The Firestone Plantations Company has continued to play an important role in Liberia’s education.
After many years of inaction, they finally took over the Harbel High School, whose students have been winning national prizes. It was, unfortunately, not the company but the Liberian government under President William R. Tolbert, Jr. that built the plantation’s first secondary institution. A few years ago the company finally took it over, and since then it has fared prominently in the National Exams. We hope the company will in the near future provide its primary and high schools with libraries, laboratories and best teachers to further prepare its students for excellence.
This, however, is not what prompted today’s editorial; but the announcement yesterday that the company had awarded 41 highly competitive scholarships, mostly in higher education, to students at Cuttington University (CU).
The vast majority of these students are registered to study Science, especially Agriculture, Biology and Chemistry. This is encouraging because Firestone is an industrial company; and though its operations, after nearly ninety years, are still only extractive, yet its sponsorship of Agricultural and Science education may be a sign of things to come. Should these students do exceptionally well—and we fervently pray they will—the company may be encouraged to send them on to graduate school, some of them to study Agricultural and Industrial Engineering. By the time they return, the company may have decided to attempt some manufacturing operations, using their rubber, at long last, to make added value products—rubber bands, gloves, footwear, masks, etc.
The company has already started a minor manufacturing operation—producing from its old rubber trees wood for furniture making. We think this is a good beginning which we hope will stop at nothing until it starts producing first class furniture in Liberia and fulfill Finance Minister Amara Konneh’s dream of exclusive purchasing of home-made furniture for GOL offices.
But Firestone’s graduate students, who would have received their beginning in Science at Cuttington, could go on to encourage the company to enter the rubber industrial field, and one day begin making tires for West Africa’s automobiles. We are sure the company would find the market lucrative enough to warrant such a revolutionary venture. Liberia, as a founding member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and an excellent neighbor, would find it easy to sell tires to the 16 ECOWAS member states and beyond.
We hope that these Firestone students will read this Editorial, determine to take their studies very seriously and start dreaming BIG for the industrial development of their country. We pray, too, that many of them will recognize what God in history has often done with ONE person—to undertake great things for Him, for humanity and the world. Remember Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph the Dreamer, Moses, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela. Remember Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, and the Wright Brothers, inventors, respectively, of the first telephone, automobile and airplane. Remember Harvey Firestone who, despite his shortcomings, created a company that for nine decades has consistently remained Liberia’s biggest private employer. Remember Steve Tolbert who, despite his faults—and we all have ours— created to date the largest and most successful Liberian-owned industrial enterprise—Mesurado—selling fish in refrigerated trucks and providing protein to people throughout the country; supplying chickens and eggs, making oxygen, acetylene and other gases for industrial operations; supplying aluminum and other building materials; and shipping shrimps to Japan and other international markets. All this, remember, was accomplished by God and ONE man.
So we pray that these Firestone students—and ALL other Liberian students—will take life very seriously—and their studies, too—so that one day they, too, may become men and women of ACHIEVEMENT, like all the others mentioned above.
Liberia needs men and women who will make a difference by creating enterprises that, like Firestone who helped these students, will employ thousands and industrialize Liberia.
They can do it! Liberia has the resources—human and material. All we need is ONE man or woman to take the initiative and do what other ONE men and women have done for their God, their countries and the world.
One last thing: Can Firestone begin thinking of starting a Medical School and Schools of Agricultural and Industrial Engineering at Cuttington? Cuttington has the land—1000 acres and the Bong people could give them more land to further fulfill the immortal dreams of Bishops Samuel David Ferguson and Bravid W. Harris—two other ONE men that made and continue to make a difference.