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‘Impossible does not exist in our dictionary’ - Says H.E. Amer Alalawi of United Arab Emirates

BY: Anis Haffar
 Bishop John Essel (left), Knutsford founder, and Ambassador Alalawi (middle), the writer
Bishop John Essel (left), Knutsford founder, and Ambassador Alalawi (middle), the writer

With the anthem refrain, “Though raging storms come / Even stronger we’ll be / Though raging storms come / We will never give up”, Knutsford University was founded in 2017 as a liberal arts, science, and technology college.

It is accredited by the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission (GTEC) and affiliated to University of Ghana – Legon, and the University for Development Studies (UDS), Tamale. Its mission is to produce skilled, knowledgeable, and ethical graduates for community service and national development.

It was an honour to have been asked to be the guest speaker on the theme “The Post COVID-19 Era: Redefining new perspectives for Education”. The 2022 congregation and matriculation ceremonies were held on November 26, 2022.

Ambassador Alalawi

It was enlightening to hear the special guest of honour, H. E. Amer Ali Alalawi - ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Ghana - say “Impossible does not exist in the United Arab Emirates.”

In addressing the graduates, he said, “I’m sure that you are proud of closing this chapter and opening another. May your next chapter be full of opportunities and success. This is a major step in your life and one that should be recognised for its massive significance”.

Having noted the excitement of the ceremonies, he assured the graduands that having worked so hard to get this far, “You are capable of reaching the stars, so chase your dreams. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.

For perseverance and grit, the ambassador quoted the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the prime minister of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of Dubai: “The word impossible does not exist in the United Arab Emirates dictionary.”

He advised that those words “became our beacon for ambition and development, so keep this in your mind”.

From Chancellor, President

In the welcome address, the Chancellor - Bishop Dr Douglas Akuamuah-Boateng - noted that COVID-19 encouraged the use of Distance Learning Education in most tertiary institutions, which brought in its wake, Virtual Learning, although Online Learning had begun in the late 1990s. This has enlightened connoisseurs of education globally to look beyond the physical type of learning and re-define new perspectives of education to enhance new ways of conducting learning, leadership and managerial tasks.

The President of Knutsford, Prof. Anthony K. Ahiawodzi, noted that during the year under review, Knutsford University College won the “Most Supportive Educational Institution in Environmental & Sanitation Promotion Award, 2022,” at a ceremony organised by the Ghana Environmental & Sanitation Awards (GESA) on October 1, 2022, at AH Hotel at East Legon, Accra.

Education for applications

When invited to give keynote addresses on graduation days, I’m often requested to motivate the new graduates as they venture into the brave world of challenges and expectations, and generally to inspire the whole institution including the proprietors, academic and administrative staff.

Key educational outcomes are so important that they happen to be my focus by default. Simply put, it is in the doing – that is, in the application phase of any educational process - that really motivates and inspires people. That quest has to be addressed by any education system worthy of its purpose.

In my keynote address on “Redefining New Perspectives for Education”, I shared the experience of flying in the night over Accra from Tamale - after the 2022 Ghana Teacher Prize ceremonies -organised by the National Teaching Council (NTC) - held at the UDS. And to think that of the millions of light bulbs visible from the air, not one single bulb was produced in Ghana.

So, in considering the kind of education Ghana truly needs today, it’s apparent that the functional abilities for solving basic pressing problems must feature front, centre and across the education spectrum. These are not new demands. They started with J.E. Kwegyir Aggrey of Anomabu, in the Gold Coast, when he said in 1925: “Don’t tell me what you know; show me what you can do!”

On that note, I suggested that UDS, for example, drop the “Studies” in the name and replace it with “Applications”, so we now have the University of Development Applications (UDA).

Over the years, the problem with a good many government officials appointed to high offices, for example, hinged on that depressing habit of theirs to routinely repeat the wholesale catalogue of the nation’s problems. Completely outlawed in their mindsets were the practical solutions to the serious problems the nation suffers from daily.

In considering the trajectory of some education systems, it’s so clear that many people were taught with great faith in theories but less trust in the ability to solve clearly visible problems. The nation may continue to be rich in natural resources but missing in the equation is the practical faith needed to solve mundane problems.

Lifelong learning

Measured by 21st century expectations, a great many academic degrees worldwide had exceeded their expiration dates and become obsolete, so lifelong learning must kick in like religion.

As I advise in my leadership seminars, it’s worth finding mentors – wherever in the world they may be. First, it helps to recognise the qualities, tenacity, and grit one admires, and emulate those superior examples through people who possess them.

The idea is to aspire to behave like the great thinkers, movers, and doers - while updating one’s life’s purpose with poise and dignity. As they say, do your very best and God will do the rest. It’s a two-way street.

In my conclusion, I advised the new graduands and matriculants to not see themselves as mere graduates or students of Knutsford university; but to see themselves as ambassadors of that noble institution and allow the Knutsford mission to resonate in the core of their being.

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