Sheffield student shares a stage with Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan with Herine Otieno-Menya.
Kofi Annan with Herine Otieno-Menya.
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A PhD student from Sheffield Hallam University shared the stage with former secretary-general of the United Nations Kofi Annan at a top conference in Africa.

Herine Otieno-Menya, currently studying for a PhD in mathematics education, gave a presentation on the first day of the Association of Commonwealth Universities Conference of University Leaders in Accra, Ghana.

She was invited to give a vote of thanks - a way of paying tribute to someone’s life work - to Mr Annan by Dr John Kirkland OBE, deputy secretary general of the ACU.

In her speech, Herine said: “My wish has always been that eminent speakers would openly, consistently, and strategically champion the cause for higher education, research, and related disciplines.

“My wish is that every African child – from the youngest age – would hear about the value of these disciplines not only from their teachers, but also from national leaders and role models.”

As well as Mr Annan, Herine’s speech was given in front of the honorary professor Dr Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, minister of education for Ghana, the rt hon Patricia Scotland QC, secretary-general of the Commonwealth, and more than 250 higher education experts from 35 countries gathering to discuss the theme of ‘Defining the responsible university: society, impact and growth’.

In his keynote address, Mr Annan spoke of the crucial role of education as a means for development, particularly to address what he called ‘the democratic deficit’ in many countries.

He added: “Education is the premise of progress in every society. It is the basis for sustainable economic growth and a fundamental building block for healthy, democratic societies.”

Mr Annan then called upon university leaders to “ensure that higher education helps foster a better understanding of democracy, its benefits and responsibilities.”