Why Liberia Must Invest in Education for Innovation and Technology

The port city of Harper. A legacy of war and neglect, the poverty that mars this town can be reversed through innovation and commitment.

The port city of Harper. A legacy of war and neglect, the poverty that mars this town can be reversed through innovation and commitment.

 

 

In his remarks to the graduating class of the TJ Faulkner College of Science and Technology at the University of Liberia last week, South Korean Ambassador to Liberia, Noh Kyu Duk reminded his audience that investment in education was the key to drive Liberia’s post war development.

Ambassador Noh gave example of his country’s strategy which propelled the Southeast Asian country from backwardness to one of the world’s most technological advanced countries. The secret, he says, is .the priority his country gave to education.

Ambassador Noh’s remarks to students who were about to earn degrees in Science and engineering were appropriate to the audience. But they were by no means new to them. Education is one of the pillars of development strategy of the Liberian government, at least, on paper.

Action on investment in education was more appealing at the beginning of the current administration in Monrovia. While President Johnson-Sirleaf’s vision shines bright on primary and secondary education, it was absolutely blurred on higher education.

The over decade of war which ruined Liberia changed everything. So the kind of education Liberia needed to reinstate deep sense of civil pride and good citizenship should have been well thought out. That includes a review of the national curriculum, investing more in science and technology and making college education relevant to the needs of the community.

After 10 years in power, the Unity Party government of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has not attain the level of educational goal that points to a forward direction in line with what the country needs to develop. The government’s popular slogan, “Lift Liberia,” lacks solid foundation to succeed as the policy appears to be moving in reverse. Government officials seems more concerned about their personal well-being than the public good.

So trash is still flowing all over Monrovia’s market grounds. There are no parks and recreation facilities. Zinc shacks are popping up in every corner of the city with disregard to zoning laws. No one enforces building codes as squalors lack sanitary facilities. Beaches and water fronts, which are the face of cities in other countries, become ground zero for unsanitary practices in Monrovia.

Ambassador Noh said South Korea began with a five year plan which spurred investment in education. Do you think President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, schooled in the United States and worked at some of the world’s renowned institutions which promote economic development, needs any lecture like this? Isn’t she aware but simply may not be concerned?

Do you also think members of the graduating class would soberly reflect on Ambassador Noh’s remarks and take the challenge when such opportunity is given them?

These are tough times for our new graduates. They have learned so much from textbooks, with no national direction, that they do not have the opportunity to test their ability by applying theories to practice in the real world before graduation. Innovation and critical thinking in technology that is needed to thrust Liberia into the 21st century development competition has eluded us because of the lack of national spirit.

Liberia needs economic development. It wants government to target critical areas of need such as innovation in technology and provide support. There are sufficient opportunities for government to send students abroad to study in science and technology and at the same time develop the local institutional capacity in high tech fields.

Many least develop countries that were once like Liberia have evolved. They learned from their historical past, jealous of the future, aspired to triumph over poverty. Poverty is not a curse for people to entrench in. China and other Asian countries provide clear example.

The University of Liberia, as old as it is, should have think tanks and cutting edge research resources to lead Liberia’s reconstruction by partnering with government agencies to deliver the best Liberia deserves. Its faculty should lead national effort, seeking partnerships with other global universities and not scramble for salary and resort to selling pamphlets. Raising their own professional level will bring benefits, according to one Liberian educator.

The 2015 members of the graduating class of the University of Liberia must pay attention to the message of the South Korean diplomat and be innovative, even if the politicians continue to ignore the national interest.

 

 

 

 

Filed in: Analysis

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