Rutgers-Camden professor Muhammadou M.O. Kah is helping create a university from scratch in the African nation of The Gambia.
"There are not many times you can find yourself involved in the building of a university," says Kah
in a voice tinged with the accent of his
native land on Africa's west coast."It's both an honor and a tremendous learning experience to be there in this moment in history.
"All the shuttling back and forth, the sleepless nights, the meetings after meetings.To see the university growing gradually, seeing students walking with knapsacks or passing a classroom where students and faculty are really attentive, for me that's a reward.I say, `Wow, this really could impact this country.'"
But it is relatively stable politically and "quite committed to making this university a success," says Kah
, of Gibbsboro.
During 1999 and 2000, Kah
helped recruit and screen faculty for The University of The Gambia
, on the outskirts of the capital city of Banjul.He
also conducted workshops on strategic planning, curriculum development and the use
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of information technology.The university was officially born in January 2000 and now has about 500 students and 60 full- and part-time faculty.It is borrowing classroom space from other local institutes but plans to build in the coming years.
In January, he
was lead speaker at a national strategic planning public forum, and delivered a paper called "The Direction and Focus of the Development of the University of The Gambia."
...Kah, an information technology specialist, encouraged university founders to incorporate technology into all curriculum areas "so they can help prepare the country for an information economy."
"In a lot of economic circles," Kah
says, "skilled human capital is vital to move an economy.Without the required skills, the country will further fall behind.Higher education is quite important."Kah
was born in The Gambia and lived there until graduating high school in 1988.He then attended King Saud University in Saudi Arabia for three years before moving to the United States to attend Miami-Dade Community College in Florida, where he got an associate's degree in math and electronic engineering.He moved to Hoboken to attend the Stevens Institute of Technology, where he received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees.He taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., from 1995 to 2000 before joining Rutgers that fall.His wife, Jainaba, is director of the international development track in Rutgers-Camden's graduate Department of Public Policy and Administration.
In January, she
reviewed the Gambian university's international development curriculum.The Kahs have a daughter, Mariama, 5.
The government of The Gambia provided initial funding for the university, but as it grows, more private foundations are contributing as a way to fight poverty and disease in Africa.
"My wife and I are committed academics," Kah
said."We are going to The Gambia not only as Gambians, but as Rutgers
University faculty.We take that very seriously.
"But we don't see it as hard, rather as an enormous responsibility, and we're honored and glad to serve."