new generation of scholars who love and believe in the African continent.

Delivering a keynote address Friday, 26 April at Bella Casa, Nimba County District #9 Rep. Prof. Johnson N. Gwaikolo suggests that higher education institutions must look at preparing students not only to produce agricultural products abundantly, but to add value and market them.

“Farmers or agriculturists must be trained to know that pork sausages are made out of hog meat; that cereals for babies can be made out of plantain,” Rep. Gwaikolo says.

In further emphasis, Rep. Gwaikolo calls for a higher education that will inspire in Liberians [and other Africans] the importance of agriculture, and trigger robust investment in agriculture and thereby curtail the reliance on the importation of agriculture products.

According to him, quality in higher agriculture education brings about food security, as “study has shown that the problem of food is one of the greatest challenges for mankind.”

To better education in Liberia, Rep. Gwaikolo recommends increasing education budget very substantially; developing curriculum in agriculture education that connects the school or students with everyday life in rural areas; and encouraging enactment of legislation that criminalizes unprofessional and indecent academic behavior and practices.

He also recommends investment in research programs at universities and disseminating research findings in rural areas; investing in agriculture colleges and providing the requisite infrastructure, among others.

Earlier, UL president and co-chair of the forum, Prof. Ophelia Weeks said the meeting provided the opportunity for higher education institutions here to come together to begin the conversation on “how we can improve” and promote higher education here.

RUFORUM Board Chair and Vice Chancellor of Malawi’s Lilongwe University Agriculture and Natural Resources, Prof. George Kanyama – Phiri says they are looking forward for exchange of staff and students from UL to other universities where they find programs that they want to promote.

Liberia’s Education Minister Prof. Ansu D. Sonii encourages universities in Liberia to begin the initiative of joining RUFORUM, saying the initiative that started with five universities and now covering almost 37 countries can begin the change that “we want to see.”

“Because a change without change of attitude and perception of oneself is no change. We must begin to see ourselves as counterpart in the world and on the world stage,” he says.

“We must begin to evaluate ourselves as equals; but we cannot become equals if we do not develop the minds of those that are either on stage now and those that will come after us,” Minister Sonii adds.

He says he understands that the population of Africa is likely to be in excess of five billion, and half of that will be young people.

He argues that those young people, in the absence of developed mind will become a liability to this continent and a liability for the rest of the world.

Minister Sonii indicates that the development of the minds of Africans will make all the difference, applauding RUFORUM and Liberian universities for their participation.

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