Liberia: Commencement: Beginning Not End

Graduates at the 103rd Commencement Convocation of the University of Liberia


While attending the 103rd Commencement Exercises of the University of Liberia on Friday May 31, 2023, the thought came to my mind that Commencement is the beginning and not the end of any event. With the singing, sa-sa playing and dancing of relatives and friends of the graduates, there was a looking forward to the income generation future of the graduates and the facilitation of support for families and friends. To the relatives and friends, the Commencement was seen as an end rather than a beginning.

Let us recall the movement through time from the stone age to the present digital technology age. If commencement were taken to be the end rather than the beginning, there would have been no such movement through the ages. Therefore, the thought of the commencement as being the end is in the wrong direction. The right direction is the thought of commencement as being in the beginning, where there is movement from one age to another, using knowledge, like the one earned from the University. Most fortunately, there were Heads of three neighboring  universities attending the commencement and participating therein. Additionally, there was the Head of a Pan African Institution of Higher Learning in attendance and being honored by the University of Liberia.

Some children saw me recently and said "here is the Professor Doctor who knows everything". I put on my theatrical voice and replied "yes, my children, I know everything about how little I know". The children became surprised because they were thinking that someone with my title knew everything. Let us bear in mind that only Our Creator knows everything. For us human beings, learning is like an experience on a pyramid, like the pyramids of Egypt that are now over five centuries old. Starting from the top of the pyramid, one does better by learning as one goes down the pyramid to a widening of learning that can be shared to improve the living conditions of others.

Centuries ago, farmers living in this space called Liberia, planted food products for their well being, using what they had at their disposal. What did they have? They had the land from which they dug substances that they smelted to make farm tools. This is why one observes smelting plants in the villages. The movement though the centuries have brought us to the use of caterpillars and other technologically advanced materials. The world acclaimed fifty-two years old Liberian NGO, Susukuu, learned from the villagers and worked with displaced people and former combatants to produce world quality farm tools in Liberia. Most unfortunately, the powers that be and their foreign partners did not support this local poverty alleviation initiative and continued supporting the prevailing poverty generation situation.

So, you graduates can see, on the basis of relevant evidence, that commencement is not the end but the beginning of the evolution from poverty generation to poverty alleviation.

You have the choice of choosing the wrong direction, poverty generation or choosing the right direction, poverty alleviation. 80 per cent of the people of Liberia are saying that Liberia is headed in the wrong direction (Afrobarometer study of October 2020 of a sample of 1200 Liberians in Liberia, a -/+3% margin of error and a 95% level of confidence). With National Legislators of Liberia having access to at least LD150,000 a day and their foreign partners, in the commercial sector alone, having access to at leastLD300,000,000 a day while nearly all Liberia remain poor, having access to at most LD300 a day (Annual Reports of CBL, LISGIS, MFDP, MCI, WB, IMF, ADB and UNDP).

What then is the right direction? Learning from the village experience of centuries ago, one places the highest value on the human resource rather than on the natural resource  or the financial resource. There is production based on Value Addition rather than the production of raw materials for export without any prioritization of Value Addition. Clearly, there is urgency in making the choice of the transformation of the electoral system from the prevailing UNFAIR system to the enduring FAIR system. It is only this transformation that persons with good records can be elected to bring in the system of Justice, the indispensable ingredient for Peace and Progress in Liberia and in any other country. The University of Liberia did well to have as its Commencement Speaker, Madam Josephine Nkrumah of Ghana, the ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, remembering that she comes from the Land of the world acclaimed Pan Africanist Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah.