The National Programme Officer for Democratic Governance and Human Rights of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), says the New Hope Academy is fulfilling Liberia and the global community’s commitment to advancing gender equality in the ratio of male and female students who are graduating from secondary school.
Mr. Charles Tye Lawrence indicated that the academy has also proven that when given the opportunity, girls can excel on equal basis with boys.
Serving as a keynote speaker on Sunday, July 9, 2017, at the 14th Graduation Program of 12 graders of the Academy in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, Mr. Lawrence indicated that the school has also dismissed as false the idea that equal participation of women and men in education, business, governance and other fields is not possible.
Speaking on the theme: “Three Elements to Assist you Achieve Self-reliance and independence as an Individual,” Mr. Lawrence who is also National Programme of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, urged the graduates: “You have taken an important step, to leave high school, to start another set of steps towards fulfilling your fullest potentials. You overcame many difficulties along the way, not the least the effect of the tragic Ebola virus crisis. You will face the real world with its opportunities, promises and hope on the one hand, and obstacles and new challenges on the other.”
The keynote speaker shared with the graduates three criteria or elements that he said they may find useful for their academic and professional journey.
He identified the elements: “Own your decisions and expand the choices available to you; Own your conclusions, based them on facts and evidence; and Own your relationships, prioritize those that enhance your potential.”
Elaborating on the elements, Mr. Lawrence told the graduates “Take responsibility for your decisions whether for your career choice, for your participation in skills development or your involvement in different social or other groups. Never be pressured or forced into deciding. Always make sure you have all the information needed for your decision making. Take your time. Weigh the options and make the decision. When you decide, own the outcome and do not blame it on others. It is only when you own the outcome of your decisions that you can learn.”
Quoting Noble Prize winner, Amartya Sen who highlighted the importance of choices in his economic development model known as the Capability Approach, when examining poverty and development, Mr. Lawrence said the purpose of poverty reduction is to expand the choices and the extent of freedom people have to achieve what they value. Freedom, according to Sen, is the ability to shape one’s own destiny as a person and as a part of various communities. Therefore, the purpose of fighting poverty is to expand decisions and options that are available to more people.
He cautioned the graduates to take actions now to expand the options that will be available to them tomorrow – by learning new skills and increasing their ability to do new things that will prepare them for future jobs and other opportunities.
“When the choice a person makes is a result of desperation, it may be the same as no choice at all. When thousands of a societies’ youths, at great risk to their lives migrate to distant lands in search for opportunities because their own society offer few opportunities for them, the society denies itself of its most valuable resources -youth whose ideas and energies, given the room to flourish can be the key to unleash even more opportunities,” he stressed.
He further told the graduates: “The conclusions you hold are important. They shape how you view the world. There is a saying that two persons looked outside the same prison bar, one person saw the mud hole the other person saw the sky. One saw despair, the other saw hope. There are no limits to the number of conclusions you can hold, but not all your conclusions may be valid. For conclusions to be valid, they must be based on facts, on evidence. Find your own way to have factual and balance access to information. Some people read more, but not more of the same things, but different perspectives too. Others listen to radio – but not the same radio stations or programmes all the time, others search the internet, others talk to people. The key is to always find balance on the different perspectives in order to inform your conclusions.”
He asserted that conflict is inherent in every society. He said the root causes of conflict can be traced to the denial of certain basic needs of groups.
He identified such basic needs as identity, participation, recognition, collectivity, justice and security.
“These needs must be met for all groups – Christians and Muslims and members of other faiths, abled and disabled, women and men; persons living in urban areas and those in rural areas, and the many other differences that define groups in society.”
According to him, “Violence is a result of inadequate skills to resolve conflict and long term neglect of utilizing the skills where they exist.
The skills useful to identify, resolve and reduce the impact of conflicts are basic. They are skills that you can embrace and learn to use: negotiation, planning, advocacy, networking, problem solving, listening, communication, to name a few.”
He further told the graduates: “In the world outside high school, you will find that building relationships will become an important life skill. Whether they are relationships with individuals, groups, institutions, or communities, you must be able to exercise your free choice in the relationships you form. Relationships will take a large share of your time. They can fuel your creativity but also they can drain your insights and energies.”
“Whereas relationships can be with physical institutions or groups, you can also form relationships with norms and values that are important to society. Maintain a close relationship with the truth, be honest; maintain a close relationship with hard work, be committed; maintain a close relationship with justice, be fair. These are the values when you embrace will separate you from the rests. They are values important in Liberia and anywhere in the world. Integrity is achieved when you are able to uphold these values and norms not sometimes, to some people and some places, but all the times to everyone in every circumstance you face.”
He stressed that a self-reliant and independent person can become great contributor to his/her personal and community development.
“To exercise self-reliance, own your decisions and expand the choices available to you; own your conclusions and base them on facts and evidence; and own your relationships and prioritize those that enhance your potentials.”
All 2612thgraders (14 females & 12 males )of the New Hope Academy who wrote the 2016/2017 senior high school examinations administered by the West African Examination Council made a successful pass.
Presenting high school diplomas to the graduates, Dr. Felix Linus Gerdes, Civil Peace Service Advisor & trainer at the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation of the University of Liberia congratulated the graduates for being good Academic Ambassadors of the New Hope Academy as they have demonstrated through their successful pass in the WAEC exams.
He then cautioned the graduates to be diligent and responsible in their academic sojourn that will enable them to adequately respond to life associated challenges.
Making remarks at the occasion, Mr. Augustine S. Arkoi, Founder and Proprietor of the New Hope Academy said the school first started in 1995, as a community re-creation center in a makeshift building, teaching only martial art and life skills to about 40 community based adolescent youth during the heat of the Liberian civil war.
The shocking discovery that majority of said youth had never sat in classroom, prompted him to have acquired an official permit from the Ministry of Education, thus transforming the re-creation center into a formal academic school to provide scholarships and affordable learning opportunity to all, particularly disadvantaged out-of-school youth.
Mr. Arkoi who is Founder of the Better Future Foundation (BFF) also disclosed that girls’ education, retention in school, leadership, and issues of their sexual reproductive health are at the core of the learning programsof New Hope Academy. Currently, the school is witnessing an increment in girls’ enrolment over the boys in each of its classrooms.
Recent statistics of the school for 2014/2015 school year indicate that out of a total population of 338, there were 179 girls to 159 boys. Similarly, for the 2015/2016 school year, out of a total school enrolment of 342, there were 173 girls to 169 boys.
It can be recalled that on July 9, 2017, New Hope Academy also graduated 14 students of the Kindergarten Class, among which were 13 females and 3 males.