Special Remarks by Amb. George Manneh Weah, President-elect of the Republic of Liberia on the occasion of ECOWAS Human Rights Day

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At the ECOWAS human rights day celebration high table, President-elect Weah, seated next to Pres. Sirleaf gave his speech.

(As delivered)

Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, Jewel Howard-Taylor, His Excellency Tunde O. Ajisomo, Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS in Liberia, His Excellency Farid Zarif, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Liberia, officials of the government and officials of international and regional organizations represented here today, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I thank you for providing me this platform to give special remarks on this historic occasion – celebrating ECOWAS Human Rights Day. This opportunity is particularly special to me because it reminds me and perhaps most of us of human right abuses we have experienced or witnessed during the course of our lives, and how helpless we may have been to resist it or intervene on behalf of others. Many times when we speak about human rights we fail to put ourselves in the context of others who are experiencing the lack of it.

This year’s theme: ‘Promoting Rights to Education towards the Attainment of ECOWAS Vision 2020’ cannot be more appropriate for us in Liberia. The rebuilding of Liberian’s educational system after 15 years of civil war has been and will continue to be a serious challenge to successive Liberian governments. The war did not only destroy our educational infrastructure but also changed our attitude towards education and created a huge demand for qualified teachers and professors for our schools, vocational institutions and universities.

H.E. Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has done her part and we are committed to doing more with giant steps! We hope and trust that with our overwhelming political will, our partners in ECOWAS and the international community will give us their unflinching support.

Two renowned African leaders commented on the importance of advancing this discussion.

Nelson Mandela said, and I quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

President-elect George M. Weah

Also, Julius Nyerere said, and I quote, “Education is not a way to escape poverty; it is a way of fighting it.”

It therefore brings us to the question, why do we need to be educated? We need to be educated because education gives us knowledge of the world around us, and changes it into something better. It develops in us a perspective of looking at life, helps us build opinions and have points of view on things in life.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we agree that the denial of access to education is indeed a human rights violation. The inability of any child to access education because of the absence of school, sub-standard school or high cost of schooling constitutes a denial of that child’s right to education. Ours is a youth-based population. The vast majority of our youth cannot find employment because of lack of skills in their respective areas of discipline. We need more and better trained teachers not only for our vocational institutions, but equally so for our schools and universities.

The 15 years of civil war made it impossible for most of our children born in the early 1990’s to attend school. As fundamentally, all educational institutions were destroyed and students were displaced, vocational institutions are the best way forward to enable young adults to enter the job market sooner, as most of them have already assumed family responsibilities.

The vast majority of our institutions of learning lack science labs, libraries and text books, all of which are crucial to the learning process. We in Liberia are committed to ensuring that our children have quality and affordable education. This commitment will be reflected in our next annual budget, which will be submitted to the National Legislature later this year.

I am sure that with collective effort and dedication we can together achieve the 2020 goal of ECOWAS in promoting education as a human rights obligation of all West African governments to our children.

I am humbled and honored to be part of this historic event and want to use this occasion to reaffirm Liberia’s commitment to the 2020 goal for promoting education as a human rights obligation.

I thank you…Merci…Obrigado!

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