African News

Meet the Sierra Leonean with Five Phds

20 June 2013 at 18:57 | 27292 views

By Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, Saudi Arabia.

In April 2011, I was in the United States on a brief visit. During the visit, I spent one week in the Washington Metropolitan Area – shuttling between Virginia, Maryland and D.C. In D.C, I tried to interview a Sierra Leonean Professor believed to be one of the most educated men in the world – the assignment was given to me by an International News Magazine.

Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura (photo) lectures at Howard University, Washington D.C and he holds 5 PhDs. But his schedule was so tight that I couldn’t have one-on-one interview with him at that time. A few days ago, I booked an appointment with him on the telephone for an interview.

The erudite Doctor finally granted it to me last night; whilst on his way to Lagos- Nigeria where he was invited by the Department of Sociology of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos in collaboration with the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) to take part in a Distinguished Public Lecture Series scheduled to take place Thursday, June, 20, 2013.

Anyway, I started the interview by thanking him for taking time out of his very busy schedules to grant me the interview. And I first asked him to tell me about himself. The Washington Sierra Leonean – based Professor replied by saying:
“Please see my brief faculty bio at the following URL, as an answer to this question will entail too much writing:

http://guanin.org/files/Bangura%20Brief%20Bio%20For%20Howard%20University.pdf.

Well, for those who do not have access to the internet or time to check the faculty bio of Dr. Bangura, I have downloaded it. Read below and see excerpts of the interview after the bio.

Faculty Biography - Abdul Karim Bangura

Ph.D., Linguistics, Georgetown University

Ph.D., Political Science, Howard University

Ph.D., Development Economics, University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School

Ph.D., Computer Science, Columbus University

PhD. Mathematics, Columbus University

M.S., Linguistics, Georgetown University

Grd Dpl., Social Sciences, Stockholms Universitet

M.A, International Studies, American University

BA, International Studies, American University

E-mail: theafricaninstitution@verizon.net

E-mail: akbangura@howard.edu

E-mail: theai@earthlink.net (preferred)

Telephones: Howard University, 202.806.9388/6850/6720; The African

Institution: 202.829.6554

For 16 years now (three years for Bowie State University, seven years for American University, and six years for Howard University), the scientific essays of Abdul Karim Bangura’s undergraduate students have been the most published in the faculty refereed National Conference on Undergraduate Research Journal, and many others have been published in other faculty refereed journals. Also, for 12 years now, his graduate students at Howard University and American University have been the most published in refereed and other scholarly journals and books and have won the most Best Graduate Student Paper Awards.

A Muslim who attended a Roman Catholic school and served mass as an Altar Boy in Sierra Leone and studied Judaism under the tutelage of revered Rabbis in Italy, Bangura is well schooled in the Abrahamic connections. Well sought after for television and radio shows, speeches, lectures, essay and book manuscript reviews, workshops on research methodology and teaching/learning strategies, inter-religious dialogues, training in cross-cultural communication and language usage strategies, and conflict resolution, Bangura holds a BA in International Studies, an MA in International Affairs, a Graduate Diploma in the Social Sciences, an MS in Linguistics, a PhD in Political Science, a PhD in Development Economics, a PhD in Linguistics, a PhD in Computer Science, and a PhD in Mathematics.

Bangura is currently professor of Research Methodology and Public Policy in the Department of Political Science and coordinator of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) initiative at Howard University and a researcher-in-residence of Abrahamic Connections and Islamic Peace Studies at the Center for Global Peace in the School of International Service at American University. Before that, he was a professor of International Relations and Islamic Peace Studies, a researcher-in-residence at the Center for Global Peace, the coordinator of the BA in International Studies-International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) focus, the coordinator of the Islamic Lecture Series, the coordinator of the NCUR, and the faculty advisor of The Africa Project at the Center for Global Peace, the American University Undergraduate Research Association (AUURA), the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Association (IPCRA), the Student Organization for African Studies (SOFAS) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at American University, and the director of The African Institution in Washington, DC. From 1993 to 2000, Bangura taught Political Science and International Studies, served as Special Assistant to the President and Provost, founded and directed The Center for Success at Bowie State University of the University of Maryland System.

He also has taught at Georgetown University and Sojourner-Douglass College. Bangura is the author, editor and contributor of 70 books and more than 600 scholarly articles.

Bangura is a former President and then Ambassador to the United Nations of the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS) and a member of many other scholarly organizations and editorial boards. He has received numerous teaching and other scholarly and community service awards. He also is fluent in about a dozen African and six European languages, and currently studying Arabic, Hebrew, and Hieroglyphics to strengthen his proficiency in them.

Citizenship: Sierra Leonean-American

Alhaji M.B. Jalloh: It’s quite amazing to hear that a Sierra Leonean has pursued five doctorate degrees. This is the first time in my life that I’ve heard about such an academic prowess. What was the driving force behind your decision to study for Five PhDs, taken into consideration the finance involved and the social risks such as being out of job whilst pursuing those doctorate degrees?

Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura: After my first PhD, I applied for an advertised faculty position at Fourah Bay College, but I did not even receive a reply acknowledging that my application was received. I sent another application with a friend to walk it in, again I received no reply. While working in the US and waiting for an opportunity to go to Sierra Leone, I became fascinated by the works of Cheikh Anta Diop and early Egyptian thinkers such as Imhotep, Ptahhotep, Hypathia, etc. and realized that they were all great thinkers because they were pluridisciplinarians. I then decided to study more to gain as much knowledge as I can, just as the Holy Qur’an teaches. But in order to do so, I had to register in a program and pursue full-time study if I were to get a scholarship. The rest, as they say, is history, as one PhD led to another.

