President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf has accepted an invitation to visit the Netherlands in November, where she will receive an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Tilburg University; deliver an address on the theme of "International Social Responsibility" as the institution celebrates its 85th anniversary, or Dies; and sign a Memorandum of Understanding for collaboration in education and research between that institution and the University of Liberia.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, President Sirleaf will unveil a sculpture depicting Marga Klompé (1912-1986), the first Dutch female Minister, who gained renown for her work in international human rights and justice, social welfare and international social responsibility. Founded in 1927, and located in the south of the Netherlands, Tilburg University is fully accredited as a research university, with an enrollment of over 13,000 students.
According to an Executive Mansion release, during her visit to the Netherlands, from November 8 to 12, the Liberian President will also address the Dutch Parliament; meet with Her Majesty Queen Beatrix; and visit Dutch companies with business interests in Liberia.
Upon her arrival in Brussels, the President will attend a reception hosted by the ACP Secretariat, headed by Dr. Mohammed ibn Chambas, and address the Committee of Ambassadors; attend a reception hosted by the Belgium Senate, led by its President Madam Sabine de Berthune, and address the Senate; meet with Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission; and meet with the development constituency and attend a reception.
President Sirleaf was nominated for the Honorary Doctorate Degree by the Rector of the University, Professor Philip Eijlander, who, on July 21, along with Professor Mirjam van Reisen, paid a courtesy call on President Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry Office. He thanked the President for accepting the invitation which, he said, was being granted because of her leadership, her interest in education and social responsibility.
The two Professors were accompanied by the President of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis, and the Ambassador-designate to the European Union and the Benelux Countries, which includes the Netherlands, Mr. Francis Karpeh, among others. Dr. Dennis informed President Sirleaf that the delegation had explored future collaboration in education and research in the areas of entrepreneurship, international business law, globalization and care, and economics and development.
He said that together they would be developing these areas in terms of a program of work; for scholarships for students from Africa, especially from post-conflict countries that are rebuilding their educational system; a program to teach teachers; and a program to teach scholars to build up research capacity. The delegation had also explored whether Tilburg could extend to the University of Liberia a program in which retired professors from there could come to Liberia to teach.
Dr. Dennis said that all of these proposals would be put into a detailed form as a program of work, so that by November 9th a comprehensive document would be signed. He hoped to start the program before the President got to the Netherlands in November.
Professor Eijlander told President Sirleaf that he felt very honored that she had accepted to receive the honorary doctorate, which was being awarded, he said, because what she had done in the areas of leadership, education and social responsibility were really special, and he looked forward to welcoming her at Tilburg in November. He reaffirmed what Dr. Dennis had said regarding collaboration between the two universities, and he was confident they had agreed on a program that's important for Liberia.
President Sirleaf replied that she was honored to have been selected to be a part of Tilburg University's celebration, and was looking forward to that. She was very glad about the discussions regarding a relationship between the two universities in the areas specified.
The President continued: "We're hoping that we can begin to identify those people that will need to be trained, because capacity remains one of our biggest constraints. We come up with very good policies and strategies and laws, but implementation requires capacity. We falter when it comes to implementation. We need to bring the quality of education up, so that capacity is enhanced, and relationships such as this will enable us to move at a faster pace to be able to enhance national capacity."
Teaching teachers is also critical for us, said President Sirleaf, and added, "We've got to raise the level of the quality of teaching, and to do that you've got the train the teachers." Concurring, Dr. Dennis said it was important to take advantage of, and utilize teachers who are near retirement but who still have a lot of energy and experience and want to give back to society.
President Sirleaf stated that she had seen the program for the visit, and was pleased about the meetings that have been arranged and the sessions with the business community, to talk about Liberia's potential and see if she can interest some of them in doing trade and investment in Liberia. She said that Ambassador Karpeh, who will present his Letters of Credence by the end of September, would liaise with the University and President Dennis regarding these matters.
Dr. Reisen, who holds the Endowed Chair Marga Klompé on International Social Responsibility at Tilburg University's School of Humanities, presented President Sirleaf with copies of her book, entitled "On Sails of the Southwind."
Previous recipients of Honorary Doctorates from Tilburg University have included two other Nobel Peace Prize Laureates - former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore - along with Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian author, academician and former politician; and Herman Wijffels, a Dutch economist and politician.