Visiting Moroccan tertiary education expert Dr Jamil Salmi says UWI should reach out to its French and Spanish speaking neighbours like Haiti, Dominican Republic and Cuba to truly establish the academic institution's reputation as a regional and international giant.Salmi made this comment during a Distinguished Open lecture at Daaga Auditorium, St Augustine campus last week Wednesday. Its theme was The Challenge of Establishing World-Class Universities.
Salmi, who lives in Bogota, Colombia, had first-hand knowledge about the crushing poverty experienced by Haitians since he worked on the education sector during his stint as a World Bank official in the late 1990s.He also visited Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which destroyed Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The epic tragedy claimed about 300,000 lives and rendered millions homeless, forcing them to seek refuge in tent cities.
Salmi said: "UWI can do more if it reaches out to Spanish and French people in the Caribbean like Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. The Caribbean has a variety of cultures and languages and I think if UWI wants to be a regional university it should reach out to Haiti since it is in such a poor state and needs all the help it can get. Much can be done if we reach out to Spanish and French people in the Caribbean." He felt communciation barriers should be removed to faciliate proper collaboration.
He said: "I think UWI should represent all these cultures. One of the best competencies one can acquire in life is language. It can open doors and encourage people to reach out to each other. I think it is something UWI could give to its students as a very important part of the education."Salmi cited the example of Korea where parents are having surgery performed on their childrens' mouths to improve their English language pronunciation.
To date, in September 2010, UWI reached out to 41 engineering students and 12 agronomy students and they were able to resume their studies at the St Augustine Campus. Spearheading the project was Prof Clement Imbert, deputy dean undergraduate student affairs/professor of materials and manufacturing.
For the past 20 years, Salmi has provided policy advice on tertiary education development, financing reforms and strategic planning to governments and university leaders in more than 80 countries.He is a member of the international advisory board of several universities in Europe, Latin America and Asia. He is also a member of the Advisory Network of the UK Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and the Editorial Committee of the OECD's Journal of Higher Education Management and Policy.