Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olubanke King Akerele, has called for robust investments in the education sector to ensure that the country’s youth, who make up more than half of the population, get the requisite quality education that will prepare them for the task of nation building.
Madam Akerele spoke at a ceremony commemorating the 210th birth anniversary of Liberia’s founding president, Joseph Jenkins Roberts (J.J. Roberts). She challenged Liberians, especially those in authority, to invest in children’s education as “the best investment anyone can ever make,” following the example set by former President J.J. Roberts, who set aside huge portion of his estate for the education of Liberian children.
Speaking in her capacity as a representative of the Roberts family at the ceremony, held at the First United Methodist Church in Central Monrovia, Akerele noted that her grandmother was married to the first president’s brother, Henry Roberts. She (Akerele) is also the granddaughter of Liberia’s 17th president, Charles D. B. King. Flanked by two of her siblings at the occasion, the former minister said that humanitarian works, especially in the field of education, has become a traditional of the Roberts’ family and its descendants.
The J.J. Roberts 210th anniversary celebration began with a parade by a cross-section of students, many of them beneficiaries of the J.J. Roberts scholarships, through the principal streets of Monrovia. The parade proceeded to the J.J. Roberts grave at the Palm Grove Cemetery on Center Street, and on to the J.J. Roberts Monument near the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, where wreaths were laid.
Madam Akerele, a politician and diplomat who served in the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration from October 2007 November 2010, is making this passionate appeal at a time when the country is experiencing serious challenges in the education sector with no feasible remedies in sight. The sector is being faced with technical, financial and infrastructural deficits that are impeding the learning processes of Liberian students.
“Our first president was a patriot, a man who devoted his life to the education of Liberian children. Some of what he worked for throughout his life he left with the Methodist Church for this noble cause. He did all of these because he loved his country and its people. We need to teach our kids how to be patriotic,” she said.
She urged the young people to learn their history. “With that you all will know who all have made sacrifices for the good and survival of the state. JJ Roberts was an outstanding leader.”
She noted that she shed tears when the keynote speaker, veteran journalist Kenneth Yakpawolo Best (KYB), decried the despicable state of the country’s education sector, noting that things would have been better if successive leaders had emulated the outstanding example of the country’s distinguished statesman.
KYB had earlier described Roberts as “a visionary with a heart of gold,” adding that President Roberts, determined to see Liberian children excel in education — especially the underprivileged and vulnerable ones — provided the funds in his will for the establishment of a foundation that hundreds of students benefit from today.
J.J. Roberts is being honored and recognized, trough the celebration of his natal day, for his tireless efforts in organizing the first government of the Republic as well as negotiating and concluding treaties with foreign powers, which gave recognition to the founding of the Liberian Nation.
Many speakers at the celebration, including the keynote speaker, KYB, agreed that it is befitting that such honor accorded the memory of Roberts serves as a challenge to all Liberians to aspire to higher and noble endeavors by emulating his courage, endurance, selflessness and commitment to the principles and ideals of democracy as portrayed in his works and life.