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Speech by Rev. Prof. E. Kingsley Larbi, President and CEO, Regent University College of Science and Technology, at the Second Graduation Ceremony of the University Held at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Dansoman, Accra, on March 28, 2009


His Excellency, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana
Rev Chancellor of Regent University College
Honourable Minister(s) of State
Vice Chancellor and other colleagues from KNUST
Heads and friends from sister tertiary institutions
Chair and Members of the Regent University Council
Honourable Members of Parliament
Hardworking Faculty and Staff
Graduands and Students
Nananom, Nii Mei ke Naa Mei
Distinguished Invited Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I wish to sincerely thank you all for honouring our invitation to today’s graduation ceremony. I wish to specially recognise the presence of our Guest Speaker, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, for honouring our invitation in spite of his very tight schedule. As a community of faith, we will continue to pray for you and with you, so that the purpose for which God has brought you into this position at such an hour as this will be fully fulfilled, to the delight of all. 

 

The Importance of Today’s Event
Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I believe most of us are here today, at this hour, to participate in this event precisely because of our strong belief in the human potential, and the critical role education plays in harnessing this potential.

Less than an hour ago, in this same auditorium, we concluded our forth Matriculation ceremony during which we admitted over 500 students into the various academic programmes of this institution. Among those who matriculated are 29 senior members who have been admitted into our prestigious Regent-Maastricht MBA programme, which to the best of my knowledge, is the first ever MBA programme accredited by the Association of MBAs to be taught in this country.

Copies of the President’s Report will be specially delivered to members of Convocation, our friends, partners and some stakeholders in due course.

For now, allow me to share some of my thoughts on the broad subject of Educating our people for Accelerated Development.

Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, at our premier graduation ceremony last year, we had the singular honour of conferring a Honorary Fellowship award on a fellow Ghanaian, Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollenu, an internationally-acclaimed space scientist and engineer, who now serves as a Senior Robotics Engineer and Technical Group Leader at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, USA. We gave him this award in recognition of his contributions in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in the fields of science and engineering. The achievements of Ghanaians and other Africans like Dr Ollenu in The Diaspora, remind us of one inescapable truth: that God created all men equal; and that what separates the high achiever from the low achiever and a failure, is what all of us do with our God-given potential, the support we receive in developing this potential, and the environment within which we grow. 

So, if today, we are confronted by the unacceptably high levels of poverty, filth, illiteracy, and environmental degradation, it behoves upon us to find solutions to them, for the solutions are not beyond our reach.

Since education plays the most critical role in the development of the human capital, and in the development of nations, investment in it is the greatest investment one can ever make.

Your Excellency, unlike last year when our institution paid a glowing tribute to a Ghanaian world-class scientist, this year, I want to draw attention to another group of people, our teachers at the lower levels. I am doing this because it is of a fact that there could not be any university where there is no primary or basic school.

During my primary and middle school days, I saw our primary and middle school teachers as a people full of confidence. They were smartly dressed; I saw them as people who loved their jobs as teachers; they inspired us to realise our optimum potential. But for these teachers, some of us would not be where we are today. It is the confidence they instilled in us that has largely contributed in bringing some of us to where we are today. We pay tribute to all these teachers.

One of such teachers I want to recognise today, as I think of several other teachers who have played similar roles, is Mr Hayford Ansah Mantey, simply called “Teacher Mantey.” I pay tribute to Teacher Mantey, in proxy for countless others who have played similar roles.

Those days, one could attend a primary school in a rural community and move to a middle school in an urban area or the city and immediately excel. My own particular example: I moved from Primary 6 in a rural school at Adimadim near Suhum, ER, to Middle Form I in a Methodist School at Suhum. In spite of my background and the fact that I attended a village school, I could top the class in our Middle Form I first term examinations.

Today, one can seldom speak of this as the gulf between the rural schools and the urban schools continue to widen and some of the children in our rural communities study under trees and makeshift structures, a neglect that undermines our development as a people.

