Liberia’s premier agricultural and industrial learning center, the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), has launched a website and new academic programs.
The launch of the website coincided with activities marking the Institute’s 86th founding anniversary held from June 26-28 under the theme, “Working for Her Interest and Good.”
The website: www.bwitech.edu.lr, according to Principal Alexander M. Massey, is for students, educators, families, friends, stakeholders, and the general public to learn everything about BWI.
The website acts as an arm of information sharing, introducing people who don’t know much about the school, such as a parent or a prospective student or a teacher, as well as individuals seeking employment.
It provides information on current events and the general culture of the school and a forum for teachers, administrators, students, and parents to exchange information such as news, calendar of events, entrance results, student handbook, alumni activities, admission process, financial requirements and policies.
In addition, Mr. Massey said BWI has also included a web database at the backend of the website, which will enable students and parents to view students’ progress reports (grade sheets) online, financial payments and balances, disciplinary records, transcripts, fees, etc.
Currently, the BWI budget of US$1.8 million, which has remained consistent four years, has finally been increased by US$450,000, bringing it to US$2.3 million for Fiscal Year 2015/2016.
With this, Mr. Massey said his administration is committed to increasing BWI’s revenue and has therefore contracted the services of a professional fundraiser consultant to help the institute.
The BWI agriculture program, said Principal Massey, is getting back on track, following the intervention of USAID-FED, backed by the United States Agency for International Development, with a donation of greenhouse, a power tiller and other implements, and the construction of the soil science lab. The USAID-FED also supports BWI with a new National Diploma in Agriculture (NDA) program.
“We recognize that our programs are only as good as our teachers. We are interested in qualified teachers with some level of integrity, who are dedicated and committed to upholding our legacy,” Mr. Massey emphasized.
As such, he said this effort by his administration is intended to be augmented with better teacher salaries and living accommodations, with emphasis on teacher training, both short and long-term.
“We want to devote enough resources to training our faculty in new academic and vocational standards,” he emphasized.
Additionally, Mr. Massey said his administration recognizes the urgent need to revise the existing curriculum to conform to the new West African Senior School Examination Certificate (WASSEC) curriculum as prescribed by the Ministry of Education (MOE). It will also conform to the vocational and technical training realities of the day, he added.
“We are also turning to industry, those enterprises which participated in our annual internship program, for their input in the revision of our curriculum. We are diverting from the concept of only institutional-led training programs and turning more to competency-based as well as industry-led training at BWI,” Mr. Massey assured.
Although, curriculum revision is a continuous process in the educational arena, Mr. Massey explained that the BWI goal is to keep up with current trends and standards in vocational and technical skills training.
The establishment of BWI in Liberia was a dream come true for the late President Charles D.B. King. During an official visit to the United States of America in 1922, President King was asked by a reporter to name anything of significance that he would like, if it were possible, to take back to his country, Liberia. The President said, “If it were possible, I would like to take Tuskegee Institute in Alabama back to Liberia.
President King’s dream of a Tusgegee type institute in Liberia was fulfilled in 1929 when Mrs. Olivia Phelps Stokes, and American philanthropist, in cooperation with the Liberian Government, established BWI.
Kenneth Y. Best, a 1959 BWI Alumnus, in his book, The BWI Story, recalled that Mrs. Stokes donated the first US$100,000 as seed money for the founding of BWI.
As a result of this joint venture between Ms. Stokes and the Liberian government, BWI opened its doors in 1929. Its first Principal was a white American named James Longstreet Sibley, who hailed from the American State of Georgia. Unfortunately, Mr. Best said in his book, Mr. Sibley, shortly after he opened the school’s doors, contracted yellow fever and, said Best, “in 48 hours he was gone.”
But the dying Principal dictated to his secretary that they should not bother to send his body back to the USA. He wished to be buried right on the BWI campus, and that everything he owned he bequeathed to BWI. Mr. Sibley’s grave is situated on campus, across from the Library and Administration Building.
Since 1929 the institute has produced professional agriculturists, technicians, engineers, secretarial and business management and accounting experts who have over the decades served in both government and the private sectors, her and abroad.
Because of their expertise in so many fields BWI alumni in the United States and North America have organized since the late 1980s the most successful Liberian Alumni Association in that part of the world, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank. Much of this money has been used to help sustain the Institute during the war years and since.
The current BWI Alumni Association in North America is headed by Mr. Zaccheus Payne, while the Association in Liberia is led by president Jonathan Paye Layleh, a prominent Liberian journalist and BBC correspondent.