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Georgia Southern education professor gives keynote in Nigeria

Alejandro Gallard, Ph.D.

Georgia Southern University Professor and Goizueta Distinguished Chair of Education Alejandro J. Gallard, Ph.D., was a keynote speaker during the second annual Intellectual Fiesta on Africa’s Development, held in September in Abeokuta, Nigeria.

Hosted by the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL), the Intellectual Fiesta focused on the theme of “Emerging Developments in Europe and North America: Lessons for Human Security in Africa.” Organizers for the event included the Centre for Human Security and Dialogue (CHSD) in collaboration with the Institute for African Culture and International Understanding (IACIU) and the Africa Progress Group (APG) — all of which are supportive academic pillars of the OOPL.

During his keynote address, Gallard identified five overlapping and emerging themes in the United States, including: education, immigration, technology and trade, politics, and healthcare. For his address, Gallard focused on education, immigration as well as technology and trade and of how they intersect contextually.

“We live in a world of well-intentioned leaders whose desire is to see their respective countries and citizens grow,” Gallard said. “Unfortunately, ideas and efforts inevitably become overwhelmed by explicit and discrete positional inter- and intrasection of contextual mitigating factors. Applying best practices without considering the influence of contextual mitigating factors, such as the absence of a sense of ownership of the earth by a nation’s citizens, will only result in a superficial change to policies that advocate environmental stewardship.”

Gallard also spoke to his experiences in education and immigration, explaining that education is often defined and driven by political bureaucracy rather than the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s youth. 

“I suspect that this is not particular to the United States and indeed is a world-wide phenomenon,” he said. “The function of education should be, and must be, for all students who, in turn, are able to see that they have a productive place for them tomorrow in society. By productive place I mean social spaces that dignify and not humiliate an individual, that promote the welfare of an individual, and that promote the value of individual social justice. Specifically, human capital should not be to solely advance decreasing the hiring cost of the private sector, nor to only increase an individual’s productivity potential but should be understood through the lens of today’s youth developing skills to occupy a self-respecting space in the society they inherit.”

Gallard recognized, however, efforts being made in the state of Georgia that could be commended and serve as an example of how political policies can help to achieve educational goals.

“It is imperative to create a function of education that is an alliance between the private, public and education sectors,” Gallard said. “In the state of Georgia, the state’s political leaders led by Governor Brian Kemp have begun to understand that the economic development of Georgia is not solely dependent on attracting investors or that it is acontextual. They realize that the quality of in-state human capital is critical to attract and sustain short and long-term investments. As such, the Governor has prioritized the development of good quality teachers, and universities with teacher education programs have increased their efforts in assisting in-service teachers improve their practice which also stresses the importance of interinstitutional cooperation.”

Additionally, Gallard defined a key mitigating factor in the United States as manipulating immigration policy due to the country’s tendency to fear “otherness.”

“There can be no protection and promotion of tomorrow as well as the diversity of cultural expressions as long as otherness is the motivating force for the exclusion of many individuals and their full participation in the world,” he said.

Gallard was invited to APG upon formation in 2018 by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo as a partner for his expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

The APG is slated to meet again in March 2020 to celebrate President Obasanjo’s birthday. Former President George W. Bush and other dignitaries will be in attendance.

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