On Wednesday, December 22, 2010, the University of Liberia graduated about two thousand students during its 89th Commencement convocation held at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia. Gracing that commencement convocation was a number of dignitaries, including the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
In her message to members of the graduating class of the University, the Liberia Leader emphasized the need for graduates to create employment opportunities or identify other fields of their own for meaningful employment, other than queuing for government jobs. President Sirleaf attributed the limited government jobs to the lack of resources to hire everyone.
She told the graduates that they were leaving the walls of the University at a time the country’s educational system is at a critical crossroad, noting that a large percentage of the nation’s college graduates were ill-equipped to perform effectively in the nation’s reconstruction and development, let alone in the knowledge-based global economy. She blamed the failing standard of the Liberian education system on the weak foundation at the primary-school level, and continuing all the way through secondary school.
Amidst this crisis in education, she disclosed that the Government was taking the necessary remedial measures through the rehabilitation and reopening of rural teacher training institutes, the presence of Peace Corps Volunteers deployed in the schools to teach Math, Science and English as well as through the granting of tuition-free education and incentives to students enrolled in the UL Teachers College, Tubman University’s College of Education and the College of Medicine to encourage students to serve the nation by pursuing careers in these vital disciplines.
According to President Sirleaf, the Government was also contemplating similar incentives in other areas it deems necessary to backstop the Poverty Reduction Strategy and, ultimately, fulfill the Millennium Development Goals, adding that the government has increased its subsidy to the University of Liberia to the tone of US$9.8 million for FY 2010/2011 representing 58.3 percent of the University’s budget, a sizeable increase from US$6.9 million in FY 2009/2010. The comments of the President come as many graduates in the country were roaming the streets jobless and unable to create their own enterprises, as well as their un-solid primary and secondary foundations.
While we do share these concerns and comments by the President of Liberia, we also believe that opening up the private sector would also help to minimize the high rate of unemployment, most especially for university graduates in the country. While concession and other companies continue to drag their feet to become operational, the Government of Liberia must insist to the few that are presently operating in other parts of Liberia that employment must not be on this basis of “personal contacts or who knows you,” as we see around here.
It is an open fact that some of our university graduates are not a representation of what they claimed to have acquired-their arguments/presentations, utterances and behavior convinces no one to harbor the belief that they are university products. But we believe that they must be given the opportunities or benefits of the doubt, and “let them break their own neck.” True to the President’s comments and the reality world-wide, the government does not have the capacity to employ everyone because of the lack of resources-that’s the fact.
May we also say to our brothers and sisters who have left the walls of the university that education is a continuous process, and we all must continue to access resource materials as a way of upgrading our skills in our respective areas of discipline-let’s continue to read more about our careers to prepare for the nearest future and the job market. We think the President meant very well by her recent comments at the 89th Commencement Convocation of the University of Liberia.