A Truly Innovative and Timely Educational Initiative

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The President of African Methodist University (AMEU), Dr. Joseph T. Isaac, and the President of the Nimba County Community College (NCCC), Dr. Yar D. Gonway Gono, last             Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to award Bachelor’s degrees to NCCC students.

The program, scheduled to start this September, will enable NCCC students to earn a double degree, the Associate Arts and Bachelor’s initially in two disciplines, English and Mass Communication. 

Dr. Isaac and Dr. Gonway-Gono, deserve commendation for this worthy initiative, which brightens the hopes of NCCC students that in addition to their AA degrees, they can go on to receive their Bachelor’s in two disciplines.

Hopefully one day as AMEU becomes more empowered in its Science, Mathematics and Business colleges, it will be able to extend these disciplines, too, to NCCC, leading students to earn their Bachelor’s in more areas of study.  This will empower them to pursue later their Master’s from the University of Liberia, Cuttington University and elsewhere and return to elevate their alma mater, NCCC, to full college level. 

Dr. Isaac should be especially lauded for making use of an idea he received barely two months ago when, en route back home from the United States, he attended the World Innovative Summit for Education (WISE), held in Qatar, the Middle East.  According to Dr. Isaac, the Qatar Foundation “paid for everything” at this conference.   

This is what purposeful and patriotic people do: they don’t just travel to see and enjoy new places; they look around to see what they can carry back home to improve the lives and environment of their people.

That is what President Charles D.B. King did when shortly after becoming President in 1920, he paid an official visit to the United States.  Towards the end of his visit he was asked what had he seen that, if it were possible, he would like to take back home?  He did not say a Cadillac or Lincoln Continental, two of America’s most prestigious automobiles.  He remembered his visit to Tuskegee Institute (now University) which, founded by the great Black American educator, Booker T. Washington, was training black people to work with their hands as agriculturists, animal husbandry, building construction, carpentry, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration and tailoring  experts, etc.  President King told his American hosts that if it were possible, he would like to take back home Tuskegee Institute.     

The offer put to him was not an empty bluff.  The Americans, being always serious-minded people willing to help others, got to work.  Kenneth Y. Best, in his book on his alma mater, The BWI Story, recalled that it was one wealthy American woman, philanthropist Olivia Phelps Stokes, who came forward with the first US$100,000 to help fulfill the Liberian President’s dream.  American Methodists soon recruited an educator from Atlanta, Georgia, James Longstreet Sibley, and he came to Liberia in 1927 as Educational Advisor to Liberia.  He traveled to many parts of the country, including Nimba, then in the Central Province, and wrote textbooks for Liberian schools. 

In 1928 President King convened an Executive Council in Kakata, now in Margibi County, attended by  Paramount Chiefs from all over the country.  He put to them the proposition about starting an institution in Kakata to educate their sons and daughters.  They immediately accepted the idea and donated a thousand acres of land for that purpose.

In 1929 Mr. Sibley opened the doors of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and soon, it became what Nimba-born Tom Kelea, John Varfley of Number Seven in Montserrado County, Paul Ngafuan of Lofa County, R.   Vanjah Richards of Montserrado County and other BWI students started calling “The Home of Liberia’s Technicians.”

Dr. Isaac, who is also a BWI alumnus, has introduced a wonderful opportunity for Liberian students.  The Gbezohn-born educator is also thinking of involving the Bassa Community College and most probably the Lofa Community College (LCC) in the program so that they, too, may benefit from the WISE initiative. 

Who knows? The Qatar Foundation, finding Dr. Isaac and other Liberian educators and students serious about the program, could help finance these initiatives. Soon, institutions of higher education would be found in many parts of Liberia, making it unnecessary for rural students to make the long trek to Monrovia for advanced education.

We urge Dr. Gonway-Gono and NCCC students to take seriously this initiative and set the stage for higher education to be extended all over Liberia.

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