Just last week the Daily Observer called in its editorial on the new Armed Forces Liberia for the training and deployment of AFL soldiers into the fields of agriculture and highway engineering to accelerate nation-building. We argued that the nation is desperately in need of technicians to assist in particular with agriculture and road building. So we were particularly pleased when the keynote speaker at Tuesday's Armed Forces Day celebration, Governance Commission Chair Dr. Amos Sawyer, called in his address for upgrading the academic capacities of the nation's armed forces. He said this would definitely be part of the implementation of the government's Agenda for Transformation (AfT).
Dr. Sawyer is right. Long gone are the days when most of our men in arms were illiterate or semi-illiterate at best. Up until the 1950s and beyond our men in arms were still saying "Gormen gi me gun; it no gi me Inglae." Many Liberians took this as a remark uttered in jest (as a joke). It turned out, however, that it was not a joke but a mild rebuke of the government to which the soldiers were devoting the lives, but which offered them no education except military training and instruction in Band Music. Remember also that the 27 enlisted men who staged the 1980 coup d'etat that overthrew the Tolbert government were mostly illiterate or semi-illiterate.
It is indeed remarkable that this administration can boast that it has since 2006 produced the most intelligent army in our history. That is since 1908, when President Arthur Barclay created the Frontier Force of Liberia (FFL).
Thanks to Defense Minister Brownie Samukai and the American trainers of the newly created AFL, all new recruits for training were required to be of a minimum high school graduate level. That thus makes the army the most educated in history.
Now Dr. Sawyer is calling for even more training for our men in arms, and we are proposing that the first step in this new training endeavor should be in Vocational and Technical Education. This proposal is based on the fact that the occupation in which most Liberians are engaged is Agriculture, and there is always a need for people trained in the vocational and technical fields. These include Agriculture, including Poultry and Eggs and Animal Husbandry, Accounting and Business Management, Arts and Crafts, Auto Mechanics, Building Construction, Cabinet Making, Carpentry, Ceramics, Drafting, Electricity, Glass Works, Home Economics, Machine Shop (Machinery), Masonry, Music, Plumbing, Refrigeration, Tailoring, etc.
The Todee Military Academy has a strategic advantage: it is off the Kakata Highway, just a few miles down the road from the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute (BWI), which administers training in most of these technical and vocational areas.
BWI could be a good starting point for the Todee military trainees, which could begin with a program that BWI offered during the war–Accelerated Training in the various vocations. In time, Todee could develop its own vocational and technical training shops.
Our friends from the neighboring countries, including Nigeria and Ghana, may have experience in this area of vocational training for the military. But we are sure that our American friends, too, can help, because they, too, have short-term pilot programs for training in high-demand career fields called "Voc-Tech". This program equips soldiers not only to serve when disaster strikes various parts of the United States; it also prepares Army retirees find employment after they transition out of the Force. According to Wikipedia, Army Education is working with technical and community colleges throughout the United States to build upon existing programs and develop new pilot re-training programs in high demand career occupations, such as rehabilitation, nursing, medical technology, and other health care occupations.
We suggest that the Defense Ministry should draw up a comprehensive plan for training in these areas at Todee, which can be started in close collaboration with BWI.