In the urban areas and the cities, one sees another type of problem: children who cannot continue beyond the BECE level because their parents cannot afford the fees. Similar challenges are found at the tertiary level where qualified high school graduates cannot move on to the tertiary level because they cannot afford it.

I believe we can turn these awful situations around when we act collectively with the central government playing a major role.

Looking at the enormity of the problem as it exists today in our country and most of Africa, it will take a deliberate, concerted effort and a strong political will on the part of the central government, coupled with deliberate involvement by well-meaning individuals, communities, and other agencies to turn the situation around. This we should not fail! We abdicate this responsibility to the peril of the development of our nation and our continent.

The Importance of Education
Your Excellency, it is when our population and our workforce at all levels are sufficiently literate, educated, trained, and mobile to take advantage of new advances in technology and in techniques and organisation of production that our nation and our continent can move forward.

It is also true that democracy in our country and on our continent can be entrenched only when the bulk of our people are sufficiently educated and empowered to make informed decisions as to who governs them, how they are governed, and how the nation’s resources are properly used for the benefit of all. Anything short of this will leave majority of our people to be swayed to and fro by hot air propaganda.

 

As a developing nation, we have the challenge of reinforcing the nation’s human and institutional capabilities so that all sectors, firms and individuals can acquire, adapt, and use knowledge effectively in order for us to capture the 21st century. 

Your Excellency, because of the leadership of this institution’s strong confidence in the human potential, at the individual and institutional levels, we have made certain interventions by undertaking to take care of some children from indigent families at the JHS and SHS levels. Our next stage of action will be to send some of our lecturers to teach in two rural schools near Suhum which we have identified. We also intend to assist these two schools to develop their infrastructure. Already, we have received some refurbished computers which we will be donating to one of these schools. The other school will also get its share in the very near future.

At the tertiary level our institution is playing a leading role in preparing graduates who will rise to the scientific challenges of the 21st century to offer new insights into long-standing and seemingly intractable problems.

At the social level, we have established the Regent-Ghana Jubilee Scholarship Fund. The Fund, which was born out of Regent-Ghana President’s Educational Grant established in 2005 at the incipient stages of this institution, is meant to support, principally, the following categories of people.

Needy students from indigent families who without such support will continue to suffer from economic pauperization and uncertain future for themselves and for their immediate family members;

Those affected by unforeseen adverse circumstances and who have suffered economic and financial loses;

High-level human resource in areas considered critical for the nation’s development and emancipation from global marginalisation;

Those with great eldership potential in areas consistent with the vision of our University College.

 


So far, several students have benefited from this Fund enabling them to realise their educational objectives.

Through this scholarship arrangement, four members of our staff were able to enrol in the first ever postgraduate level studies in computer science degree to be offered in this country. This was made possible through collaboration between our institution and the Deggendorf University of Applied Sciences in Germany. I am glad to say that we have just been notified by our partner institution that three of the students sponsored by us have successfully completed their degree programme.

We have also given scholarships to two of our workers who are currently pursuing their postgraduate studies in our partner institution, Maastricht School of Management in The Netherlands.

The significance of the Jubilee Fund was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ghana by reminding ourselves of the need to bring hope to the hopeless. As the jubilee model in the Old Testament (OT) demonstrates, the Year of Jubilee is a time of restoration; a time ancestral lands were returned to their original owners. The Jubilee provided a fresh start for individuals, families and communities who were caught up in poverty and deprivation for various reasons. The Jubilee was also a time of economic restructuring purposed to ensure equitable distribution of wealth and resources so that the debilitating conditions of poverty were not allowed to become entrenched among the ancient Israeli society. This is something that should inspire all of us to make a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of this nation, therefore, cannot fall short of the significance of the Jubilee in the Bible. Unfortunately, our Jubilee has come and gone, and yet the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen!

Modern African societies, unlike traditional African societies, do not do well in terms of sharing. If one examines critically those who support the World Vision International’s educational programmes in this country, one finds that most of the people who contribute to support some of their projects here are not rich; their efforts are supported by simple, ordinary citizens of the Western nations who are touched by some of the pathetic pictures they see on their TV screens.

