“The greatest gift we can bequeath to our children, our people, is quality education, which is the foundation for national development,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told an audience, including parents and guardians, who had gathered to witness, the commencement convocation of Tubman University (TU) last Thursday.
Delivering the keynote address at TU’s first commencement convocation, the President declared, “Achieving quality in our educational system must be the business and the duty of every Liberian; for as much as we talk about the urgent need for infrastructure – our roads, power, ports – if we lack the education to manage such facilities, they will not last.”
The Liberian leader indicated that quality education is not cheap, either for the provider or the beneficiary.
“The best results from such an expensive undertaking are obtained only when serious effort and time are devoted to get the most out of the opportunities that are available,” she added.
“To the extended audience out there, you can buy a degree but you cannot buy an education,” she pointed out amidst cheers.
The commencement convocation of Tubman University was the first of that university since its accreditation in 2009.
President Sirleaf spoke on the theme, “The Quest for Quality Education.” She stressed that all actors in the society desire quality education for their children and students.
“We want them to seize the opportunity to learn, and we want our teachers to acquire quality training in order to impart quality learning in the young minds in their charge,” she emphasized.
She indicated that quality education requires faculty with integrity, qualified in their disciplines and committed to the learner.
Such a faculty, President Sirleaf said, delivers a coherent curriculum with rigorous standards, and specific learning outcomes or competencies that students must demonstrate, to include theoretical as well as experimental learning.
“Quality education must provide co-curriculum activities for the learner, with opportunities to develop and demonstrate leadership skills. Quality education must also include continuous assessment and quality assurance with the result being used for continuous improvement,” she pointed out.
In order to produce leaders of tomorrow, she stressed, institutions like Tubman University must empower Liberian youths by teaching them not only the theory, but leadership skills, social responsibility, issues about the environment, among other disciplines.
Reflecting on the University and its leadership, the President indicated that the institution serves as a regional magnet that causes young people to gravitate to Harper, Maryland County because they know that they will obtain quality education that is fundamental to their own success.
The President said it will also impact Liberia’s economic, social and political transformation as outlined in the country’s “Vision 2030 – Liberia Rising,” and the five-year development strategy “Agenda for Transformation.”
The enrollment at the University rose from 287 in 2009 to 1000 in 2013/2014.
The President said it is satisfying that the country can boast of a few more graduates skilled in areas where Liberia desperately needs expertise. She named the areas of need as Agriculture, Engineering, Nursing, Public Health, Guidance and Counseling, among others.
TU was opened in 2009 as the second public-owned bachelor’s degree-granting institution. It is the successor of the William V.S. Tubman College of Technology that was damaged during the civil conflict.
TU transitioned from a college of technology to a university comprising six colleges: the College of Engineering and Technology, College of Health Sciences, College of Agriculture and Food Science, College of Education, College of Management and Public Administration, and College of Arts and Sciences.
President Sirleaf referred to the 80 graduates as pioneers of the University who have made history by being the first group of graduates of the University. “You are making history today, because there will never be another ‘First Commencement Convocation of Tubman University’. You are the first; everyone hereafter will follow your footprints and watch what you do,” she told the graduates.
Congratulating the graduates, President Sirleaf referred to them as “trailblazers” of Tubman University.
“I congratulate you on behalf of the Government of Liberia and in my own name and right, for your achievements.”
Also commending TU’s president for her sacrificial work, President Sirleaf described Prof. Russell’s journey to Tubman University as one that has not been easy.
“She remained faithful and steadfast to her values and her profession, insisting that students remain students, obtaining the education for which they have made a big sacrifice.”
The Valedictorian of the Graduating Class, P. Mike Jurry, thanked the government for opening Tubman University in the Southeast and many other community colleges around the country.
He urged government to provide scholarships for some of the graduates to pursue post graduate studies.
He also called on the Tubman University authority and the Government to absorb some of them as teacher assistants.
Categorically, there were 13 females and 67 males. Ten students received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing, while seven received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Health.
Nine of the graduates obtained the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Secondary Education, seven in Guidance and Counseling and 18 in Agriculture; while 10 received the Bachelor of Business Arts in Accounting, two, Bachelor in Business Arts in Business Administration, 13 with Bachelor of Public Administration and four, Bachelor of Business Arts in Economics.