Madame President – it has been 10 years since you took power as the first elected female president of Liberia and Africa. During your campaign message you said so many things that encouraged so many young people like me. To my greatest surprise, over these years despite all the international support, why do I see still the following persistent problems?
The educational system in Liberia is not beneficial to students as it does not directly respond to the existing economic demands outside the school system. Rather than providing useful skills to students and molding knowledgeable young professionals, theory is taught with little regard to its application in the real world. This type of education simply imparts literary and general knowledge without sufficient practical content. The end result is an individual whose skills do not correlate to the current economic trends in the Liberian job market. Since the curriculum used in Liberia does not consist of industrial skills, it produces many graduates with non-transferable skills. Furthermore, the policy at secondary and tertiary levels to broaden access to include almost everyone has resulted in increased unemployment amongst school-leavers since they are only fit for the small number of white collar jobs.
Madam President, what is your level of interest in MVTC and the LOIC? These are two major skill-based institutions that have the capacity to improve and boost employment opportunities for young people. I recognize that you have upgraded the facilities of MVTC but how will the education offered address the employment needs of young Liberians?
Lack of training facilities Another vital cause of unemployment in Liberia, particularly amongst the youth, is the lack of training facilities with appropriate vocational curriculum. As mentioned above, Liberia’s educational system is defective as it provides academic knowledge that is not work-oriented. Therefore, this creates the need to establish technical facilities and other work-oriented courses at the village level. Many students in Liberia, particularly those in the rural areas, still remain unaware of possible employment venues and work choices. Do you think all these new community Colleges are going to train students for jobs that will improve development in Liberia? Where they teach practical Accounting, Management, technical skills, just to name few?
Bad leadership Lack of employment in Liberia is also linked to the bad leadership and corruption by individuals in power. There is widespread misappropriation of funds and power retention by policy makers not just in the education sector but throughout Liberia. Funds desperately needed for education are diverted for selfish personal use. Hence, the education sector remains largely undeveloped. With unskilled labor being so available in Liberia, it would help were policy makers emphasizing labor intensive methods of production to create jobs. In addition, technocrats and educated people ought to think about creating jobs through innovation and investment, rather than seeking employment in other countries. Many of these problems arise from bad leadership – or lack of leadership – that has plagued Liberia for years.
Many qualified, competent, effective and loving Liberians want to develop this country. However, from what I see, people in power in your government do not share this commitment. Look at some of the decisions they make and some of the policies they promote. Qualified and competent young professionals who want to make changes are held back by so many unqualified people in power who do little to help these young people.
When the youth are not gainfully employed, this means they are vulnerable to get drawn into anti-social unlawful activities which undermine society’s stability. An unstable country elevates risks for businesses and entrepreneurs. In effect, investors are scared and development is slowed.
Madam president: take a look at most of the protests over the years in Liberia. They were led by young people without jobs or hope. Were they employed using the skills and education they received in Liberian schools, do you think would have marched on Monrovia’s streets?
Joseph Isaac Urey, Jr. BA, MBA