It was nothing less than a healthy dose of reality, hope and encouragement that the Vice Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia both delivered to the Cuttington University class of 2015 on Saturday, September 26.
Delivering the 54th commencement convocation address, Sierra Leonean Vice President Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh encouraged graduates to face the realities head-on by moderating their expectations, knowing that although government is the largest employer, it simply cannot absorb everyone. The key to moderating expectations, he suggested, is in creativity and innovation.
“My fellow graduates, let me admonish you to moderate your expectations,” Dr. Foh told the 554 graduates. “Do not vainly compare yourselves with others. In almost all developing economies like ours, government is often the largest employer. It could be helpful to know that government simply does not have the capacity to absorb everyone. This is about time for us to be creative, to be innovative and to endeavor to be self-reliant.
VP Foh, who was conferred upon the Degree of Doctor of Humane letters (D. H. L., Honoris Causa), with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities obligations, and immunities appertaining thereto, further urged his ‘fellow graduands’ to also extend their services to humanity.
“Do something meaningful which others would not. You are products of the Cuttington University of Liberia. Rise up, make a difference and earn the respect of your compatriots. Be of service to your country and to humanity. That is what I leave with you; and this what I pray you live with.”
He praised the CU administration’s vision, citing two courses that “particularly impressed” him — the Peace and Conflict Program and the Service Learning Program. According to him, these programs are not only important, but are also very useful as they respond to the challenges of development in present day Liberia and Africa.
“This is what I call purposeful education for self-reliance and national development,” Dr. Foh told the audience. “They are among the very special knowledge-based education that we need to rebrand and transform Africa. By purposeful education, I mean education that makes you relevant to yourself, your community, your country and humanity. It is knowledge that earns you the respect of society and love of children.” He further told the CU administration that such knowledge instills in one the fear of God, which the Bible says: “is the beginning of wisdom.”
He also stated that with these, CU was on the right path of providing knowledge for the new Africa.
Vice President Foh also took time to touch on the long standing historical ties that bind Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Most Sierra Leoneans have grown up to regard Liberia as their second home. They have learnt and grown up to know that probably not one single Sierra Leonean is more than one generation away from Liberia, and also probably not one single Liberia is more than a generation away from Sierra Leone. We only need to look at the outward signs of friendship existing between our two countries and our two peoples. It is a friendship and relationship that go back long, long in time and in history.
“The bond between Sierra Leone and Liberia is not only based on geography. It is also, in every sense, cultural, economic and ethnic. The citizens inhabiting particularly the border Districts of Pujehun and Kailahun in the South-East of Sierra Leone and in the South Eastern Districts of Liberia regard themselves as citizens of the same country. They speak the same tribal languages, Vai, Gola, Kissi, Mandingo, Kru, Mende to name a few and they inter-marry freely,” he stated.
He also mentioned the English Language – the official language of both nations – as another common feature of the two sisterly republics.
The Sierra Leonean VP is expected to depart Liberia today, September 28, after spending almost a week in the country. He and his 12-person delegation, including his wife, Mrs. Jonta Memunatu Foh, arrived last Tuesday, September 22, as guests of Liberia’s Vice President, Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai.
Giving remarks following the commencement address by his Sierra Leonean counterpart, Vice President Boakai stated that his presence on the CU campus during the ceremony was uplifting and of great historic significance as he shared the stage with the honoree, his Sierra Leonean counterpart, Dr. Foh, who he (VP Boakai) said he has known for many years through a long-standing, wonderful relationship.
Ambassador Boakai said he cherished the honor that Dr. Foh could come to help broaden the horizons of the graduates.
The Liberian Vice President told the 554 graduates that as they walked out of the gates of CU, they were now automatically being admitted into the “University of Real Life,” where he said that they should know that none of them would enjoy the liberty of deciding as to whether or not to enroll or not in that university (Life). He, however, wish for them Godspeed as they strive to make productive sojourn toward building their communities and their country at large.
“The Government of Liberia salutes you on this achievement and hands you the assurance of the commitment to supporting your improvement and strengthening you,” he stated.
Guests at program included, Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, Associate Justice Kabineh J’neh and Acting Foreign Affairs Minister B. Elias Shoniyin.
Speaking earlier, outgoing CU president, Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa, hailed the people of Suacoco, Bong County, where the university is located, for their generosity over the years in keeping the institution in their county.
Dr. Tokpa, who is now leaving the institution after having served as president since 2002, said his achievements can not only be measured in the lifting of the school from college to full-fledged university status, but by other indicators, including high level of moral and academic excellence among the administrative and academic families.
“Towards this direction, the transformation Cuttington has undergone is tangibly measurable by our achievements in the areas of training of faculty in Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as toward establishing the Cuttington graduate school in Monrovia, the junior college in Kakata, Margibi County, the establishing of the radio and television station, the building of the ILAB, Health Science Complex and additional classrooms, buildings and dormitories on campus,” he said.
In the Graduate Program, 146 students graduated from the four colleges; while in the Undergraduate Program, 346 persons earned degrees in the eight disciplines. At least 39 persons received associate degrees, while nine got certificates and 14 got graduate diplomas in higher education.