By Anelisa Centani
Professor Cliff Jones, Rhodes University Head of the Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science (DIFS), an African Centre of Excellence, accompanied by Professor ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic and Students Affairs, recently welcomed a large delegation from Liberia on their arrival to Rhodes University.
The National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) was represented by the Hon. Augustine Manoballah, Deputy Director General; Mr Alexander Dunbar, Director, Fisheries Policy & Planning Department; Mr Ahmed Sherif, Director, Marine Fisheries & Environment Department; Solomon Daryoue, Associate Director, Fisheries Policy & Planning Department.
The University of Liberia was represented by Prof Dr Julius S. Nelson Jr., President, University of Liberia; Assoc Prof Dr Charles Asumana Sr., Dean, College of Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change; Asst Prof Dr Alvin S. Jueseah, Chairman/Head of Department, Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture Sciences (DoFAS).
The World Bank was represented by Mr Shafick Hoossein, Task Team Leader and Senior Environmental Specialist. A Rhodes Alumnus, Mr Hoossein was accompanied by his colleagues Janet Ngegla and Zinnah Mulbah, both Environmental Specialists from Liberia. Mr Hossein was delighted to have the opportunity to return to his alma mater with the delegation.
Two journalists from Freedom FM, Mr Abraham Wheon and Mr Charles Yates, accompanied the delegation.
Professor Tony Booth, the Dean of Science at Rhodes University, presented the Faculty of Science, explaining that the University offers a formative degree where students specialise in almost any two subject combinations, which differs from the single subject specialisation typical of most other universities. "The strength of a Bachelor of Science degree at Rhodes University is you might decide to major in something outside of science faculty. For example, Economics or Law. Rhodes University allows our students to craft a unique degree," he said.
Although DIFS is the smallest department in the Rhodes University science faculty, Prof Jones explained, “We are not our own; we are in partnership with SAIAB with the focus of training in mineral fisheries and agriculture.” He informed the University of Liberia that DIFS has been tasked by the African Union to take their knowledge and expertise in mineral fisheries and agriculture and use it to inform government policies around Africa.
Prof Warwick Sauer, Prof Amber Childs, Prof Wilbert Kadye and Mr Quraban Rouhan were also in attendance at the meeting from DIFS and were joined by Dr Chakona from SAIAB.
Dr Nelson Jr thanked Rhodes University for accepting their partnership request and that of the NaFAA of Liberia.
He said, "We came so that we can learn with you and to help us empower young men and women in our country.”
The President explained that the partnership with Rhodes University will steer fishery and agriculture in their country in a brand-new direction.
Dr Nelson Jr said, “We believe from the NaFAA that the fishery industry can be a profitable development for our country. Therefore, we need to prepare our youth and recruit the youth into the industry.”
Dr Asumana, Dean of Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change for the University of Liberia, said they are partnering with Rhodes University because it is the only institution in South Africa with an Ichthyology and Fisheries Science-focused degree. "For the University of Liberia, we have just started developing in this area. This month will be our first time taking our students out to see fish because it is a new department,” he said.
Dr Jueseah, Head Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences at the University of Liberia, added that they still have much to do, including training their science faculty.
He said, “Through this partnership with Rhodes University, we look forward to collaborative research between the students, faculty exchange, student exchange and some of our students finishing their degrees at Rhodes University. So, in the end, we can try to support the optimisation of the Liberian Fishing Industry.”
The University of Liberia hopes to close all the Fishing and Agriculture Industry gaps with the help of Rhodes University and the SAIAB. Both parties want to ensure that their industries are open to accommodate other sectors so that there is development in their aquatic systems. Rhodes University’s DIFS has 33 international connections worldwide.
Professor Jones explained how DIFS uniquely facilitates their postgraduate degree. “The research question needs to come from stakeholders that will use it. So, they need to be part of conceptualisation; we involve our partners in the experimental design. The work usually takes place at the stakeholder’s facility. So, a PhD student will go to the farmer's laboratory to do and finish their research.”
Following further discussion between the Rhodes University team, a networking lunch and a tour of the campus facilities, the delegation had afternoon tea with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela, and the two Deputy Vice Chancellors, Professor Monnapula-Mapesela, and Dr Kwezi Mzilikazi (Research, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships).
The Hon. Manoballah affirmed his full support of the University of Liberia’s partnership with Rhodes University and sees it as an integral part of developing the fishing sector in Liberia.
“The delegations were very pleased with how the day went and spoke about the warm welcome, the informative visit and their delight to have signed two agreements with Rhodes University,” concluded Orla Quinlan, the Director of Internationalisation at Rhodes University.