Liberia: BWI Alumni Elect New Leaders

BWI Alumni Association’s President-elect Thomas M. Parker (first from left) and his corps of officers after their election.  

After one year under interim leadership, the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) Alumni Association has elected a new corps of officers for a two-year term.

Those elected at the association’s annual convention on the campus in Kakata are Thomas M. Parker, President; Thompson B. Klafleh, Vice President for Administration, William Roberts, Vice President for Operation and Sam Sumo Bahbor, Secretary-General.

The rest are Juteh Bryant Toee, Parliamentarian,  Doris S. Raynes, Treasurer; Nathan N. Teah, Financial Secretary, and Henderson N. Samukai, . Chaplain General. A member of the Class of 1977, Mr. Samukai is the oldest on the Parker team and was the oldest alumnus at the convention. For this, he received a standing ovation from fellow alumni.

The new team will be formally introduced to the alumni community and inducted into office during BWI’s Founder’s Day celebrations on the last Saturday in June. In his preferment remarks, Parker, who had successfully led an interim team prior to his election, pledged to lead his team in collaborating with the administration of BWI and rallying the support of the alumni community for the common good of the institute.

Top BWI alumni, including Ben Fofana, a Representative of Margibi County, and BWI Principal Attorney Fomba Tarnue, attended the convention, which was under the theme: “Restoring the Tiger Spirit Through Unity.”

Rep. Fofana, a former Business Manager during a really difficult period in the history of the institute, praised the Harris Tarnue administration for working to develop and uplift the image and spirit of the institute.

Principal Tarnue used the gathering to disclose a laundry list of achievements including the transformation in recent times of the historic Basic Metal Training (BMT) Center into a training hub for technical and vocational education that will be open to the general public.

The convention speaker, Alumnus Jonathan Paye-Layleh, reiterated his call on the national government to adequately fund BWI and take advantage of its existence and close proximity to the capital to train young men and women into various vocations as a way of addressing the manpower challenges in post-war Liberia.

Paye-Layleh, a 1986 graduate of the institute and alumni president, reminded convention delegates that BWI will turn 100 years old in 2029 and wondered why an institute that is this old is still running from a single campus. He proposed the establishment of the school’s campuses in rural places such as Lofa and Nimba Counties to help train the hands and minds of young people there and prepare them for nation-building.

Mr. Paye-Layleh also asked the BWI administration to engage the office of the Liberian President, H.E. Georg M. Weah, and invite him to pay a BWI visit or visits to be informed about developments there.

In accordance with the charter creating BWI, the President of Liberia is the Chair Ex-Officio of the institute’s Board of Governors. But Paye-Layleh observed that since the incumbency of President Weah, he has not paid a visit specifically to the institute to acquaint himself with progress and problems there, “apparently,” he said, “because he has not yet been officially invited to visit  the school.”

BWI was established in 1929 under the administration of President Charles D.B. King who had seen a similar school on a visit to the United States.

The institute has trained thousands of Liberians in different disciplines. BWI, a boarding school, was well funded and boasted of self-sufficiency in so many areas in the years before the outbreak of Liberia’s civil war; but like all other learning institutions, it is struggling with a very small annual budget.

The BWI Alumni Association in North America is one of the largest and strongest members of the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA). The Booker Washington Institute National Alumni Association of North America (BWINAANA), as the US-based body is called, is going to its annual convention in June during which a new corps of officers will be elected.

Its outgoing President, Eric Harris, like Thomas M. Parker who has just been elected to head the Liberian association, is a member of the Class of 1986.