- 26 Feb
VOCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION WILL DEVELOP AND MOVE LIBERIA FORWARD-Vice President Boakai
From the Desk of Atty. George K. Saah, Director Media Relations(0886-514-462)
This article serves as a rejoinder to the one published in this Magazine in its last edition and focused on the agro sector as the area with the most potential for the creation of jobs and for alleviating poverty through main stream and downstream activities in the agro sector. The agro sector as discussed in that publication and as seen through the lenses of Vice President Joseph offers solutions to a variety of the nation’s problems especially unemployment.
Now, we focus our attention to an area, this time which presents a greater challenge to the nation, the sector that Vice President Boakai has been working with for the last three decades and the sector which must be given the fullest of attention if we should move Liberia on an even keel now and in the future. There is a way to deal with youth and youth issues and unless much interest is generated in this area at all levels of our country, there is a tendency to occasionally experience an interruption in the process of nation building because, we have a generation of young people most of them born in the late seventies and early eighties and do not have any taste of a stable prosperous nation with peace and harmony. A lot of them have only known instability, chaos, unrest and war and the task to instill the values of a civil society is a herculean one. This Government and the next are in the front lines of the battle against youth unemployment, illiteracy, ignorance and issues of morality, low esteem and trauma. There are some who no longer feel comfortable and part of a decent, moral and crimeless society void of war and confusion; they thrived in this environment for over twenty years got used to free stuff all of the time and they wish for it to be like that, and this is our problem.
Let us now focus on the man Joseph N. Boakai and how he thinks this social menace regarding our youth which has the proclivity to always undermine peace and stability can be addressed. His actions in this direction are already visible in government programs, the private sector and with international partners who have joined the Government of Liberia in recognizing the need to immediately begin to do something about youth problems in Liberia.
Vice President Boakai like all Liberians see youth as the future on which the nation is continuously built. The old folks of today were youth of yesteryears what they did in those days is the result of what we have now. We cannot continue in a vicious circle, the continuity of corruption, lazinessness, carelessness, unpatriotism for example must be stopped if we want the youths who are to assume responsibility over the nation whether in the public or private sector are to succeed. We are failing today in a number of areas because, our predecessors fail to put a hold on a number of things that affected the youth at that time.
Now is the time, and how do we start? Vice President Boakai in looking at the Liberian society today with the majority of our citizens in their thirties with very little formal education sees vocational and technical education as the way forward in rebranding the youths affected by years of instability and turmoil. There is a whole generation who did not sit in a formal class for nearly twenty years, and what do we do with them. There is also another group of Liberians who graduated from high school but have no intention of going further either due to funds or lack of interest, and also because the areas they want to pursue are unavailable. The answer is the introduction of vocational and technical education in Liberia.
Lets us see the many ways in which the Vice President has been handling this issue in his office, at the national level, at the community level and at the international level.
Vice President Boakai saw this problem more than two decades ago and did something about it at the time and one of those institutions he help to establish in Liberia is the Liberia Opportunity Industrialization Centers, the LOIC. These centers were established to train Liberians in areas of carpentry, masonry, tailoring, shoe making, soap making etc.etc.Many of those who learned these trades are successful businessmen and women today. In the 80s he encouraged the building of these centers throughout Liberia including in his own hometown of Foya.
With the launch of the Liberia Youth Empowerment Program, the President of Liberia knowing him to be man of the youth appointed him to serve as chair of the steering committee of the LYEP. The LYEP was launched in Kakata, Margibi County by the Vice President in the presence of hundreds of youth from all over the country. At the launch of that program on behalf of the President of Liberia, Vice President Boakai said “the Program was wholly focused on the quest for improvement in the lot of our youth population, that segment which constitutes the predominant swath of our population.
Two years later, in January of this year, he launched the Community Livelihood Investment Project, which operates under the aegis of the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment, CLIP. At the launch of CLIP, Vice President Boakai said the”youth of Liberia has a critical role in shaping the destiny of our country and by undertaking this task it brings me personal pride and fulfillment.” He believes by creating a class of middle level technocrats the nation is bound to move in the next stage of development.
The CLIP will provide jobs for ten thousand youths over a period of eighteen months drawn from the fifteen counties.
It is common knowledge that despite efforts by the current administration to rebuild the nation following years of instability, many challenges remain and the provision and sustenance of social services also remain another challenge. The need for these technicians to fill the void always filled by expatriates is what the Vice President is talking about. They are needed in the areas of electricity, water works, and the ministries of public works and to boost the private sector by providing jobs through the establishment of investments.
Three years ago, the Vice President travelled to phoenix, Arizona and toured a number of institutions with a view of finding out which educational system is best suited for the Liberia Community College School System. As a result of that visit, talks between the Ministry of Education and folks at those colleges were started.
This is what makes the idea of prioritizing vocational and Technical education workable- the existence of institutions that can be upgraded or resized to conform to the requirements of a vocational technical school or the going alongside the already existing institutions. For example the three multilateral high schools in Voinjama, Zwedru and Harbel, though infrastructure has somewhat dilapidated can be transformed to meet the requirements of a purely technical institutions. Vice President Boakai also initiated talks on upgrading the Booker Washington Institute, the BWI while in Phoenix, Arizona and those ideas are still under advisement. Other schools that could be considered for such programs include the Zorzor Teacher Training Institute, the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute, the ZRTTI , KRTTI and the Rural Development Institute, the RDI.
Vice President Boakai has come to the conclusion, given his experience and interaction with world leaders, that technical and vocational schools form the basis and have been the driving force in the building and modernization of nation states. Liberia could rise quickly to infrastructural development if the cost of paying foreigners to do our buildings, bridges and roads are handled by our own technicians.
The country’s manpower needs are not been met because the educational system does not support those needs. What the universities produce is different from the needs, so the issue of filling up this gap by providing technical and vocational education cannot be overemphasized. Therefore Liberia needs education that is realistic, applicable and useful rather than areas of specialty that have no bearing on the country’s development needs. Technical areas are wheels on which the development of the nation thrives.
There are many benefits that vocational and technical education provides for the nation and they can take many forms and arise at different points in time says Kathrin Hoekel in her study Costs and Benefits in Vocational Education and Training. She says individuals enjoy benefits from improved earnings, employment chances, mobility, capacity for lifelong learning, measures of working conditions and job satisfaction and the state yields net benefits both in terms of social rents and increased productivity.
A couple of years back, the Vice President visit the Dujar Community College and was proud to see Liberians running an institution capable of providing qualified manpower in the technical areas. He expressed concern that budgetary support to such institutions will become the priority of Government when donor funding phases out. The Monrovia Vocational Training Center, the MVTC is nearing completion and the Vice President was visibly pleased with the level of work done on this project and that institution promises to address crucial technical manpower needs one of the achievements of this Government.