President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has on several occasions spoken out against the poor quality of Liberian education.
The Head of State vented her displeasure with the low quality of the school system about two years ago when she famously said that “the education system is a mess” during a cabinet retreat in Paynesville.
Her statement was again proven right when all of the over 25,000 high school graduates failed the University of Liberia placement exams. The mass failure brought the country’s educational system to public disrepute and sparked a barrage of criticisms within and outside of the country.
But the President, who said her criticisms were meant to serve as challenges to stakeholders in the educational sector, including officials of the Ministry of Education, students, teachers and parents, had some words of appreciation for the Ricks Institute’s boarding school located in Virginia, outside Monrovia.
The President said Ricks Institute is one of, if not the best high school in the country because of the quality of instruction, practicals, and the discipline instilled in students.
Making a brief statement at the school’s 2013-2014 graduation exercises last Sunday, the President said, “I want to thank the principal and chief administrative officer of Ricks, Dr. Olu Menjay in particular, and his colleagues at Ricks, for responding to government’s call for quality education.
“We have observed what is going on at Ricks; we have monitored and followed what they teach, what they instill in their students, the quality of their academic and practical works and the discipline that they instill in their students. These have so impressed us that today we can say Ricks is one of the leading secondary institutions in the country.
“I must again express appreciation to Dr. Menjay for what he is doing in the country, molding young minds to take leadership roles in the society. He is instilling in them the values that are so lost in our country today—values such as hard work, honesty, discipline, respect not only for older people, but for oneself, respect for your country and respect for leadership,” she said.
Unless the Ministry of Education can prove her wrong, the President said, she still stands by her statement.
President Sirleaf, who is sponsoring six students at that mission school, said it is because of these qualities and principle-mindedness at Ricks that she decided to sponsor some of its students.
Those students, one of whom graduated last Sunday, are special to her because each one of them has a particular story behind his/her involvement in the scholarship fund, the President said.
If all of the schools in the country were operating like Ricks, there would be no concerns for the level of quality in the education sector, Madam Sirleaf said. She lauded the Ricks family and its collaborating partners, some of whom are in the United States, for the continuous support to the student body.
“Let me extend sincere congratulations to the graduates and to their parents, gaurdians and loved ones, who have stood by them and supported them to enable them to have this achievement today. I salute you, parents and guardians,” President Sirleaf said.
Rewarding a Good Friend
President Sirleaf said it was also a day worth celebrating because it was a day to remember a true friend.
One of the 41 graduates, Fate Tapson, whom the President has been sponsoring since elementary school, is the son of fallen Journalist Bobby Tapson, whom the Liberian leader said had been "a true friend". The fallen Tapson was an employee of The News Newspaper.
Madam Sirleaf said she has been sponsoring the young man since the demise of his father. She said the Fate Tapson and the other five students that she sponsors at Ricks are people she holds dear to her heart because each of them has a special story.
“These students are more than students for whom I paid tuitions. I consider them my grand children, and we take care of them in that respect.
“The reason I asked Fate’s mother to stand is because, her husband-Fate’s father, Bobby Tapson, was a journalist who supported us since 2006. Unfortunately he died, and his mother was left with the little ones and him.”
“Fate was a young man, who when I went to his house to sympathize with his mother, just put his head on my knee and said his father was everything they had. And so today I’m so proud that Fate has gone through from where we took him to where he is today,.”
The President said it was a great joy for her to see young Tapson graduating from high school and taking another giant step in his educational sojourn. She said sponsoring Fate is not a way of paying back for all that his father did for her, but a small way of showing gratitude to someone who had stood by her.
“I know his father is somewhere in heaven and looking down and saying this is his son in whom he is well pleased,” President Sirleaf said.
Ricks Institute, which was founded in 1887 by the Baptist Church in Liberia to cater to the academic and spiritual needs of the children of Liberia, graduated 41 students who, according to the administration, had satisfactorily completed the prescribed courses for the academic year 2013-2014. Students Faith Manley and Moselyn Wilson graduated first and second in their class, respectively.