AMBJ: How long did it take you to complete your studies for the five doctorate degrees?

Dr. AKB: It took me about 13 years to earn the five PhDs, as I would start another program while writing the doctoral dissertation for the other.

AMBJ: Are your doctorate degrees academic or otherwise?
Dr. AKB: Yes, all of my doctorate degrees are academic.

AMBJ: How would you use your education to benefit your country and people? In other words, how would you contribute to national development, given your qualifications as one of – if not the most qualified or educated Sierra Leoneans in the world?

Dr. AKB: My education has allowed me to know people in high positions that I lobby for Sierra Leone and other African countries, help Sierra Leonean and other Black students get scholarships at my academic institution and others, help Sierra Leonean and other African scholars get needed training outside the country, earn money to send remittances to Sierra Leone, and contribute to other Sierra Leoneans’ development projects in the country. I would like to go to Sierra Leone every summer and give lectures and workshops to help faculty in my relevant disciplines strengthen their skills and also learn from them.

AMBJ: Do you have any intention of returning to Sierra Leone to contribute to nation-building? If yes, in what way would you contribute? If no, why are you not prepared to return home and help your people live better lives?

Dr. AKB: In a few years, I will qualify for early retirement. I thank Allah for blessing me with excellent health and youthful looks, it could be an opportunity to go and help tear down and rebuild the educational system from the ground up. There is too much focus on the symptoms that have crippled the educational system and not a diagnosis of the real causes.

AMBJ: Assuming that you have got the opportunity to address our leader, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma about how to develop our country, what would you tell him? And what can you say about our country before 2007 and now? Do you see any difference between those two periods? If no, what do you think is the way the way forward?

Dr. AKB: I would tell President Ernest Bai Koroma to continue doing the good job he is doing. He needs some of his staff to study the Scandinavian countries and successful African countries such as Botswana, Tanzania, etc, to see what they are doing right that has helped them to do well in many areas. Sierra Leone has come a long way since 2007, but it still has another long way to go if it is to be a Mecca for developmental success. It must be serious in tapping its best and brightest at home and in the Diaspora. This does not mean bringing everyone to Sierra Leone; the government can get its talented and proven citizens in the Diaspora to develop initiatives that can be implemented in the country after those in the Diaspora have gone to the country and studied its modalities and the feasibility of their initiatives.

AMBJ: Could you please tell me about your background – tribe, region, religion and schools attended?

Dr. AKB: I am Temne on my father’s side and Fulani on my mother’s side. My father is the late Ali Kunda Bangura, founding member of the APC; strategist that made the APC win the Kenema East II seat for parliament in 1967 which greatly helped the party to win the election; construction engineer for Sierra Leone Selection Trust; builder of the Sewa Bridge, Bo Town Clock Tower, and other many important buildings in Yengema, Tongo Field and Kenema; and Temne Chief in Tongo Field.

My mother, Fatmata Diallo/Jalloh, who is still alive, was a business woman for many years. I am a descendant of the Bangura House of Kings/Chiefs of Port Loko on my father’s side and the Diallo/Jalloh House of Kings and Chief Imams of Futa Djalon on my mother’s side, some of the descendants having moved to Gbinti. I was born in Bo Town, briefly raised there, our family moved to Yengema and later Tongo Field where I spent the major part of my childhood. I then came to Freetown for secondary school and lived with my aunt, Haja Sukainatu Bangura, and later with my uncle, Pa Morlai Bangura, and President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s mother, Haja Seray Kabbah. I am a Muslim who served mass as an Altar Boy during my youth and studied Judaism under revered Rabbis in Italy. I attended the Independence Primary School in Tongo Field, Kenema District, and the Independence Memorial Secondary School in Kissy Mess Mess near Freetown.

AMBJ: What about your travel experience?

Dr. AKB: I have travelled to almost every country in all of the continents, except Antarctica, to give lectures, present papers, engage in peace work, and do television and radio shows.

AMBJ: What are your hobbies?

Dr. AKB: Having played soccer and did track and field for my secondary school in Freetown, played soccer for East End Lions II and colleges in Italy and the US, watching soccer and occasional brief playing are still my most favorite hobby. Reading voraciously, visiting archives, libraries and museums, and traveling come second.

AMBJ: What’s your message to Sierra Leonean students and lecturers at home and abroad?

Dr. AKB: My message to Sierra Leonean students and lecturers at home and abroad is that they should treat education as Islam teaches: that is, Haq al’ilm (The Right to Education). Students must demand from their leaders their right to be educated and lecturers must also demand from their leaders the necessary tools and environment to provide their students a sound education.

AMBJ: I would have loved to ask you more questions, Doc., but since you are on your way to Nigeria, I have to leave you now. Thank you very much indeed for taking time out your busy schedules to talk to me. I really appreciate it. Hope to catch up with you one day for more questions and answers. I wish you a very safe trip. May Allah guide and guard you.

Dr. AKB: Ameen Yaa Rabb. Thank you too, Mr. Jalloh. It’s a pleasure talking to you.

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