Roundtable Discussions: Amoud University & University of Massachusetts(UMass)

Roundtable Discussions: Amoud University & University of Massachusetts(UMass)

Amoud Foundation Sponsored a five day visit conducted by University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) held at Amoud University involving SomaliREN(a group of universities in the Somali regions sharing a common academic vision) and civil Society groups.

The visit included an itinerary involving the guests' arrival on Saturday, October 8th, 2016 to Borama Town from Hargeisa City, followed by an evening Rest at Rays Hotel, Borama. In the schedule for the next day was then a one day familiarization tour of Amoud University by University of Massachusetts officials and a one day roundtable discussion forum between University of Massachusetts and Amoud University officials, events which took place on Sunday October 9th, 2016 and Monday October 10th, 2016, respectively. Also on the list of things to do for Amoud Foundation and University of Massachusetts was a meeting between the latter aforementioned party and the civil Society groups based in Borama on Tuesday October 11th, 2016. Finally the visits ended with a tripartriate forum or workshop involving Amoud Foundation as the sponsor, University of Massachusetts and eleven other universities who are members of SomaliREN, the latter two being potential partners for future academic engagements, partnerships and networking.

The tour of Amoud University by the Umass Amherst officials involved visits to the three main campuses located in Borama Town by the guest officials  including Main Campus which is about five kilometers to the East of Borama Town, Amoud University College of Health Sciences (AUCHS) located Northwards of Borama Town and Amoud University School of Postgraduate Studies and Research (AUSPGSR), located within the proximity of Borama Town centre.

The University of Massachusetts was represented by Dr. Joseph B. Berger (PhD), Senior Associate Dean Director, Center for International Education (CIE) College of Education, UMass Amherst; Hanni S.Thoma, Research Assistant College of Education UMass Amherst and Mohamed Good, Research Associate college of Education and Vice President for International Relations and Faculty Development, UMass Amherst.

On Monday October 10th, 2016, roundtable discussions between Amoud University and University of Massachusetts were held at the meeting Hall, Amoud University College of Health Sciences. The meeting which started at 8.30am was opened by Prof. Suleiman A. Guleid, the President of Amoud University. Those present in the meeting included Dr. Joseph B. Berger(PhD) Senior Associate Dean and Director, Center for International Education (CIE) at the College of Education University of Massachusetts Amherst. Together with him was Hanni S. Thoma Research Assistant at the College of Education university of Massachusetts Amherst and Dr. Mohamed Good (PhD) Research Associate at the College of Education University of Massachusetts Amherst. Accompanying the guests from University of Massachusetts Amherst was Mr. Mohamoud F. Egal the President of Amoud Foundation an International NGO based in USA that has supported Education and Development in various places including Somalia.

Amoud Foundation has been providing very close support in terms of logistical resources, physical resources and financial resources to Amoud University since its establishment. The Foundation was involved in payment of staff at the inception of the university, withdrawing this assistance gradually and systematically until the university was able to be self sustaining. This particular trip was organized under the auspices of Amoud Foundation, and has taken a period of more than three years of planning for the visiting team to have been able to come to Borama in their official capacity in order for the institutitons to explore such academic and developement partnerships. All logistical support that enabled the UMass team to have a successful tour and meeting for the five days beginning Saturday October 10th, 2016 and ending Thursday October 14th, 2016 have been basically attributed to concerted efforts from Amoud Foundation President and his team. Consequently much appreciation has been expressed regarding the outstanding vital role of Amoud Foundation in bringing together both University of Massachussets Amherst and Amoud University who were the other two central players during this particular initial round of talks , for having been able to achieve this milestone. Since its inception todate, Amoud foundation has been a strategic support and collaborative partner for Amoud University.

Apart from the President of Amoud University, other Amoud University officials present during this roundtable discussions were Dr. Said Ahmed Walhad, Principal, Amoud University College of Health Sciences; Prof Ahmed Abdillahi Shirdon Vice President for Administration and Finance, Dr. Fatuma Abubakar Omar, the Dean School of Nursing and Midwifery; Dr. Abdirashid Ahmed Sh. Ibrahim, Dean School of Dentistry; Dr. Ismacil Mohamed Aye, Dean School of Medicine; Dr. Abdisalam Jamaa Ibrahim Dean School of Public Health and Dr. Mohamed Daud Qowdan Dean School of Laboratory Technology, and Edwin Omondi Okech, Dean faculty of Computing and ICT.

In the discussions, Prof. Suleiman outlined the following items in his opening speech:-
That since the time when Amoud University was established, there have been numerous extraneous bottlenecks that have impeded growth and development of universities, Amoud University included, such as, no strong representations of civil society groups, no political recognition for Somaliland government and no effective collection of revenue from relevant government bodies. In addition, poor infrastructural network has also affected progress in the region even though lately the European Union has since funded many projects to mitigate this inadequacy in road networks and infrastructure. All challenges notwithstanding, there has been increasing confidence in the population that they can achieve much more with the minimum resources available albeit with minimum and modest assistance that may or may not be forthcoming. Amoud University has consistently emphasized Human Resource Development on a modest scale. We have to train our staff on site and occassionally when absolutely necessary, send them elsewhere within the country or abroad in order for them to acquire more skills. The year 2017 is going to be Amoud University's 20th anniversary and is being earmarked for a glance back at milestones achieved, what is in existence at present versus what the future potentially holds for the university.

Prof. Suleiman said he holds the opinion that in Africa many projects have failed, including those implemented by major development partners, for the main reason that they used a Top-Down approach to Resource allocation where the development partners set the agenda and then those institutions targeted for assistance twist and turn their policies to fit into the model proposed by the multinational development partners, which, way too, often throws the entire project into a spin and ultimately out of control. He proposed a change in approach where the population targeted for assistance provide the answers while development partners ask teh relevat questions then together the two parties set the agenda based on priority areas arrived at based on this mutually inclusive process.

From R-L: Prof. Abdulahi H. Aare, Chief Academic Registrar, Amoud University; Prof Ahmed A. Ismail,Amoud Foundation Staff; Prof. Ahmed A. Boqore, Vice President for Acadamic Affairs, Amoud University; Dr.Mohamed Good, Research Associate, College of Education, UMass Amherst; Ms. Hanni S. Thoma, Research Assistant College of Education, UMass Amherst; Dr. Joseph B. Berger, Senior Associate Dean, Director, Center for International Education (CIE), Collage of Education, UMass Amherst, Prof. Suleiman A. Guleid, President, Amoud Univeristy; Mr Mohamoud F. Egal, President of Amoud Foundation; Prof. Mohamoud M. Jamaa, Vice President for Public Relations and Community Outreach, Amoud University; Ahmed A. Abdillahi, Assistant Dean Faculty of Computing and ICT and Farah Osman, Lecturer, ICT Department, Amoud University. Standing on the left is Edwin Omondi Okech, Dean, Faculty of Computing and ICT presenting History and Background of Amoud University. [Saturday, October 9th, 2016 at Main Campus Amoud University]

On Amoud University itself, the President highlighted the fact that since inception and upto date, the university was set up in a secondary-school type facility been for a tertiary-type institution. This calls for upgrade or consutruction of new buildings, equipment and facilities to be uses in at the University in the long run. Leadership training is also a major area of concern for Amoud University and beyond. The Ministry of Higher Education in Somaliland has set some becnchmarks which institutions have to attain to be called universities and actually receive charters. Amoud Unversity has competently achieved this status. It is in Amoud University's self interest to improve quality of her graduates. "We are not losers, but we want to be always winners", said the President.

Another area identified as a priority was capacities of research particularly in areas of Agriculture, Education and Medical fields. Makerere University and Amoud University for example are currently negotiating the terms for an MoU(Memorandum of Understanding) to be signed soon with this in mind.
In addition the president talked about the need for assistance in dealing with students with special needs to enhance participation of such minority groups by setting up platforms enabling equal opportunities for all persons including those with disabilities. Prof Suleiman then invited Mr. Mohamed F. Egal, President of Amoud Foundation to deliver a brief speech.

