21 December 2012

Liberia: Unwanted Degrees

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told the 93rd Graduating Class of 1,820 members from the University of Liberia (UL) that she foresees some difficulty in finding jobs for many of them, as majority earned business degrees.

Delivering the Commencement Address on Wednesday at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville on the theme, "The Indispensable Role of Tertiary Education in Liberia's Post-Conflict Development", President Sirleaf said the dearth (lack) of sufficient locally competent human capital to ensure cost-effective national transformation and prosperity has been one of the limiting factors in the country's reconstruction and rehabilitation.

After reviewing the list of the graduates, the President observed there was not a single doctor among them. The only medical practitioner among the graduates was a pharmacist in a post-conflict country that desperately needs engineers, scientists and other technocrats.

"Today, 925 of you are coming out of Business College, compared to 146 graduating from the College of Science and Technology, 106 from Agriculture and 65 from the Teachers College," said the Liberian leader, who is a Visitor to the UL.

She revealed that Medical, Agriculture and Teachers Colleges are tuition-free, yet young people do not enter these colleges in sufficient numbers.

"We need a revival; we need a rethink, [and] we need a re-orientation because now more than ever before, we need graduates in the sciences to work in our petroleum and mining sectors. We need agriculturists to support our work in food security and food sovereignty," President Sirleaf urged.

She said Liberia desperately needs teachers to improve the quality of education in order to produce an educated nation in keeping with the country's National Vision, saying "We can only become a middle-income country if we sharply reduce the adult illiteracy rate of over 41 percent."

The President argued that rebuilding Liberia is the collective responsibility of all Liberians, and that the country cannot expect foreign workers to provide the mechanical and technical expertise which it needs ... and will require even more of in the future. She urged: "We must be able to fill all the gaps and the vacuum that exist in our technical and managerial capacity."

Notwithstanding, President Sirleaf said "But I'm pleased to note what Dr. [Emmett] Dennis said about the changing trend when he mentioned that so many in the current enrollment had indeed shifted from some of the traditional areas to be able to go into the sciences and engineering that we need so desperately."

Dr. Dennis, a Physicist, is the current President of the University of Liberia.

President Sirleaf told the graduates stressed among other things, that acquiring university degrees should not be seen as the door handle that one must press to make his or her presence felt, but the sum total of the education, skills and knowledge accumulated, and that the bearer of a degree [should] show its true worth.

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