Did you know that if the small percentage of our population that is well-to- do shares part of what it has, most of the schools in this country will be well-equipped? Did you know that if majority of our countrymen and women who are able cut down on their expenditure, most of the debilitating conditions of poverty we see among us will be a thing of the past?

Your Excellency, our institution has a policy of not turning away any qualified person who comes from an indigent family. We always explore ways and means of helping the individual to meet his educational dreams. We do this, knowing that in our country today, if we do not give education to children of the poor or children of indigent families, most of them will be trapped in poverty forever. BUT, if all of us sacrifice a little, the poor and needy will have access to quality education, thus freeing them from the indignities of poverty. If we do this collectively we will greatly impact the lives of individuals, families, and communities. 

The Leaders We Need
Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, is a paradox for a country to boast of enormous human and material resources while majority of its people are poor. It is equally a paradox for a continent to boast of enormous human and material resources while the bulk of the poorest nations in the world are found within her boarders.

Every generation has the responsibility of confronting its challenges. It is our ability to confront and overcome our challenges that will create for us a better world that we all dream of. BUT this will require a great effort on the part of leadership.

There are two leaders whose lives have always inspired me. These are Nehemiah, a governor of ancient Palestine, and Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore. One belongs to ancient Israel and the other to the contemporary era.

Nehemiah was faced with the task of the reconstructing the broken walls of Jerusalem in 444 BC. In spite of daunting challenges and destructive attacks, with prayer, a clear vision and passion, hard-work, perseverance, courage, discipline, and a strong desire to serve his people, it took him 52 days to complete a task that had been abandoned 95 years (Neh. 6:15) after the first returnees under Zerrubabel had returned to the promised land. You can read the full account of this extraordinary leader from the Book of Nehemiah.

Lee Kuan Yew (the first Prime Minister of Singapore) is another leader who continues to inspire me.
Singapore is an island state in South East Asia. The land consisted mainly of swamps. It was a former British colonial trading post that had a legacy of divisive colonialism, racially- and ideologically-divided population. It suffered from the devastation of the Second World War. After the foreign forces from the island left, its situation was compounded with general poverty and social disorder. It was granted independence in 1965. Lee Kuan Yew became the first prime minister of Singapore in 1959 at age 35. On assumption of the leadership of the nation, he was determined to stamp out corruption, the last vestiges of the colonial era. He was determined to transform his country from the status of a third world nation to the status of a first world nation. Hard work and discipline were his battle cry. He was ruthless against corruption, ineptitude, and nepotism. Maintenance of law and order was central to his policies. It is said that nothing in Singapore escaped his watchful eyes.

We need to realise this in our own country; leaders who are action-oriented.
Because of the determination of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore is today hailed as a city of the future; it has the world’s number one airline; it has the best airport and busiest port of trade. It has the world’s fourth-highest per capita real income and is the neatest country in the world. Lee Kuan Yew succeeded in doing this in less than 50 years!

Nehemiah succeeded where others had failed because he was determined to succeed. Lee Kuan Yew succeeded because he was determined to succeed. Both Nehemiah and Lee Kuan Yew did what was critical for success. They did the right things. As leaders they understood their mission; they had a clear vision of where they were going and what they wanted. They understood the issues at stake and were determined to move forward. They knew they could not fail if they remained focused, disciplined, industrious, courageous, men of integrity, and selfless. They showed leadership by example; they delegated the various tasks to the right people on the basis of abilities and merit; they monitored and evaluated performance; they showed integrity in all their dealings; while building consensus and team spirit, they were not afraid to deal with their detractors. Both had a can-do-spirit and do-it-well attitude. They were able to inspire their followers to stick to the vision.

These are the type of leaders we need if we are going to achieve our dream.

