By Patrick C.M. Kollie
In the quest to support high quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training programs in Liberia, the Head of Delegation of the European Union, EU Ambassador to Liberia Mrs Helene Cavé, has affirmed the European Union’s support to the Booker Washington Institute (BWI). The EU official envisions supporting Liberia’s oldest vocational and technical institute in the areas of heavy vehicle equipment repair, machining and mechatronics, refrigeration and AC repair, as well as health, safety and environment.
In her remarks at the BWI 89th Founders Day program, Mrs. Cavé acknowledged that with Liberia’s youth accounting for more than half the nation’s populace, coupled with the government’s strong commitment to expanding access to relevant, high quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), there exists the need for significant investment to make this a reality and the European Union remains committed to partnering with Government to support TVET programs across the nation.
She averred, “We are also ready and very excited to partner with the BWI community, the school principal and administration and private sector to take BWI to the next level.”
The EU Ambassador to Liberia told her audience about two months ago the European Union signed a Financing Agreement with the Government of Liberia to support TVET, and BWI is one of five schools which has been selected for support.
Though she did not name the other four schools that the EU Financing Agreement with the Liberian Government is covering, she said the other schools are in Montserrado, Sinoe, Maryland and Grand Gedeh counties.
She said negotiations with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sports have been going on for a while now and hopes that all formalities will be reached, to enable the project to begin soon before the next school year.
According to Mrs. Cavé, the total donation by the European Union is €20 million for the five institutions targeted – including BWI.
She added that the EU support actually extends well beyond this monetary value as the project will support Liberia and BWI, to craft international collaborations with other TVET schools across the African continent and with private sector entities in and out of Liberia, which can help to further build the institution’s capacity and to ensure the education and skills that would match local demand.
The project will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which is not a stranger for the BWI community having supported the school in a very successful project for training of heavy equipment operators, which is soon coming to an end. The EU, together with UNIDO, will through this new program support the Government to modernize TVET, promote training in strategic sectors of the economy, foster an entrepreneurship culture and equip youth with skills that actually match labor market demand and respond to new economic growth and opportunities.
Furthermore, all schools including BWI under the programme will be supported to establish or further develop production units in order to generate internal revenue and not to rely heavily on Government funding.
The EU TVET programme will support capacity development at the level of the central government and at the level of the schools. It will send a number of vocational instructors abroad for training and practice for up to a year. The programme will also establish within BWI a centre for vocational instructor’s training which may support training for both public and private schools across Liberia.
She noted the project is crucial to the development of the TVET system that the instructors who will benefit from all training opportunities will make a personal commitment to remain in the school system for a certain period after their return.
She said the EU remains committed to the agreement to support and improve the labor force by empowering the young people of Liberia through the provision of quality TVET and look forward to working closely with the Liberian government.
For his part, Youth and Sports Minister D. Zeogar Wilson, who also served as Keynote Speaker of this year’s BWI Founders’ Day, lauded the school’s administration for the high level of quality education and infrastructure development at Liberia’s outstanding vocational and technical hub.
He said government remains committed to its dream of supporting vocational and technical education including TVET across the country, with the BWI key on its Pro-Poor National Development Agenda.
Celebrating under the theme, “Enabling the Pro-poor Agenda through Support for Technical and Vocational Education and Training”, BWI Principal and CEO Atty. Harris Fomba Tarnue commended the government of Liberia and development partners including the school alumni in the diaspora for the overwhelming support made over the years and continued to be made toward BWI.
He said, the BWI is overwhelmed and grateful to the government and partners especially the USA, EU, GIZ, Japan, and UN agencies for their continued support that make the institute to score successes in achieving its TVET goals. He pleaded for more support to enhance the BWI five-year strategic and sustainability plan.
Atty Tarnue lamented that the five-year institutional plan, which began in 2017, contained five points of strategic priorities including investment in staff development and capacity building, investment in BWI’s internal revenue generating capacity, strengthening existing infrastructure and building new ones, enhancing student and young faculty recruitment, development and retention programs as well as the elevation of BWI to a technical college and high-quality market focused institution.
He noted that the plan, if supported, will help the BWI contribute immensely to the development of the nation. He added that TVET programs enhance youth employability, produce competitive workforce, harness human capacity for increased manufacturing and industrialization as well as promoting productivity and sustainability in the agriculture sector.
Speaking further at the occasion, the BWI Alumni Association President, Koffa E. Tenbroh congratulated Atty. Tarnue and team for the high level of transformation made and assured the association’s unflinching support to their alma mater. He said they are closely following the trends the school administration is conducting as well as the day to day affairs, and they are impressed.
Mr. Tenbroh further admonished Atty. Tarnue and team to remain focused and ensure that all academic activities of the BWI including the school’s traditions are adhered to by students and the administration.
The BWI’s 89th Founders Day was marked by a series of activities including thanksgiving services, indoor and outdoor festivals, as well the dedication of projects undertaken by the school administration.