It is with great delight and immense pleasure that I stand before this great gathering as the valedictorian of this great institution.
My experience through high school was very difficult. It took all of my strength literally, my focus, determination, my parents, my friends, teachers and above all God to reach where I am today and certainly it was worth every bit.
Allow me today to speak to you on this critical topic: Quality Education, the way out of our current mess.
Education by definition is the process of facilitating learning, or that acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits.
Education frequently takes places under the guidance of educators, but learners may also educate themselves. Education is like a computer which means just like a computer cannot function without its necessary parts like the keyboard, monitor and importantly, its system unit which is the brain of the computer, it is the same as education. Education without a determined, willing, able and ready person to acquire it is just a waste.
Educational System In Liberia.
Education in Liberia was severely affected by the first Liberian Civil War and the second Liberian Civil War between 1989 and 2003.
In 2010, the literacy rate of Liberia was estimated at 60.8%, 64.80% for males and 56.8% for females. Liberia’s education sector is hampered by inadequate schools and supplies, as well as lack of qualified teachers and corruption.
Before the civil war, Liberia was one of the best countries in terms of education in West Africa. If you wanted to study in West Africa, there was a good chance you would come to Liberia because of the quality of universities here. But Liberia’s education system has suffered greatly over the last 25 years: firstly as a consequence of the civil wars and more recently due to the abrupt school closure sparked by the Ebola Crisis.
Due to the civil crisis, many qualified teacher were forced to flee the country for fear of their lives and to seek greener pastures. It seemed as if the so–called liberators and freedom fighters came to wage a war against education, as they particularly killed renowned Liberian educators like Dr. Steven Yekeson and scores of others. Because of the shortage of qualified teachers our educational system became flooded with unqualified and undisciplined teachers who came to fill up the void and live up to the maxim that “WHEN THE CAPABLE IS NOT AVAILABLE, THE AVAILABLE BECOMES CAPABLE.”
By the time the civil war ended in 2003, the educational system in Liberia was in deep crisis. In a bid to attack the problem from the root, the new government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf initiated series of policy programs, specifically targeting early learning, primary and secondary education.
Then came Ebola, which destabilized the entire educational system in Liberia. Some students were promoted to the next class without the proper grades needed for that promotion and there was a big setback for those students.
During a meeting with the administration of the University of Liberia on Monday, August 27, 2013, the visitor, the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, squarely blamed the mass failure of candidates who sat UL entrance and placement exams on the poor performances of the Liberian high schools preparing them.
Madam President’s statement was in reference to the twenty-five thousand candidates who miserably failed the UL 2013 entrance and placement exams which resulted to a national embarrassment. She described the situation as alarming, further confirming her recent statement that the educational system in Liberia is a mess.
Mr. Principal, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, as a young woman who seriously yearns to see a better tomorrow for myself, my country and my unborn generation, this government must take education of the masses as a key priority instead of lip services.
What Should Be Done?
1. If we mean business in this country, we cannot privatize the education sector and say we serve the interest of the poor. Government’s current private partnership program is an anti-pro-poor scheme designed to keep the majority of our less fortunate brothers and sisters out of schools. This is the reason why the PPP continues to meet stiff resistance both at home and with our international partners. The best way out of this educational quick sand is to invest more resources into the sector.
2. Investment into the education sector must be tangible in terms of cost. First and foremost Liberia need to focus on priorities than schemes that only enrich a few. Our national budget needs to be recalibrated to address the need of the masses instead of enriching the few rich.
How anyone can takes us serious when we allocate less than 20% of our budget on one of the most important sectors – education, but squander resources on playing salaries to our law makers and government officials?
How can the international community take us serious when we continue to spend more than 90 percent of our national on recurrent expenditure?
Mr. Principal, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely believe the best way out of this quick sand is to increase the education budget not less than 30% of the national budget.
The attainment of scholarship must be purely on merit and needs basis. Now a day we see mainly cronies and associates of government officials benefiting from scholarships. Is this the system that we fought 14 years to abolish?
In closing, allow me Mr. Principal, distinguished ladies and gentlemen to once again commend this great institution for nurturing our ambition to excel in society. VICA made us to believe in ourselves.
To my fellow graduates, the sky is not even our limit. As we leave these walls, we have galaxies to explore and conquer. Remember, despite all of life’s adversities we are “SALAMATIAVIA”, the successful generation.
To my prospective seniors, take your lesson as a key priority and next year with the help of God you will be where are today.
Remember, “A child who refuses drinking off the streams of knowledge shall expire in the desert of ignorance”.
God bless the Administration and Teaching Staff of VICA and God bless Liberia.
Ladies and Gentlemen with these words I thank you.