Your Excellency, of late one of the questions that have occupied my mind is why most of our people do so well when they are operating in foreign lands but not so well in our own country. I realised the answer is not far-fetched: they include attitudinal postures, certain cultural practices and structural issues. Our cultural challenges include our attitude to time, our attitude to planning, attitude to work. We tend to put more emphasis on power, position and pedigrees or qualifications than on performance. We take more delight in the positions we occupy, the power those positions wield, and the qualifications we have instead of performance. Because of this, as a nation, we create institutions to take care of certain perceived national priorities, but once such institutions are created they become an end in themselves. We reward the ordinary so we are not forced to exploit our full potential. 

Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have said elsewhere that Ghana’s higher educational sector has a duty to make significant contributions to help the country gain a 21st century push in its social dream and economic development by becoming the nation’s pacesetter in innovation and capacity building. The need to strengthen Ghana’s science, engineering, and technology capacity cannot therefore be overemphasised.

After barely four years of operating from four satellite campuses, we will soon conclude arrangements towards the construction of our main campus at the McCarthy Hills. We will, for the mean time, and by God’s grace, begin operations at our newly-acquired City Campus located on the Graphic Road.

We are now poised to introduce engineering, and science-related programmes in the upcoming years. You will find details of this in my report which we will be sending out soon.

After last year’s graduation when we had the privilege of receiving His Excellency, former President J. A. Kufuor, a lot of people came to me and asked, “Why, you did not ask the President to do anything for us?” I said, “but we are not used to that.” Then they replied “then get used to it.” So now, Mr Vice President, “I am getting used to it.” Please allow your children to present some of the items on our shopping list for your kindest consideration as a good father.

At our main campus at the McCarthy Hills, we will need a pedestrian flyover connecting the Mendskrom part of the road and the MaCarthy Hills main campus. Your Excellency, we will greatly appreciate your assistance in this regard. The power situation at an around our corporate headquarters is too bad, to say the least. We are forced to depend on a generator most of the time. After some representation to AMA and other agencies, we saw some action on the bad road in front of our campus at Lartebiorkorshie. That project has since been abandoned! Please we need your help.

I would want to strongly indicate that, judging from the contributions that most of the established private universities have made and continue to make towards the national development agenda, it will indeed be in the national interest that they are given all the necessary support they need to enable them to continue to play a critical role in the nation’s development. 
Currently, though majority of the private universities that operate in this country are not-for-profit companies, they have been recently made to pay corporate tax. One wonders why they should do this to private universities and not to public universities. Your Excellency, your government will do a great service to education in this country if this obnoxious arrangement is reversed. There is also an ongoing debate as to whether or not the GETFund Law should be amended so that the private universities could be assisted from the funds. Your Excellency, as stakeholders make representations to appropriate quarters on this subject anything that you can do in this direction will be a great boost to cause of education in this country.

Now, allow me to address our distinguished premier graduands. The journey has been long, and sometimes tortuous. All of you have different stories to tell. Some of you, unfortunately, did not receive the required support from your employers; some had to struggle to raise the required money for your fees; working mothers have had to combine family demands, tight work schedules, and studies. Whatever be your individual experiences, you can today say that: “At long last, the battle has ended.” Congratulations! You can celebrate your success. But let me remind you: You still have a world to conquer. The greater portion of your potential is still untapped. You have the responsibility to affect your world. Until you see the poverty, filth, ignorance, and the environmental degradation around you become a thing of the past, give yourself no rest!

Keep upgrading your knowledge; the knowledge you have acquired so far is just the beginning. Remember, knowledge is power. Keep on improving yourself and one day you will eat with KINGS AND PRESIDENTS. To this end, we are happy to offer those of you who want to pursue our Maastricht-Regent MBA programme, a scholarship grant of US$1000. This offer expires on 31st July, 2008.

Go and conquer your world!

Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the vision of a new world and a new society has over the years fired the imagination and zeal of visionaries, social and religious reformers. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18).

It has been said that nothing much happens without a vision. And for something great to happen, there must be a great vision or a great dream. Behind every great achievement is the dreamer of a great dream. Our dreams must be big enough so that God can fulfill them.

Someone has said that: Ordinary people see things as they are and ask ‘why?’ Exceptional People dream about things that never were, and ask ‘why not?’ This, I believe!

May our good Lord bless us all!