Twenty-one Liberian undergraduate students of different academic disciplines have left the country for Yamoussoukro, the Ivory Coast political capital for studies in various disciplines.
The students are expected to learn the French Language for a year before commencing studies in their respective careers in various areas of specialty, including Agriculture, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Chemistry and Biology.
Although France and Liberia have a long standing relation dating back to 1847, following independence, this is the first time of recent for the European country to sponsor such a large number of Liberians after China, and the United States that have been persistent with such an educational venture.
At a farewell reception on Saturday, November 23, Ambassador Terrence Wills, said “Liberians need to diversify their careers, and not to be only lawyers or administrators that we have here in good numbers.”
He added that Liberia has too valuable resource to use and manufacture goods, and it takes Liberians to educate themselves to meet this task.
He assured the students that on their return, French companies operating in Liberia will help to orientate them, and in some cases, provide them jobs, but they will have to also make use of their careers to take the economy from foreign hands into their own hands, “because a lot of the entrepreneurs in the country in big businesses are foreigners.”
“You have to prepare yourselves now, so you cannot be out of the photo,” Amb. Wills noted as the beneficial students burst into laughter.
Gaelle Mediem, Chief of Staff in the office of First Lady Clar Weah, said the scholarship was among packages President Emmanuel Macron promised President Weah when he made his official visit to France upon taking over in 2018.
According to Mediem, the scholarship package was dedicated to the First Lady’s office to foster education for Liberian students, mainly girls and women, whom the First Lady attaches so much importance to them.
“The French Agency of Development selected the school in Yamoussoukro where the Liberian students are to attend,” Mediem said, adding, “And we are all working together to make this happen for Liberian students.”
She, however, said as enthusiastic as the First Lady is to see girls educated, it was unfortunate that not many girls could go for the scholarship, but only five girls among 16 boys.
She said the less number of girls is due in part to reason that they are not interested in studying Science and Mathematics.
In another case, she said some get pregnant and are left with obligations to take care of kids in the home, and perform other chores.
She expressed the hope that the next batch of students to go for the scholarship another time will be all girls.
“The scholarship is a fully funded sponsored scholarship that students do not have to worry about anything; tuition, housing, feeding, and other necessities including transportation will be provided under the scheme,” Mediem said.
She further said that it will be more beneficial to the students to learn and speak French because Liberia is surrounded by Francophone countries, but not many citizens here speak French.
Mathilde Richelet, Project Officer at the French Embassy in Liberia, said the scholarship came as a result of exchanges between Presidents Weah and Macron where among many things, the need arose for skill people in Liberia, and through that they arrived at providing scholarship that will help empower the youths.
Like Gaelle, Mathilde said it is also important that the students learn French because they will have to engage in business with others who are not English to make business connection.
According to her, the number leaving this year will be the same to go next year, and they are to spend four years each studying in the Ivory Coast.
“We are happy for these students and for France to be a part of those helping Liberia. We have people from Ghana, South Africa and other place, and we hope the students will do their best to bring back pride to their country,” said Mathilde.
To solicit students for the scholarship, the Division of Scholarship at the Ministry of Education had to be involved.
Director for Scholarship at the Ministry of Education, Theophilus A. Snorton, said they became involved when the French reached out to them to help in the process, and they went from school to school in Monrovia with the forms for students to apply.
There were 600 students that sat the exam, 25 were successful, but they were in search of only 21.
According to Snorton, there was a substantive list, and an alternative list creating the room for replacement in case anyone on the substantive list does not show up.
During the next turn, Snorton said that the process will be decentralized where they will go nationwide sorting out students to benefit from the scholarship.
Tests administered for selection, according to Mr. Snorton, are in French, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics.