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A genuine Case to the 53rd National Legislature on behalf of 31,000 poor Liberian Students

By Martin K. N. Kollie                Martin K.N. Kollie

 

Liberia at a Glance 

For centuries now, it has been proven globally that education is an indispensable antidote to poverty, hardship and misery. The development of any nation is anchored to education, especially quality higher education. There is no asset that is more valuable than education – not even diamond, gold, uranium, oil, iron ore, bauxite or silver. Education is the fundamental pillar upon which socio-economic advancement and political coherence rely.

The towering rate of illiteracy in Liberia remains a serious threat to national security, peace, reconciliation and integration. Achieving genuine economic and political stability through quality education in Liberia is a matter of national imperative. This is a worthwhile journey that leaders of this generation must give keen consideration. Our nation is too rich to accommodate a poverty-stricken and wretched population.

Poverty is an offspring of ignorance, and this barrier eventually culminates into public discontent and widespread chaos. Sustaining peace, consolidating democracy, enhancing security and maintaining harmony in Liberia beyond UNMIL’s absence can only become an undoubted reality if education is prioritized at every stratum of our society. An illiterate and uninformed populace endangers the progress of any nation.

Since 1847, Liberia remains the fifth (5th) poorest country with a GDP per capita (PPP) of US$454.30. After almost two (2) centuries of existence, our Republic and its people are deeply entrenched in extreme poverty and despair. The real meaning of
destitution can be seen visibly on the faces of our people. They have become economic wanderers and migrants in their own country. Sometimes, they wonder whether they are really citizens or foreigners.

What legacy have we got as a nation to boast about when our educational system is still a mess? What are we leaving behind for the next generation when we live in a country that is classified as a least-developed, low-income and food-deficit nation?
I thought we should be moving forward instead of backward, especially when our country is underpopulated – the population is less than the resources.
Unfortunately, unpatriotism has been an unavoidable embodiment of our failure.

It is an embarrassment for Liberia to rank 177 out of 188 countries according to UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Index Report. This means that we are still far below the horizon of prosperity and genuine development. With abundant natural resources and a small population of 4.4 million people, vast majority of Liberian citizens remain economically vulnerable and choiceless. Even though we have a growth rate of 2.6 percent, but access to quality education, health care, housing, safe drinking
water, electricity, employment and social security remains a major challenge.

The high rate of poverty, food insecurity and youth unemployment across Liberia, particularly in rural regions where 51 percent of the population occupies is troubling.  According to UNDP, 83.8 percent of Liberia’s population lives on less than US$1.25 a day. Considering these scaring statistics, it is only prudent for our government to invest more resources in education. These figures can only change in our favor if Liberians are given quality education through increased budgetary
support. If we are serious about defeating poverty, we must firstly defeat illiteracy and ignorance.

We are running out of time as a nation to safeguard our destiny, secure a new future and unlock prosperity. Vision 2030 can never achieve its objectives with an illiterate population. If any time is most appropriate to invest in education, then it is now. Sadly, greed, corruption, nepotism, patronage, discrimination, inequality and marginalization have made our nation even more susceptible to peril and pandemonium. Too often, we forget that leadership is about service, and not self-enrichment. The beginning of a new day in Liberia is only possible through
honesty and humility. No matter how long we live on earth, we must live to serve humanity with a sense of duty to nationhood.

Our leaders need to do more in securing a brighter tomorrow for us and our children’s children. When countries like Rwanda, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda are investing tremendously in education
as a means of ensuring socio-economic potency, it surprises us and troubles our hearts to see our government complaining about providing adequate funding to operate the premier State-run institution of higher learning. Liberia has all it takes to
make the University of Liberia a topnotch institution in Africa.

Four thousand eight hundred and ten of our countrymen would not have fallen prey to the Ebola virus if we had invested adequate resources in educating more doctors, physicians, nurses, and public health practitioners at  A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine, TNIMA, Mother Pattern School of Health Sciences, UMU Nursing College, Smythe Institute, etc.
Today, we are mourning the death of our fallen compatriots due to our persistent refusal to prioritize education. Even after the fatal impact and hard-hitting effect of this deadly disease, most of our leaders are yet to value education as an indispensable asset.

Taking the Lebanese and Indians from our stores and supermarkets is not just by enacting unenforceable and dormant laws, but empowering Liberians through education.
Controlling the agriculture, industry and services sectors of our country is attainable, but only through a literate population. Until our leaders can value education, the Lebanese, Indians, Nigerians, Indonesians, Chinese and Fulani will continue to decide what we eat and wear. Our young boys and girls will remain store keepers and warehouse managers to them. Until our leaders can begin to envision education as a source of economic freedom, our dependence on foreign aid and
assistance will remain extremely high.

With the long-term presence of multi-million investment companies like ArcelorMittal, China Union, Anadarko, Respol, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Golden Veroleum, Cavalla Rubber Cooperation, Sime Darby, BHP Billiton, TOTAL, APM Terminal, etc. in Liberia, we refuse to accept that our nation has gone bankrupt to an extent that it can no longer fund the University of Liberia. With the discovery of 17 offshore oil blocks and a foreign direct investment portfolio of over US$16.9 billion, we find it
difficult to agree that our government is incapable of providing a minimum of US$29 million to ensure quality education for over 31,000 poor and struggling students at the University of Liberia. When our country now has a budget totaling US$622, 743,
420, we find it uneasy to concur with those who continue to argue against the reality.

The burden to make Liberia better rests upon our shoulders, principally those in authority. Henry A. Kissinger made no mistake when he said “The task of a leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have never been”. Napoleon
Bonaparte was as well cogent in his opinion when he said “A leader is a dealer in hope”. Momentarily, the educational sojourn of over 31,000 impoverished and jobless students pursuing higher education at the University of Liberia is at stake as a
result of tuition hike. The renewal of their hope to remain in school is predominantly reliant on the decision that will be taken by the 53rd National Legislature on Tuesday, May 3, 2016.

These students are under intense pressure to raise an extra revenue of US$1.3 million through tuition hike. Is our government unable to prevent thousands of poor students from dropping out of school by making available US$1.3 million? The answer is a resounding NO. We are very optimistic that our government, mainly the Legislature and the Executive will collaborate to derive a rational resolution that would reawaken the hope of over 31,000 students at the University of Liberia. We
have a choice to make as a nation that has been beleaguered by bloodletting and butchery – a choice that we must make with due caution and deep prudence.

Either we help our nation now or risk hurting it tomorrow.   Moving forward from where we are as a people should be a collective national vision that is firmly tied to quality education for ALL. The decision our legislators will take this Tuesday
has the propensity to either push us up or pull us down. As students of UL, we remain hopeful and optimistic that our lawmakers will do what is best to protect our right to education, which is enshrined in Article 6 of our Constitution. Poverty is
not our purpose and we can conquer this nightmare if our leaders begin to take affirmative action. Liberians do not belong to the bottom, but the top. We deserve better than what we have after 168 years of independence. Prosperity through education, employment and empowerment is what we ultimately desire as a country striving to rise above penury.

Microscoping Education in Liberia 

Putting Liberia’s educational sector under the spotlight for in-depth evaluation is critical to finding lasting solution to prevailing gaps. We can only know where we are going when we know where we are coming from and where we are now. Microscoping education in Liberia is an essential roadmap to reshaping our educational system from ‘mess’ to ‘best’. Access to quality education across Liberia remains a serious challenge due to several factors. Notable among these factors is budgetary
inadequacy. The quality of teaching and learning at various institutions around the country is being hindered as a result of financial limitations.

Quality education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels is something yet to be seen in our country. Despite a new Education Reform Act was signed into law by President Johnson-Sirleaf in 2011, but achieving the needed reform in our educational sector requires aggressive implementation and progressive investment.
From available data produced by the Ministry of Education, the number of schools we have cannot even accommodate all of our students. Insufficient school supplies, unqualified teachers, hostile learning environment and the lack of basic academic
facilities such as improved infrastructure, computer lab, internet access, library, science lab, research center, etc. are existing issues confronting our nation.
However, these existing gaps can be mitigated through increased budgetary support to both public and private schools.

According to UNICEF, 98% of all our secondary schools are in Monrovia. This means citizens residing in rural Liberia have access to only 2% of our secondary institutions. How can we have a population of 4.4 million people with only 2 state-run universities in the entire country? The University of Liberia in
Montserrado County and the Tubman University in Maryland County remain underfunded in this age of modernity. The community colleges in Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh,
Bomi, Lofa and Nimba counties are facing similar challenge.

According to the 2008 census conducted by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), 33.2% of Liberia’s youthful population have had no education, 31.1% have had only primary education while 35.75% have had secondary
and tertiary education. The government of Liberia’s 5-year development strategy (Agenda for Transformation – AfT), which seeks to provide educational opportunities for all by investing more resources in higher education, can only become achievable
if policymakers and partners stand up and act. Reforming education in Liberia from ‘mess’ to ‘best’ does not only end with crafting good policies and strategies, but it goes beyond.

The Ministry of Education has put into motion a reform policy seeking to transform education in Liberia from mess to best by 2020. Even though this plan is meaningful, but much is not being done to ensure its overall targets are met within the specified period of time. Up-to-date, Liberia only has a total of 5,181 schools. Out of this number, 59% (3,074) of these schools are public while 41% (2,107) are non-public. Most of these schools have poor facilities. With an enrollment rate of 1,531,489 students, 952,290 students which accounts for 62% are found in public institutions while 579,199 students which accounts for 38% are found in private institutions. This means that more attention needs to be given to public schools, particularly tertiary institutions, of which the University of Liberia is of no exception.

The total number of teachers in Liberia is 44,250. Out of this number, 56% (24,564 teachers) are teaching public schools while 44% (19,686 teachers) are teaching private institutions. Most of our teachers are not qualified to teach in our classrooms. Some of them are mere high school graduates and university dropouts.
Even in our universities and colleges, teachers with only first degree who are providing tutorship are too many. The budget for education in Liberia is far below the demand for quality education. For example, during 2014/2015 fiscal year, the
budget of the Ministry of Education was US$37,930,249 which accounts for just 5.96% of our national budget.

Liberia has one of the lowest expenditures for education in Africa and this is contributing hugely to widespread poverty. While other nations are investing a large portion of their national budgets to providing quality education for their citizens,
Liberia is still lacking behind. When a country like Rwanda is allotting 35% of its 2015/2016 annual budget to education, Liberia is still dragging with 11%. Kenya is ahead with about 21% while Ghana is almost 20%. It will interest you to know that
the system of education in neighboring Sierra Leone is far better than ours.
Recently, the parliament of Sierra Leone approved US$36.65 million loan agreement to rehabilitate and expand the Fourah Bay College.

When Liberia is asking poor students to pay exorbitant fees, Sierra Leone is even providing loan and subsidy for students. What is big about providing US$29 million to run the University of Liberia? US$15 million is just a drop in the ocean to
provide quality education for over 31,000 students on four (4) campuses. By unjustifiably increasing tuition at the University of Liberia in order to decrease an existing deficit of over US$8 million is more detrimental to Liberia’s future.
This disturbing decision will put thousands of struggling students out of school and render them economically defenseless. This is why it would be very important for our government to intervene in a more timely and suitable manner.

The argument by proponents of tuition increment that college education is not free is a weak and lazy argument. The argument that tuition should increase at UL because our government is experiencing economic meltdown, even though students are the most affected as a result of this downturn, is pathetic and feeble. The argument that tuition should be increased at the State-run University by 106% because few students can regularly visit student center to merry-make sounds tasteless. The argument that an additional US$1.3 to be purportedly collected from tuition hike can address growing challenges at UL is far-fetched and mind-boggling. These arguments are totally inconceivable and unimaginable in any real world.

Zooming UL

After 15 years of sovereignty, the need to establish a fountain of knowledge and enlightenment became a national priority. When Liberians from every sphere of society were in search of higher education, the University of Liberia sprung forth to ignite a new age. When Liberian citizens had no choice, but to only acquire
secondary education, the Liberia College, now the University of Liberia was given birth to in 1862 as the first publicly funded institution of higher learning in the country. Since 1862 up to present, the increasing appetite for tertiary education
among Liberians remains high. Unfortunately, this sense of enthusiasm has been undermined by a messy educational system.

Zooming the University of Liberia from among other institutions of higher learning in Liberia sends a message of alert to our leaders and partners. It reminds them about prevailing bottlenecks at the State-run University and provokes them even
further to ensure corresponding remedies. The University of Liberia, as the oldest institution of tertiary education in Liberia, must lead by example. The University of Liberia should be the precursor of quality education in Liberia; unfortunately,
the contrary is now a reality. From reliable evaluation, students from Cuttington University, AME University, United Methodist University, Stella Maris Polytechnic and AME Zion University have access to quality education than the University of Liberia. This is a disturbing situation that needs rapid intervention.

The Act creating the University of Liberia was enacted into law in 1951. This charter which coincides with Article 6 of our Constitution clearly spells out the role the government. Article 1 section 1 subsections a, b, c and d of this charter makes the government of Liberia the source of financial support to the University of Liberia. This means that the government is under statutory responsibility to provide funding for UL. Hence, why will anyone choose to overburden thousands of jobless students by hiking tuition? Judging from existing economic realities, we think this approach is even more harmful than helpful. Rebuilding our broken educational sector is far from imposing excessive fees on struggling students. It starts with huge
investment through direct budgetary appropriation.

The ruining state of the University of Liberia is a matter of choice. If we decide to make it better and even second to none in Africa, it can be possible. The University of Liberia is the only state-run University in Africa where students lack access to internet access and a research center. The learning environment at UL is too appalling to an extent that students have to fight for arm chairs and stand in long queues to do registration. Increasing tuition to US$4.00 per credit hour will not put an end to this quagmire. What this plan will do is to significantly
de-populate the University and prevent thousands of emerging leaders from pursuing their dreams.

University of Liberia vs. University of Felix Houphouet Boigny

In presenting our case, we are under obligation to give a comparative analysis between our state-run University and the state-run University of neighboring Ivory Coast. I have tried to compare the quality of education at the University of Liberia
with public Universities in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast, but the disparity in terms of quality is too wide.

According to World Ranking, the University of Liberia ranks 18,023 while the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny is at 6,928. In Africa, the ranking of the University of Liberia is 228 while the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny is 103.
In West Africa, the University of Liberia ranks 79 while the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny is at 37.

The University of Liberia was established since 1862, but it still does not resemble a university in this modern age due to budgetary constraint, poor learning facilities and inadequate manpower. The University of Felix Houphouet Boigny also
known as the University of Cocody in Ivory Coast was established 1964 and it is one of the best institutions of higher learning in Africa.

The Research Publications and Citations of the University of Liberia rate 5.26 while the Research Publications and Citations of the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny rate 13.9. The University of Liberia has over 31,000 students, but no access to
internet connectivity and computer literacy. The University of Felix Houphouet Boigny has over 61,000 students and these students have unlimited access to internet connectivity, high-tech computer laboratories and career centers.

Students at the University of Liberia usually spend more than 4 calendar years to obtain first degree (BSc. or BA), while students at the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny spend just three calendar years to obtain first degree. Students at the University of Liberia pay more than US$640 to obtain first degree, while students at University of Felix Houphouet Boigny are only required to pay a total of US$150 through an integrated loan scheme/financial aid program to obtain first degree.

The University of Liberia does not grant PhD degrees, while the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny offers PhD degrees in variety of specialties. Students of the University of Liberia lack access to improved classrooms, better sanitation, transportation, modern libraries, topnotch science laboratories, safe drinking
water, research center, clinic, theatre and museum, affordable dormitories, advanced cafeteria, modern student center, improved infrastructure, mini stadium, parks, sporting programs, student exchange, etc. Students at the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny have access to all of these basic facilities and services.

Over 85% of the Students at the University of Liberia are constrained to beg for scholarship opportunities and financial aid on a semester basis, even though education is a right. At the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny, students have access to scholarship opportunities, student loan, financial aid and grant. Almost all of them have laptops! They have internal and external transportation systems with comfortable buses commuting both students and faculty members from one location to another.

The government of Ivory Coast is fully funding the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny even though it depends mainly on the exportation of cocoa. The government of Liberia has decided to transfer its financial burden over to jobless students at the
University of Liberia. Students at the University of Felix Houphouet Boigny in Ivory Coast have access to vacation jobs and internship. Our leaders need to understand that the students are mostly victimized by the current economic meltdown in the
country.

We have heard another interesting side of the debate that college education is not free nowhere around the World; therefore, students of UL should accept the increment in tuition. This sounds side-splitting. There are dozens of countries that provide
tuition-free education at college level. Some of them include, but not limited to: Senegal, Libya, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Brazil, Germany, France, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Slovenia. Additionally, these nations even compensate students through a well coordinated national program.

We are the oldest in Africa, but the least in almost everything. Even Namibia that gained her independence in 1990 has a better educational system. It is time for state-actors and stakeholders to take proactive steps to ensuring that Liberia gets back on track. The reconstruction of post-war Liberia is hinged to education.
Piloting Liberia’s development agenda starts and ends with a literate population.
Where we are as a nation is not where we belong. We belong at the head and not the tail.

The true essence of our existence is gradually fading due to widespread poverty and inequality. We live in a country of equal citizenship, but unequal opportunities.
Our leaders must act now to address some of these pressing menaces. In so far most of our citizens are uneducated; the standard of living will remain low. The purchasing power and life expectancy of our people will continue to decline.
Education is the foundation for massive employment and self-sufficiency.

A Genuine Case for over 31,000 poor students

Ahead of Tuesday’s legislative session, we have come to advance a genuine case for over 31,000 students who are currently enrolled at the University of Liberia. This case may seem difficult for some people to embrace, but it would be unfair to
perceive it from a sentimental lens and uninformed perspective. Any action based upon opinion or rumor in this case would create serious setback for thousands of poverty-stricken students.

Referencing the University of Liberia as the macrocosm of larger society every day is not enough. Overhauling UL goes beyond professing publicly that it is Lux in Tenebris meaning Light in Darkness. The University of Liberia can only maintain its
golden status as The Light in Darkness if this attribute is seen through the quality system of education it provides for beneficiaries. Achieving quality at UL is doable, but only through genuine steps pointing towards comprehensive, aggressive
and decisive reform.

From all indications, over 31,000 students are unsatisfied about the poor quality of education they are acquiring at the University of Liberia. This is happening because of limited budgetary support. These are appropriations made by the government of
Liberia to UL since 2009.

1.        2009 – US$4.02 million
2.        2010 – US$6.9 million
3.        2011 – US$9.8 million
4.        2012 – US$11.75 million
5.        2013 – US$10.4 million
6.        2014 – US$10.3 million
7.        2015 – US$9.9 million
8.        2016 – US$15.1 million

The annual budget of the University of Liberia is far less than some colleges and high schools in Africa and around the World. With the growing population and high demand for tertiary education in Liberia, US$15.1 million is extremely small to
adequately operate UL. We should start thinking now about expanding UL and improving its facilities in order to accommodate more students. Overburdening students
financially by increasing tuition to US$4.00 is unrealistic and counterproductive.
What substantive difference can US$1.3 million make at UL?

Moreover, students are currently paying LD$175.00 per credit hour every semester as tuition when they have no access to loan, grant, internship, vacation job and subsidy. For more than 3 semesters now, students have paid LD$250.00 each as
computer fee even though they are not learning computer. LD$100 has been paid by each student for ID, but no student has received an ID card for more than 3 semesters now.

Additionally, students have been paying extra fees such as:

Breakage – LD$150
Insurance – LD$100.00
Library – LD$100.00
Reconstruction – LD$100
Registration fee – LD$300
Sport – LD$100
Student Activities – LD$100
Student Support Service – LD$150

It will interest you to know that these fees have made no big difference in rendering the services for which they were collected. Student activities and Sports are completely dead at UL while the Library and Laboratory remain unequipped. With these hardcore facts, we hope those who once thought that students were attending UL without paying a cent will reconnect with the reality. Under extreme circumstances, the students are playing their part to make UL better.

In this 21st century, no national priority is more cardinal than education. Health, security and infrastructural developments have an unavoidable attachment with education, especially higher education.  This is why EDUCATION is a human right. The right to education is reflected in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The right to education has been reaffirmed in the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In addendum, this right is also enshrined in articles 6 and 15(b) of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. I hope we have not forgotten about all these
universal protocols and national statutes. The University of Liberia will remain in its poor state unless state-actors partnership to promote quality education through
realistic investment.