On his part Mr. Mohamoud F. Egal, President of Amoud Foundation thanked the hosts Amoud University for a warm reception. He further gave a small history explaining the beginning of the journey about three or so years ago that has finally led to the coming of the visiting team from UMass Amherst. He underlined the fact that Amoud Foundation and Amoud University should continue to partner and complement each other to achieve the desired mutual success in all spheres of their co-operation. Mr. Mohamoud narrated that for the guests to have been able to come to Borama, it took a lot of lobbying, patience, efforts and enormous amounts of investments in financial and non financial resources to plan and deliver the visit alone, which is just the starting point of engagement of the participating institutions. His philosophy and that of Amoud Foundation he said, revovles around listening to the people. Upon concluding his speech, he invited Dr. Berger to deliver a key note address.

Dr. Berger shared several points in his keynote address. First he complimented Amoud University for a warm reception and underscored further the importance of the support that Amoud Foundation has offered in order for the tripartriate engagements to reach this initial stage.

According to Dr. Berger, in his address he said that there are three main things on offer from University of Massachusetts towards the path to partnership namely:-

    Expertise - That UMass Amherst has had great expertise developing priority areas and systems in challenging and conflict prone areas all over the world including in countries like Afganistan. He noted that it would be important to get immediate needs in strategic ways that build capacities for the long term. "We want to be sure that we can learn from each other", he poised.
    Identification of Other Members and Partners:- Dr. Berger further said that one of the goals of this engagement would be to connect with other networks and expertise for example in Medicine, Agriculture or Education. Identifying folks with the motivation, expertise and interest to come in as startegic partners e.g. university of Brussels is already working with another university in Somalia, models like that would be easy and fast to explore.
    Long Term:- "The long term impact takes resources", Dr. Berger said. UMass Amherst has a trememndous record for financial resource mobilization. The fact that Umass Amherst is present means that therefore there is interest shown, which is a good initial indicator. MoUs, he added should be for serious implementation of projects.

Delving futher into these matters, he emphasized that Amoud University should first get its priority right and ask the right questiosn such as: Where are the areas where we will have immediate traction? In addition, to sharing strategically what action plans are there to put our house in order? Good partnerships are built on on authentic understanding, a necessary foundation from where we shall be able to build on.

From L-R: Dr.Joseph B. Berger, Senior Associate Dean, Director, Center for International Education (CIE), College of Education, UMass Amherst, Prof. Suleiman A. Guleid, President, Amoud Univeristy; Mr Mohamoud F. Egal, President, Amoud Foundation; Dr.Mohamed Good, Research Associate, College of Education, UMass Amherst; Ms. Hanni S. Thoma, Research Assistant college of Education, UMass Amherst; Prof. Abdulahi H. Aare, Chief Academic Registrar, Amoud University. [Saturday, October 9th, 2016 at Main campus Amoud University]

In conclusion he said Amoud University and University of Massachusetts would perhaps explore the following areas where we could get our traction from:-

    Library Needs:- potentially access online materials, journals, books, whether broad assortment from various fields or in just specific fileds. Cutting edge technology could easily be applied to achieve this, an action that would cost potentially little or no resources but deliver quick or near instant results.
    Research Capacities:- A network of universities would do good to help in building research capacities for example through collaborations with otheruniversities both local and from abroad.
    Amoud University Faculty of Education/ UMass Amherst College of Education:- being a staff based at the College of Education Dr. Berger thought it may be actually easier for him to work collaboratively with Amoud University through the two sister schools before such engagements could be extended to other schools.
    Quality Assurance work:- Since there are established and currently practised quality assurance work ongoing, Dr. Berger advised that Amoud University should think strategically to be a leader in this area to help her be ahead of the pack.
    Finally, Dr. Berger recommended that further discussions need to be held on the way forward on how to make the brand Amoud University even better because with connections it would be very possible to achieve some milestones in the short run and even greater milestones in the long term.

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