Strengthening Our Capacity in Agriculture and Engineering

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Liberia was doing rather well educationally in the 1970s.  Many of the elementary and high schools and the two universities then, University of Liberia (UL) and Cuttington University College (CUC – now Cuttington University), were well staffed with competent teachers in many disciplines,  including agriculture, engineering and the sciences. The UL's A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and its teaching hospital, the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK), were putting out graduates that won easy acceptance at leading medical schools abroad for specialization in various fields of Medicine.

CUC, too, had a well-qualified cadre of instructors in many areas, especially the sciences; and just as in the 1950s and 60s, CUC's exponents were earning graduate degrees from top universities in Europe, the Middle East, especially Egypt and Israel and the United States. Many Ministries, among them Foreign Affairs, Finance, Defense, Public Works,  Agriculture, Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Economics and Planning, and Lands, Mines and  Energy (LME); and several para-statals, including the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), Liberia  Telecommunications  Corporation (LTC), the National Port    Authority (NPA) and  the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) also sent streams of talented young people abroad for training and most returned with graduate degrees.

Then the 1980 coup d'etat, unleashing 10 years of terror, then the war and Liberia's slide into  anarchy,  death and destruction  and the mass exodus of our educated class  in the interminable (ceaseless) brain drain.

The climb back up the ladder of capacity building has been painful, slow and steep.  But it has begun.  This week the University of Liberia announced that two engineers, one civil and another structural, and a city and regional planner are due to return home to join the faculty, following graduate training at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA.

These three professionals were awarded graduate fellowships at Rutgers through the Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD), sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Francis Cooper, EHELD coordinator, has disclosed that 46 more UL faculty and potential faculty are studying abroad to return and teach.

Other scholarships are available for Master's degrees at universities in the sub-Region.

This program to train instructors in science and technology is highly commendable and marks an intensification of Liberia's capacity rebulding.

Cuttington University, too, is benefitting from the ELHELD-USAID training program.  A soil scientist is shortly to return to teach in the CU agricultural college; and another is due to complete his  PhD in Natural Resource Management.  There are five CU fellows in Ghana pursuing graduate courses, three at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) in Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Engineering and Agricultural Economics. Two others are at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology studying Animal Science and Pest Management.

A CU female scholar is studying Animal Science at the South Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.  Except for the PhD scholar, all the others are due to return next year to begin teaching.
We pray that the EHELD/USAID program will recruit more scholars to pursue their Master's and PhDs to teach at UL and Cuttington, and that other universities in the country, Tubman University (TU) included,
will benefit from the program.

At the same time, we urge all Liberian students, especially those in senior high school and university, to study diligently to prepare for Agricultural, Science and Technology training at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and help hasten the rebuilding of the nation's academic and intellectual capacity.

We urge the EHELD/USAID   program to recruit more students for undergraduate and graduate courses in Mining, Geology, Civil and Petroleum Engineering.  The reasons are obvious:   Liberia is mineral-rich, we now have petroleum and Public Works needs architectural, civil, mechanical and structural engineers to help in the design and  building of our airports, housing, office, shopping and other complexes, bridges, highways and roads.

Here, several Ministries and Agencies are called to undertake their own capacity building, just as they did in the past.  These include Public Works, LME, LEC, Civil Aviation Authority and the Roberts International Airport as well as the Liberia Maritime Authority.   We pray that they will all get busy and join in the hastening of our country's capacity building, in order to prepare Liberia for the agricultural and industrial take-off.

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