In furtherance, concession companies are under statutory obligation to remit certain amount of money to UL’s account on an annual basis, which is in accordance with the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA). In line with the MDA for example, this is what the following companies are to remit to UL per annum:

1.        China Union – US$50,000.00
2.        ArcelorMittal – US$50,000.00
3.        BHP Billiton – US$50,000.00
4.        Golden Verolem – US$50,000.00
5.        Sime Darby – US$25,000.00, etc.
The University of Liberia has not been receiving these resources for some time now due to reasons yet unknown. Rental fees of properties belonging to the University have not been forthcoming as well. The administration of UL needs to be more proactive in collecting these revenues. This will help to lessen its deficit of over US$8,654,095.00. The administration of the University of Liberia needs to put in place concrete mechanism to attract research grant and financial aid from foreign and local entities.
It is time for UL to create a productive relationship/partnership with the World Bank, the United Nations, USAID, IMF, Bill Gates Foundation, African Development Bank, European Union, African Union and friendly nations around the World. To sponsor a student at the University of Liberia to obtain a degree would cost little over US$640.00. This means that US$19,840,000 can sponsor 31,000 Liberian students
at UL for 4 years. The government needs to work with its partners to generate these resources through an integrated national loan scheme. Hiking tuition is not the
solution and it can never be!
In solidifying our case, these are few facts about students attending the University of Liberia:
1.        Over 85% of the students at UL depend solely on scholarship opportunities and financial aid from philanthropists and donors. There is no National Student Loan Scheme and Financial Aid Program. Most students will have no choice, but to drop out of school if tuition is increased by 106%.

2.        Over 95% of the students at UL are unemployed/jobless and depend merely on transitory income for survival due to the high cost of living in Liberia.

3.        There are no concrete achievements to display after increasing tuition and fees in past years. UL still lies in ruin.
It is upon these realities that we are making this genuine case to our legislators on behalf of over 31,000 poor students. This case is in continuation of our peaceful assembly on April 19, 2016 at the Capitol Building. On this day, students of UL petitioned the National Legislature to increase budgetary support to UL and overturn tuition increment. We remain ever grateful to all those who have been standing with us in championing this cause. We remain optimistic that this case will be given due consideration.
The first President of the United States of America, George Washington couldn’t have said it better when he averred to Congress in 1789 that “There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage, than the promotion of science and literature.
Knowledge in every country is the surest basis of public happiness.” Malcolm X was also never wrong when he said that “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
In conclusion, a better tomorrow for Liberia will remain an illusion until we consider education as a primary driving force of our developmental agenda.  The United States of America is the superpower of the world today because it invests a lot into education. The freedom of Liberians economically is ingrained in education.
The dawn of a new era starts with education.
From the top of Ducor in Montserrado County, I see a new Liberia. From the largest slum of West Point, I see a great nation emerging out of the ashes of self-pity and illiteracy. From the Mountainous highland of Nimba and Lofa, I see a nation rising
above poverty, ignorance and disease. From the Kpatawee waterfall in Bong County, I envision a Liberia springing forth with equal opportunities for all. From the coastal plain of Grand Kru County, I envisage a new nation with a quality system of
education, health care, housing, electricity, safe drinking water and social security.
From the Cape of Maryland County and the stream of the St. John River in Grand Bassa, I see a prosperous Liberia. From the fountain of Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount and the Blue Lake in Bomi, I see a passionate generation opting for transformation in Liberia. From the peaks of Putu in Grand Gedeh and Gibi in
Margibi, there is still hope for a new beginning. From the evergreen forest of RiverGee and Gbarpolu, I see a Liberia of patriotic and loyal citizens. From the Sapo National Park in Sinoe and the Cestos River in Rivercess, I see a Liberia rising above the African continent.
This is the Liberia we hope to see in our lifetime – a Liberia that prioritizes quality higher education – a Liberia that invests in youth empowerment and employment – a Liberia that caters for its citizens even during difficult times – a Liberia that works toward reducing poverty and increasing prosperity. Achieving this kind of Liberia requires conviction, commitment and compassion. The leaders of the people must take the lead by doing what is best for the nation. It takes a lot of vision and vigor. It is time for us to rewrite our history by ensuring thousands of
poor students at the University of Liberia do not drop out of school due to tuition hike.
Let me end this case in Swahili by saying “Mimi naona Liberia mpya na zaidi 2017- sasa katika Liberia Hiyo kipaumbele elimu katika ngazi zote” meaning in English “I see a new Liberia now and beyond 2017- a Liberia that prioritizes education at every
level”.

May God bless our nation and sustain its peace as we look forward to a prosperous future.

Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader, an emerging economist and a young writer.  He currently reads Economics with
distinction at UL, and is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP).
He can be reached at: martinkerkula1989@yahoo.com

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