On January 20, 2017, I earned a post-graduate degree in International Relations, Diplomacy and Diplomatic Practices from the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia.
In October 2015, when I returned from the United Nations General Assembly, I wrote the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf seeking a scholarship to enable me pursue graduate studies at New York University (NYU) in the United States of America. When I didn’t get any fruitful results, I wrote another communication in April of 2016, after which I was awarded admission to the aforementioned, New York University.
For several months, I made diligent inquiries for response to my communication at the President’s office and didn’t receive a response until June 16, 2016. I met the President during the celebrations of the Day of the African Child and we discussed about my scholarship opportunity; she later requested my school documents and admission letter.
The President, H.E. Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked me to work with Dr. Edward B. McClain, the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs at the time to assist me through the Government scholarship process. We started very well, unfortunately, Dr. McClain passed and the process was stalled.
After his unfortunate demise, I requested an appointment with the Honorable Principal Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elias B. Shoniyin, who supported me in my endeavor to secure a scholarship from the President’s Office.
My academic credentials were reviewed and accepted and subsequently sent to the Ministry of Education for onward processing and approval. After the documents were received, the Minister of Education, Mr. George K. Werner informed me that I would have to wait until the national budget for 2016/2017 was passed, and that was August of 2016.
Minister Werner even encouraged me to write New York University seeking deferment of my admission since the national budget was not passed in time to secure my tuition and other fees. The budget was subsequently passed and my tuition and other fees were captured totaling US$68,169.00 for the first academic year.
With only a few weeks until the commencement of my studies at NYU, Minister Werner in a Facebook chat wrote me that he cannot honor President Sirleaf’s letter granting me a GOL scholarship opportunity.
Minister Werner also refused to transfer my tuition and other fees to New York University on grounds that all the communications from the President’s Office including the letter written by the Honorable Minister of State Mr. Sylvester M. Grigsby did not meet the President’s acquiescence and approvals.
After my documents were considered and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning approved the budget and transferred my school fees to the Ministry of Education account, Minister Werner maintained that I cannot benefit from the scholarship on grounds that I don’t work for the Government, thus, an ordinary young man like me does not need to attend an ivy league school like the New York University.
I immediately wrote the President’s office about his refusal. The President did not respond immediately.
On January 16, 2017, I met the President at a Human Rights Day program at the Monrovia City Hall and informed her about the decision of Minister Werner not to honor her request. The President asked me to work with the Minister of Finance & Development Planning to look into the matter.
All efforts to get Minister Werner signoff on the scholarship to release my tuition have failed. In fact, the Education Minister said “Moses does not work with the Government of Liberia and under no circumstances he should benefit from the Government Capacity Building funds furthermore, the President has no authority to give out scholarship and I will resign if President Sirleaf told me to do so”.
As I speak, all my documents have been submitted and duly accepted by NYU and I am expected to start school inSpring/January 2017. In fact, the University has written me that if I don’t start this spring, I will forfeit the admission and would have to reapply if I need admission again and start the entire process over.
But this is the situation I am encountering. I believe most or all of the communications I have written the President has either not reached her or some evil persons concede them from her thus, prompting this article.
Senator Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong County, The Honorable Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elias B. Shoniyin, Honorable Sylvester M. Grigsby, Minister of State, Mrs. Ethel Holt Toles, the President’s Special Assistant are all aware of this situation and have made separate interventions but Minister Werner has unyieldingly refused to allow me benefit from this opportunity.
What really discourages me is the fact that before I was offered admission to attend this prestigious University; I had to travel to Dakar, Senegal in February 2016 where I sat the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and successfully passed. I have spent more than Four Thousand United States Dollars (4,000.00) for travels, the online application process and accommodation in Dakar.
When I saw my President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf among world leaders at the historic 70th United Nations General Assembly, making promise that every child would be in school and learning, I told myself, now is the time for me to pursue my dreams at New York University.
Unfortunately, my dream was cut short. This is totally unacceptable!
The Government of Liberia must provide quality education for all and prepare future leaders who are capable of handling the task of nation building, protecting their country’s heritage and enhancing the socio-economic growth and development.
There should be no picking and choosing. The scholarship should be merit based and not on friendship and sale.
In 2015, when world leaders agreed at the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York on the 17-sets of new goals called the “Global Goals for sustainable Development”.
“The aim of this agreement is to commit efforts towards ensuring that people around the world live better, without damaging the planet, have access to quality education and end poverty. States will work toward achieving them within the next 15 years, from 2015 – 2030”.
Liberia is a country where opportunities are almost limited or impossible. My Government has failed me. Going to school has become very difficult. My Government does not care about education.
Liberia has an estimated unemployment rate 85% many of whom are young people. We have an estimated population of 4.5 million of which 80% live below the poverty line of less than $2.00 a day.
Many people especially children go to bed hungry every day. Those who work income are very low to pay their children schools fees. Liberia’s entire budget is 2 times less than Staten Island District Education Budget in New York.
Liberia does not have electricity in major parts of the Country and even places where there is electricity, our people cannot afford. We spend less than 3% of our GDP on Education. We walk long distances up to 10miles to our schools.
We have to leave school very early due to lack of safe drinking water and sanitary condition. We are tired of seeing our little ones at street corners begging and selling to survive. Once everyone is educated it’s enough empowerment to become who they want to be.
I strongly believe the next Government must invest much more in Quality Education from donations to budgetary allotment for provision of learning materials and resources to building more firm school structure and providing scholarships to deserving students.
How I wish, President Sirleaf could immediately intervene to salvage my dream.
About The Author
Moses Owen Browne, Jr., is a Global Youth Ambassador for Education – A World at School; United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative. Moses is an advocate for global education for all. He has over ten (10) years of professional experience in international development, ranging from, development communications and advocacy on child rights and gender equality- the core issues around which the Millennium Development Goals were transitioned into the now Sustainable Development Goals.
Moses’ advocacy for global education contributed to the elevation of this issue at the pinnacle of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by 193 World leaders in September 2015 at the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York. Through the #UpForSchool campaign, Moses led a campaign that collected over 10 million signatures – a petition warning that without concrete action the most marginalized children of the world would continue to be left out of school.
He is currently the Communications Manager for the Liberia Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fun, the international financing organization. As Communications Manager, he supervises projects development and the overarching policy objectives of LCM.
Moses holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communications and English with emphasis in Telecommunications Management and Broadcasting (Cum Laude) from the United Methodist University 2011. He also just earned a post-graduate diploma in Foreign Policy, International Relations, Diplomacy and Diplomatic Practices from the Gabriel L. Dennis Foreign Service Institute, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia.