LIBERIA: Pres. Sirleaf Addresses Tubman University First Graduation

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says it is satisfying that the country can boast of a few more graduates skilled in areas where Liberia desperately needs expertise.

She named the areas as Agriculture, Engineering, Nursing, Public Health, Guidance and Counseling, among others.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader made the statement at the William V. S. Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County where she served as Commencement Speaker at the University’s First Commencement Convocation on Thursday, June 19.

She also received its first Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law (LLD) Honoris Causa.

William V. S. Tubman University was opened in 2009 as the second public-owned bachelor degree granting higher education institution.

It is the successor institution to the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology, which was damaged during the civil conflict.

The University transitioned from a college of technology to a university comprising of six colleges: the College of Engineering and Technology; College of Health Sciences; College of Agriculture and Food Science; College of Education; College of Management and Administration and the College of Arts and Sciences.

President Sirleaf described all 80 graduates as pioneers of the University who have made history by being the first group of graduates of the University.
“You are making history today, because there will never be another ‘First Commencement Convocation of Tubman University’. You are the first; everyone hereafter will follow in your footprint and everyone will watch and monitor what you do,” she told the graduates.

She congratulated the graduates, referring to them as “trailblazers” of Tubman University, saying “I congratulate you on behalf of the Government of Liberia and in my own name and right, for your achievements.”

Speaking on the theme, “The Quest for Quality Education,” President Sirleaf stressed that all actors in the society desire quality education for their children and students.

“We want them to seize the opportunity to learn; and we want our teachers to acquire quality training in order to impart quality learning to the young minds in their charge,” she emphasized.

The Chief Executive indicated that quality education requires faculty with integrity, qualified in their disciplines and committed to the learner.

Such faculty, she said, delivers a coherent curriculum with rigorous standards, and specific learning outcomes or competencies that students must demonstrate, to include theoretical as well as experimental learning.

“Quality education must provide co-curriculum activities for the learner, with opportunities to develop and demonstrate leadership skills. Quality education must also include continuous assessment and quality assurance with the result being used for continuous improvement,” she pointed out.

President Sirleaf,  who is also Visitor to the W.V.S. Tubman University, said in order to produce leaders of tomorrow, institutions like Tubman University must empower Liberia’s youths by teaching them not only the theory, but leadership skills, social responsibility, issues about the environment, among other disciplines.

She therefore called for an holistic education that engages students in theory, practical learning through service and social responsibility to the local and global communities, thereby being assured of students that are informed and prepared.

She further assured that government will continue to do its part to transform the country and make educational opportunities available to all Liberians, recognizing that there is no quick fix to the crisis in the public education system.

President Sirleaf indicated that education – quality education – is not cheap, neither for the provider nor the beneficiary, adding that the best results from such expensive undertaking are obtained only when serious effort and time is devoted to get the most out of the opportunities that are available.

“To the extended audience out there, you can buy a degree but you cannot buy an education,” she pointed out amidst cheers.

“The greatest gift we can bequeath to our children, our people, is quality education, which is the foundation for national development. Achieving quality in our educational system must be the business, and the duty of, of every Liberian,” she noted.

She added: “For as much as we talk about the urgent need for infrastructure – our roads, power, ports – if we lack the education to manage such facilities, they will not last.”

Reflecting on the University and its leadership, the President said that the institution serves as a regional magnet that young people are gravitating towards Harper, Maryland County because they know that they will obtain the quality education that is fundamental for their own success, and for Liberia’s economic, social and political transformation, as outlined in the country’s “Vision 2030 – Liberia Rising” and the five-year development strategy “Agenda for Transformation”.

The enrollment at the University rose from 287 in 2009 to 1000 in 2013/2014.

Touching on the stewardship of its President, Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell, President Sirleaf said following her appointment in 2009, Russell saw the need for more than a technical college in a region that needed Agriculturists, Engineers, Health Professionals, Education Specialists and Business Managers.

The President said Russell then demonstrated great leadership skills, as she fulfilled the vision of establishing Tubman University, a first class institution, providing education and services, contributing to the Southeast, her ancestral home, and to the nation.

“You are a shining and unequaled example of service to our nation,” she told Dr. Russell.

President Sirleaf described Prof. Russell’s journey at Tubman University as one that has not been easy, but standing tall in principles and commitment she has succeeded.

“She remained faithful and steadfast to her values and her profession, insisting that students remain students, obtaining the education for which they have made a big sacrifice,” she said of Prof. Russell.

President Sirleaf recognized Prof. Russell’s impact on the University based on her insistence on an institution whose quality would be second to none in Liberia; that would be built upon, and retain, a foundation of core values and principles free from corruption.

Speaking earlier during the Baccalaureate Service, the Dean of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Rev. Herman Browne urged the graduates to be the new breed they claim by acquiring truth and honesty. “Don’t be satisfied with what you have achieve today, but always seek to make inquiries about things because an inquiring mind is never just satisfied with what it hears,” Rev. Browne noted.

He expressed concern that the country is experiencing a generation of people who don’t understand anything but are busy pretending to know about and understand everything leading them to uninformed comments about the country and other things on the different airwaves.

The Episcopal prelate advised the graduates to do their job well when given the opportunity to work and avoid trying to do everybody’s work thereby limiting their own productivity.

The Valedictorian of the Graduating Class, P. Mike Jurry, thanked the government for opening Tubman University in the Southeast and for the many community colleges around the country.

He also urged Liberians and the Government of Liberia to give more priority to education and called for more budgetary support to the University, the provision of scholarships to some of the graduates and the employment of some as teaching assistants.

Ten students received Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing; seven, Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Public Health; nine, Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Secondary Education; seven, Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Guidance and Counseling;  18, Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture; 10, Bachelor’s of Business Arts in Accounting; two, Bachelor’s of Business Arts Degree in Business Administration; 13 with Bachelor of Public Administration in Public Administration; and 4, Bachelor’s of Business Arts in Economics.

Meanwhile, while in Harper, President Sirleaf dedicated the newly renovated Administration Building. She also toured the site of a devastating sea erosion and flood that displaced several residents of Harper.

The Liberian leader presented assorted relief materials to the victims and announced that Government will make a contribution of US$10,000 to help resettle them.

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