Mindanao’s USM teams up with Malaysia’s USM

PENANG, Malaysia (MindaNews/17 January) — Mindanao’s University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, North Cotabato is teaming up with Malaysia’s best, the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Mindanao’s Dr. Antonio Dereje, USM President, handed over a letter of undertaking to Malaysia’s Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, USM Vice Chancellor (equivalent here to President), at the end of the four-day Mindanao Educators Peace Summit here.
The vice-chancellor wasn’t able to make it at the opening so he came to the Summit at the closing on Friday afternoon. He also stayed for the dinner.

Dereje told MindaNews the Vice Chancellor immediately handed over the letter to his assistant. He said the Vice Chancellor told him a memorandum of agreement would have been ready if it had been given much earlier.

Dereje said they will communicate with Associate Professor Dr. Kamarulzaman Askandar, Coordinator of the Research and Education for Peace Unit Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM) to finalize the agreement which shall be initially on faculty, staff and student exchange.

REPUSM, with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and in coordination with the Mindanao Association of State Universities and Colleges Foundation (Mascuf), the association of some 30 state universities and colleges in Mindanao, organized the historic Mindanao Educators Peace Summit, a follow-through of last year’s Consolidation for Peace conference, proposed by Dr. Grace Rebollos, president of the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU).

Before becoming WMSU president, Rebollos had been involved in various peace-building efforts and researches, and was among the founders of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ).

MASCUF signed a memorandum of understanding with USM at the start of the Summit last Tuesday, to “establish the framework for understanding and cooperation” in the areas of staff and student exchanges and the sharing of expertise, knowledge and information.

The MOU is intended to promote cross-cultural exchanges between staff and students of USM and Mascuf; enrich the academic and campus life of both institutions, as well as to provide support for academic and non-academic activities; provide opportunities for faculty staff at USM and Mascuf to undertake joint teaching and research; and to promote the sharing of best practices and experiences.

MASCUF is headed by Dr. Victor Barroso, president of the Bukidnon State University. Barroso signed the MOU with Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, USM Vice Chancellor as the other signatory, represented by Prof. Ahmad Shukri Mustapa Kamal, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic and International Affairs.

Signing as witnesses were Askandar, Coordinator of the Research and Education for Peace Unit Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM) and Mindanawon Dr. Hja. Luningning Umar, commissioner of the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education.

Dr. Danda Juanday of the Bangsamoro Development Agency told MindaNews there were earlier efforts, about five years ago, to link up USM in Kabacan with USM in Penang.

Dereje said the partnership with USM in Penang would involve advocacy for peace and development as well as technology transfer.

Dereje left for Penang last week as news reports criticized him for the alleged dismissal of Meriam Cornelio, a “highly qualified” teacher who is a certified public accountant and a holder of a master of business administration degree, from the College of Business Development, Economics, and Management.

Rep. Lala Talino-Mendoza, who is running for governor against incumbent vice governor Emmanuel Pinol, was also dragged into the controversy, allegedly because she was pressuring the university president to dismiss Cornelio.

Cornelio in an earlier MindaNews story said she spoke with Dereje who, she claimed, “personally and verbally admitted to me that my contract of service cannot be renewed and that I can never be appointed to a regular position because of pressures from Congresswoman Talino-Mendoza and former Carmen Mayor Roger Talino.”

Dereje denied the allegations and said he hopes the university will be spared from politics.

Dereje said Cornelio’s service contract has ended. He added the issue is administrative and should be dealt with at the level of the dean of the college.

Dereje said he would immediately convene a meeting in the university to share the USM Penang experience and to inspire USM Kabacan to be leaders as well in various fields, as USM in Penang is.

USM has a student population of about 11,000. It is one of two universities in Mindanao that is offering veterinary medicine and is a Center for Excellence in Veterinary Medicine. It is also a Center of Development in Agriculture. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)