Ambassador Daigle’s Remarks: Opening of the University of Cabo Verde English Master’s Program

U.S. Embassy Praia
Public Affairs Section
For Public Release (As Prepared)

University of Cabo Verde
January 6, 2020

Opening of University of Cabo Verde English Master’s Program

AMBASSADOR DAIGLE: It is an honor to be here for the opening of the University of Cabo Verde’s English Language Teaching and Linguistics Master’s Program. The United States Embassy is proud to partner with UniCV in creating this first academic space of its kind in Cabo Verde dedicated to both English learning and English teaching. Some of you may not know that before I became a diplomat I was an English teacher in Japan. During my time in Japan, I learned that learning English is a powerful tool that opens doors culturally, academically, and economically. Although I have made a long-term commitment to foreign affairs, teaching English remains one of my first loves. That is why my team and I at the U.S. embassy are redoubling our efforts to work with partners like University of Cabo Verde, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, and others to promote more English language learning among secondary schools, universities, and young professionals. Before we go any further, I want to congratulate the University, under the leadership of the Rector Dr. Judite Nascimento; as well as the Faculty of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts; and the professors in Department of English for this tremendous success. I especially want to thank the English department, including the chair Dr. Jair Martins as well as Dr. Saidu Bangura, whose dedication over many years to turning this vision a reality has made this academic program and our opening today possible. Through this program, you have created an opportunity for students — teachers, linguists, researchers, or professionals in any field — to hone critical English skills like reading and listening comprehension, speaking, and professional and academic writing. We know students are most successful when they have the support of skilled and dedicated professionals, so we appreciate all of the professors present with us today for the careful instruction we know you will provide this first cohort of students in the weeks and months ahead.

I also want to acknowledge Kristi Weissenburger, our English Language Fellow for her contributions since her arrival to UniCV. For those that do not know, Kristi is assigned to the university for a 10-month teaching exchange as part of the U.S. government’s English Language Fellow program. Through this initiative, highly qualified U.S. educators with expertise in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages participate in fellowships at academic institutions throughout the world. To date, over one thousand English Language Fellows like Kristi have worked in more than 80 countries to foster mutual understanding, promote English language learning, and enhance English teaching capacity abroad. In addition to her duties as an instructor in the Master’s Program at UniCV this year, Kristi is helping us at the embassy to expand our English language outreach programs. We’re starting by supporting the development of a professional network of secondary school English teachers and more resources for English language clubs nationwide. Kristi, thank you for working side by side with your Cabo Verdean colleagues to help develop this rigorous curriculum that we know will be key to shaping Cabo Verde’s next generation of English teachers and scholars. I am glad to have Dr. Joao Rosa, academic chair of the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies at Bridgewater State, here to present for us today on the power of learning the English language. I noticed the design advertising the Master’s program includes the likeness of the United States and Cabo Verde, as well as powerful cultural symbols like the Statue of Liberty. These images reflect the long-standing ties that connect the United States and Cabo Verde with roots tracing back to the Cabo Verdean whalers who sought economic freedom and opportunity on the shores of Massachusetts as early as the 16th century, and have led to the United States being home to the largest Cabo Verdean diaspora in the world. The ties between our two nations continue to grow and flourish through partnerships like the one between UniCV and Bridgewater State University.

