Prof. Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, President – University of Liberia,
Prof. Dr. William E. Allen, Vice President – Academic Affairs,
Asst. Prof. Mamawa M. Freeman-Moore, Founding Director /
Honors Scholars Program
The UL Administration, The Faculty and Members of the UL Council,
The President and Members – University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU)
The Scholars and Incoming Scholars,
Members of the Organizing Committee Member of the Full Estate,
Distinguished Guests Friends, Colleagues and Students, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am deeply honored and humbled by the invitation to serve as Guest Speaker for this very important occasion, the induction ceremony of the LUX – IN – TENEBRIS Scholars Program, for the admittance of sixty-five honors students for academic year 2018-2019. In this direction, I warmly appreciate the leadership of Professor Mamawa Freeman Moore in coordination with the University of Liberia’s authorities for the tireless effort in keeping the scholars program alive and on the right path. As I am impressed by the academic excellence of the inductees, let me also thank you Professor Mamawa Freeman for your leadership, you have earned my sincere admiration.
As I observe the increased academic activities on the campus of the University of Liberia, it makes me better even though it also makes me to reflect on my days at the University of Liberia in early the 2000 when academic activities were repeatedly disrupted because of limited or no financial support from the Government of Liberia under authority of Former President Charles Ghankay Taylor. I also sadly reflect on how students and scholars of the University of Liberia including myself were targets of state sponsored brutality and intimidation. These actions did not only physically shutdown the University of Liberia but also impaired the mental and physical abilities of the students to pursue education and academic excellence. Sadly, the resulting outcomes can be summarized in the poor output of some or most of our university students across Liberia. I reflect on these because I too was forced to leave University of Liberia (our nation premier university) after just two semesters to attend the African Methodist Episcopal University, which was by far regular but very expensive. I like many of my colleagues would have been a full victim or “nobody” today, lacking university education if not for the special Grace of God through friends and families who tirelessly provided the financial and moral support for me to complete college education. They truly set the critical stage for my professional growth and now I am very proud serving as guest speaker at this unique occasion.
Difficult periods of the University of Liberia and other institutions of higher learning also mirror many difficult periods in Liberia that undermined the delivery of public services at the lower level of governance. These failures in service deliveries must be corrected and correcting it requires the collaborative efforts of the higher learning Institutions (like the UL) and students like the honor scholars who can commit research efforts to identifying policy challenges and the corresponding doable recommendations. This is one of the key objectives for preparing you; the scholars and honors Students so that you can make sustainable contribution to our country National Development agendas.
When the title was raised, I noted the key words “sustainable contribution” and “preparing honor students.” My talk will discuss the underpinning elements and compelling rationale on why we must prepare the next generation especially those who have traversed turbulent circumstances but yet demonstrate academic excellence. The second part of my deliberation will indulge into the concept of sustainable contribution and the impact on the gains experienced over the last few years and the expected impact on socioeconomic growth under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah through the successful implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for prosperity and development (PAPD).
The word preparation is the action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration. But preparation cannot be done in isolation of Education. Education is an ideal model for preparing the next generation of leaders and productive citizens. It is the sine qua non of modeling and creating a workforce that can drive the economy, establish a functional society, create peace and socioeconomic stability. While it has been argued that education can be defined in variant respects, for our purpose, it is the process of providing formal knowledge especially at the tertiary level.
Without quality education, the society spirals into waste where ignorance thrives over wisdom, dishonesty becomes the widely accepted norms, and integrity and principle-centered decisions are second to disingenuousness. An advanced society is not only measured by the number of students that are admitted or have graduated from the university; it is not only the number of degree holders that are holding strategic positions; it is also not only the articulation and eloquence of the citizens; but by the level of effort which each student is required to invest while at the university, the quality of the instructions, and the technology/infrastructure that exist. These factors, must at all times, drive our desire and aspirations for preparing the next generation.
We must detest any form of weakness and overt display of paper-made diploma/degrees to demonstrate our acceptance and preparation for the task in providing transformative leadership for the greater good of our society. The system for preparing our next generation must entail and instill the discipline for genuine success. It must be productive and matched by efficiency, reliability, creativity, and innovation. The education programs in Liberia must respect and reward brilliance and hard work over mediocrity and laziness; it must accept development of new ideas through an innovative and ingenious approach rather than suppression of freedom of expression of thoughts; it must support the best and deserving students but not let the weak ones unattended; it must encourage dissent, not disrespect to authorities and fellow colleagues; it must promote full utilization of the human mind through non academic programs.
Our honors student coming into this program must show true colors of scholars, determine with a strong sense of responsibility, honesty, hard work and professionalism. This is only when we will see “the light at the end of the tunnel” or “the brighter side of life.” Anything short of designing a system that underpins the above aspirations and elements of a balanced and supportive education system will lead to chaos in the larger society.