Meet Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura - The Sierra Leonean Man with 5 PHDs
Dr. Abdul Karim Bangura (pictured) is one of the most educated people in the world.
The renowned Sierra Leonean academic has circled the globe many times over. His travels have taken him to institutions and organizations in nearly every country on the planet.
Sometimes he comes to lecture, others he is presenting one of the over 600 academic papers he has published.
While many Sierra Leoneans are multilingual, Dr. Bangura’s linguistic powers are a testament to his gigantic intellect.
He speaks eighteen languages fluently, including Temne, Krio, Mende, Fula, Kono, Sherbro, Limba, Kiswahili, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Swedish with ever-increasing skills in Hebrew, Arabic, and Hieroglyphics.
In light of his language skills, it may come as less of a surprise that Dr. Bangura is also one of the few people on earth who holds five doctorate degrees. They are:
• Ph.D., Linguistics, Georgetown
• Ph.D., Political Science, Howard University
• Ph.D., Development Economics, University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School
• Ph.D., Computer Science, Columbus University
• Ph.D., Mathematics, Columbus University
Dr. Bangura’s secret to earning 5 doctorate degrees
For many scholars, such formidable academic achievements may seem unthinkable. However, Dr. Bangura views his accomplishments in very simple terms.
“After my first Ph.D., I became fascinated by the works of Cheikh Anta Diop and early Egyptian thinkers such as Imhotep, Ptahhotep, Hypatia, etc. and realized that they were all great thinkers because they were pluridisciplinarians,” He explains, “One Ph.D. led to another.”
Dr. Bangura earned all of his doctorates over a period of 13 years by working on them simultaneously.
He says, “I would start another program while writing the doctoral dissertation for the other.”
Abdul Karim Bangura?
He was born on August 26, 1953, in the town of Bo, Sierra Leone to Fatmata Diallo and Ali Kunda Bangura. His parents came from powerful clans. His father, an ethnic Temne, was a scion of the Bangura Chiefs of Port Loko. His Fulani mother came from a ruling family in Futa Djalon.
His father was an engineer and a founding member of the All People’s Congress (APC), one of the two largest political parties in Sierra Leone. His mother is an entrepreneur.
Later, he attended the Independence Secondary School near Freetown where he ran track and field. He also played football for the East End Lions FC.
He left Sierra Leone to study at the bachelor and masters levels in the United States, Italy, and Sweden. He earned the following degrees:
• BA, International Studies, American
• M.A, International Studies, American University
• M.A, Social Sciences, Stockholms Universitet
• M.S., Linguistics, Georgetown University
Since 1979, Dr. Bangura has been married to Diana Marie Kelly with whom he has two daughters: Fatmata Aminata and Isatu Ramatu.
On the education system in Sierra
In 2018, President Julius Maada Bio followed through on his campaign promise to make primary and secondary education free for all students in Sierra Leone.
The free education initiative is consistent with Dr. Bangura’s aspirations for his ancestral home. He also hopes to see educators receive more support.
“Lecturers must also demand from their leaders the necessary tools and environment to provide their students [with] a sound education,” says Dr. Bangura.
However, Dr. Bangura thinks the West can learn a great deal from the traditional African educational systems.
African and Western family constructs
In ‘Ubuntugogy: An African Educational Paradigm That Transcends Pedagogy, Andragogy, Ergonagy, and Heutagogy’, Dr. Bangura observed:
“Western education has made many Africans selfish. It has transformed their families from extended ones to nuclear ones—i.e. husband, wife, and their own children only. Children not born in the nuclear families and members of the extended families are all regarded as outsiders.”
He identified the tendency of Western nuclear families to exclude elders and other relatives as a direct threat to peace.
Dr. Bangura believes that this growing Western trend restricts the inclusion of the wider family network except for exploitative purposes, which in turn leads to conflict and destroys familial cohesion.
The resulting biases are the cause of a steady increase in antisocial behaviors and violence.
He further remarked that it is this egocentricity that desensitizes individuals to their very origins, “In precolonial Africa, divisions into cousins, nephews, nieces, half-brothers, half-sisters, uncles and aunts were absent. Uncles and aunts were called fathers and mothers, respectively; cousins were simply called brothers or sisters, as they were all members of one family.”
He believes that a sense of unity and shared interest are essential peace-building strategies, “Beliefs connected with kindness, reliability, and respectability were meant to promote goodness and good manners among the people, especially members of the extended family or close family friends.”
A league of his own
Dr. Bangura is a 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. He is also 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.
His success with undergraduate researchers is second to none. Year after year, his undergraduate students’ essays enjoy the highest incidence of publication – consistently outclassing Harvard, Yale, and MIT.
To date, he has written, edited and contributed to 66 books, including: Islamic Civilization, Amity, Equanimity and Tranquility: Analyzing and Inventing Peace Paradigms, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Strategies.
“My late father inspires my writing,” said Dr. Bangura, “as he taught me to always fight against injustice and tyranny and to promote the cause of the oppressed, depressed, repressed, and suppressed.”