Ricks Institute, one of Liberia’s leading high schools, graduated a predominantly female class of 56 students, who completed the prescribed courses for 12th graders. The students satisfactorily completed the prescribed academic program at the institute in Virginia, outside Monrovia.
The 2019 Ricks graduating class comprised 35 girls and 22 boys with the second academic ranking student being Ms. Massa Fazzi. At the commencement ceremony on Sunday, July 28, 2019, Fazzi spoke on behalf of the class valedictorian immemorial, George T. Boakai, 15, who passed away shortly after completing his exams.
The composition of the class speaks highly to Ricks Institute’s contributions to female education in the country as the school has, over five academic years, provided scholarships at the cumulative cost of US$375,000 for the benefit of only female students.
In 2013, Ricks Institute through a partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Development provided full scholarships to 30 “underprivileged girls” to study at the institute for five academic years.
The scholarships were worth US$375,000 but, under the arrangement, the ministry through donor funding renovated a housing facility on campus at the cost of US$200,000.
Ricks’ Principal and Chief Administrative Officer, Dr. Olu Q. Menjay, lauded the Gender Ministry for the partnership which, according to him, ended this academic year successfully.
The program was held at the Washington Chapel Auditorium of the William V. S. Tubman Administrative Building on the campus. Elated by the proceedings of the occasion, Dr. Menjay congratulated the graduates, adding, “you have achieved one of the most significant goals of your life.”
He said the graduates have added enormously to the intellectual and spiritual footings on which they stand in the days ahead of them.
“Thanks for choosing Ricks Institute. We wish you well. Ricks Institute is a place where girls and boys are formed and transformed for service to God and humanity,” Dr. Menjay said as he lauded the graduates, followed by a round of deafening applause.
To graduate Fazzi, who eventually emerged the valedictorian, Dr. Menjay provided a one year full scholarship to study at any university of her choice in Liberia.
The commencement Speaker, Ambassador of Sweden, Ingrid Wetterqvist, said: “With delight, the fact that majority of the graduates of the class of 2018/2019 are girls,” speaks volumes to the importance of education in Liberia.
In her explanation as to why education is important for Liberia, Amb. Wetterqvist added, “We know from development research that more gender equal societies are better off, on all scores.”
According to her, investing as much in girls as in boys will speed up the development of the country, the general happiness and the welfare of the Liberian people.
“This also means that men and boys will have to step up their contributions to reproductive work, what goes on in the family and in the household. You can no longer afford not using all the brains at the disposal of your nation,” she noted.
Amb. Wetterqvist said that as a nation, Liberia needs to reverse the trend that the proportion of female graduates declines at each stage of school, culminating in females making up only about 30 percent of college graduates.
“In some fields, such as engineering, the number of women is extremely small. Some disciplines occasionally record zero female graduates,” the Swiss Female Envoy said.
She expressed the hope that all of the ladies, who graduated from Ricks on Sunday, July 28 will each go out and play their parts in “reversing the trend.”
Amb. Wetterqvist also lauded the graduates, their teachers and parents for dedicating substantial time and resources to ensure that their children get high school education.
“For that sacrifice, what do the parents and teachers expect in return? As a parent myself-and I believe, I speak for many here — our wish is for you to continue studying diligently and successfully complete the next challenge,” she said.
She then challenged the graduates to always remember that they are not too small to create change, noting “You are old enough to lead and, more importantly, old enough to inspire.”
Amb. Wetterqvist made reference to some young people who, according to her, are positively impacting their countries and the world at large.
“Across the globe, young people like you, some of them even younger, are assuming leadership on some of the greatest challenges of our time. From education activist and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who placed the education of vulnerable girls on the global policy agenda to climate change activist Greta Thunberg, who has galvanized millions of youths across all continents to demand action on climate change,” she said.
She added, “Closer to home, self-taught Sierra Leonean Engineer, Kelvin Doe — working with scrap metal and other salvaged parts from the time he was only 13-has built sophisticated electronics, including his own radio station. He continues to inspire youths and adults alike.”
She informed the graduates that “the concept of; when I grow older, I will do this or that, is no longer valid.”
The commencement celebration was took an emotional turn when Dr. Menjay presented a Valedictorian George T. Boakai, a Posthumous Award to his parents; a part of the program that sent the entire graduating class and some members of the audience burst in tears as Dr. Menjay read a brief tribute to the fallen 12th graders.