Furthermore, the academic exchange of BSU professors like Dr. Rosa to teach various modules in this new Master’s program is just another example of how academic partnerships can boost institutional capacity and the skills of individual students destined to be future leaders of Cabo Verde. Last year I had the pleasure of visiting BSU and speaking extensively with President Clarke and over two dozen professionals from various schools in the Boston area about how we could lend more institutional support to Cabo Verde’s educational system. Since then, I have met with numerous BSU representatives and have been astonished by the deep commitment this school has made to the country of Cabo Verde. I believe we can use Bridgewaters’ efforts as a model to create similar partnerships with other U.S. colleges and universities. That is why this year the U.S. embassy will be launching a program called the U.S.-Cabo Verde University Partnership Initiative, USCV-UP, to encourage more formal collaborations between colleges and universities in the United States and higher education and secondary schools in Cabo Verde. USCV-UP will serve as bold next step of Embassy Praia’s ongoing U.S.-Cabo Verde Bicentennial campaign. As many of you know, last year the U.S. Embassy and Government of Cabo Verde celebrated our 200 years of historical ties since the first U.S. Consulate in Sub-Saharan Africa was established in 1818 in what is now Cabo Verde. While the bicentennial campaign looked to the past, the USCV-UP initiative looks toward the future, seeking to build on existing formal and informal ties between U.S. and Cabo Verdean institutions, including public and private universities. Increasing university partnerships in Africa is a priority at the highest levels of the State Department, including our Assistant Secretary of Africa Tibor Nagy. Given that human capital, the capacity of its people, is one of Cabo Verde’s greatest resources, the USCV-UP falls squarely in line with our two nations’ shared goals of economic growth, development, and opportunity. In the months ahead, the U.S. embassy looks forward to partnering with the Ministry of Education, institutions like UniCV and BSU, as well as the Cabo Verdean alumni of U.S. colleges and universities to make this initiative another strong pillar of our
bilateral cooperation. Before I go, I would like to recognize the 18 students who will be joining this inaugural class of the master’s program this year, both here in Praia and in Mindelo. It is rarely easy to be the first to take on a new challenge, to carve a new path.

As the first cohort of this Master’s program you are pioneers and models for what we must all keep in mind as those seeking knowledge in the hopes of improving our future opportunities. So my advice to you as a former English teacher is to be courageous; because no matter what our age, our background, or our level of academic skill — we all must overcome the same challenges. We have to get over our fear of failure to get started, we have to stay motivated, and most of all we have to stay committed. But the good news is you have already taken the first and biggest step. You have opened an important door for yourselves and for Cabo Verde. I hope that by your willingness to be first and lead by example in this program, more young Cabo Verdeans will be inspired to learn English and follow in your footsteps. English is a key skill not only for opening doors to other cultures, but also to opening doors academically and for job opportunities in the future. Many don’t know that English is the most commonly spoken language in the world. More than 400 million people speak English as their first language and one out of five people can speak or at least have basic English comprehension. That is a lot of people to meet, but English is the “key” you need to open the door and start each conversation. Clearly, we know English is the language of the media industry–films, internet, and music. But English is also the language of science, aviation, computer technology, global politics, and tourism. The fact that English is spoken in over 53 nations worldwide means learning English increases your employment opportunities both here in Cabo Verde or abroad. And there are thousands of schools around the world, many of the them in the United States, that offer academic programs in English. Bottom line, if you speak English, you open doors for academic and economic opportunities that remain open to you and allow others to follow suit.

So please know that we at the U.S. embassy are committed to working with you and our partners like University of Cabo Verde and local secondary schools to advance English education. In previous years we have hosted training events for English club coordinators and worked closely with UniCV to make advancements in its English programs and facilities. As I mentioned earlier, this year we are working with our EL Fellow to visit more schools, support more English clubs, and get more free digital and audio resources in the hands of English learners. And, for those of you who are interested in eventually studying in the United States, we have resources, including American English online content and information on taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL through EducationUSA Cabo Verde. Please be sure to visit our table or our Embassy and EducuationUSA Cabo Verde Facebook pages to get more information.

In conclusion, whether you are a student, a teacher, or a learner at any level, I encourage you to keep learning, to get out of your comfort zone and practice your English whenever you can and with whomever you can. The truth is you don’t have to earn a Master’s degree in English to master this language. You just have to have the drive and the right support system committed to helping you succeed. We at the U.S. embassy stand ready to be a core part of that partnership now and in the years ahead.

Thank you.