Oussouby Sacko: First Black University President In Japan

by Duke Magazine

The connecting line between Japan and Mali is Professor Oussouby Sacko, the first Black president of a Japanese university. 

Sacko poised his academic pursuit in architecture to Kyoto University’s graduate school of engineering, Japan in 1991. This was after graduating from China’s Southeast University. Sacko had attended a high school for high achievers getting the opportunity to study in China thanks to a government scholarship.

He was very active in making life seamless for the new arrivals, helping in integrating them into the complex Japanese society. His support made him to be regarded in Kyoto academic setting as an effective leader of minorities. 

“It is important that they should be able to say, ‘Please teach me,’ about things they do not know,” he said. “I always strive for humility when I talk with others.”

Image credit: asia.nikkei.com

Prof. Sacko now 53 is a practicing Muslim, who has been in Japan for three decades and upon his election, he submitted: “Kyoto Seika University has not made me as an attraction. I was elected in a vote by the teaching staff. The school is truly democratic, and sets a high value on diversity.”

Kyoto Seika University was founded by Seiichi Okamoto in 1968. Okamoto, envisioned a new form of higher learning centered upon “the spirit of freedom and autonomy.” As a cornerstone of this philosophy, the university “does not educate through any specific religion [but] respects the truths sought by many religions, and their ethos of sincerity and love toward humanity.”

Since his inception as the president, Sacko has increased overseas enrollment and foreign teachers, and increased the ratio of women in both camps. “I want to make Kyoto Seika University a more diverse community,” the man appointed in late 2017 ahead of the university’s 50th anniversary noted.

 The university has an estimate of 3,000 students enrolled, which is less than two-thirds of its capacity. A situation Prof. Sacko hopes to rectify by increasing enrollments. 

“To create a truly diverse society, it is important that racially and culturally different people mingle with one another while recognizing their differences,” Sacko said, adding there was need for a mindset change by people with power.

He has in his capacity given a fair treatment devoid of discrimination in the university. Evident is a significant adjustment to its entrance examination system in 2018, and avails foreign students to take all entrance assessments, and not some specifics. This great policy of his has broadened the admission window of the university for foreign students, with the percentage jumping from 12% in the 2018 academic calendar to almost 30%.

The professor who is proficient in French, English, and Japanese languages is aware of the exalted position he sits with the mission to leave an imprinted legacy that his successors can build on.

Sacko is married with two kids to a Japanese woman. 

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