In her state of the nation address to the joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol Building yesterday, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf disclosed that to date, her government has constructed 5,571 public and private schools, educating more than 1,579,058 students, 48.5 percent of them female.
"Our three rehabilitated teacher training institutes and special programs have trained 15,345 teachers and the teacher verification exercise is well advanced in several counties," the President said.
With this effort, she said her government will finally keep the ghost buried, wherever they are, in the educational system or not.
Regarding the newly constructed Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), she said it will board up to 200 students and accommodate up to 1,000 day students. President Sirleaf, whose speech was punctuated by rounds of applause from the audience, mainly the Unity Party supporters, said the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) in Kakata, Margibi County, is now going through an organizational change and operational assessment toward the achievement of the goal of becoming a junior college. She did not elaborate, but recently BWI Board of Governors inducted into office a new principal, Harris Fomba Tarnue, who is charged with the responsibility to supervise the institute's transition process.
The Klay Basic Agriculture Training Center, the President said, now hosts 150 boarding students, and is producing vegetables and other produce, which she said, enable the faculty and student body to feed themselves and have a surplus for sale. "The Tumutu Agriculture Training Center in Bong County is being reconstructed to host 200 students aimed at a similar objective," the President added.
She said more than 500 young Liberians have benefited from bilateral and capacity development scholarships abroad. "In our own universities and colleges, private and public alike, this administration has awarded almost 13,000 with scholarships or financial assistance," President Sirleaf told the nation yesterday, adding, "We are proud of the record of progress for the University of Liberia."
At the UL, she said there are 31,000 students enrolled at four campuses - Capitol Hill, Dogliotti, Straz-Sinje and Fendell, all of which have new and improved facilities.
The President announced that an unprecedented 35 percent of the student population is enrolled in the sciences, engineering and agriculture programs., a stark departure from the past.
"We have converted Tubman Technical College in Harper City into our second state university - as Tubman University, which is providing high quality education," noting that today, "we have eight universities, six operated by faith-based institutions." She then expressed gratitude to all faith based institutions for their continued partnership in assisting the government, through the Ministry of Education, to educate the youth.
She said that during the year under review, 18 community colleges were constructed, with eight four-year colleges, two established by her Administration - Bong Technical College and Harbel College respectively.
"Of course those achievements are not without hurdles." The President reported that constraints in finances and available professionals have led the government to limit an expansion, while other options are being examined that would achieve the objective of making higher education available to all geographic areas of the country.
"Even with these achievements, we continue to identify new methods and approaches intended to improve the quality of education for our young people, including policies regarding accreditation, management structures and subsidies for all public and private institutions.