The President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, went out of her way last Saturday to present to 750 graduates of the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC) a handsome purse, US$16,780, for their achievements in vocational and technical training.
As the spiritual says, He didn’t have to do it, but He did—so we say about the President. She did not even have to be there but she was, we think mainly to demonstrate how seriously she values vocational and technical education.
The President must cringe (become embarrassed, recoil) every time she learns that companies, locally and foreign-owned, must bring in expatriate engineers and technicians to undertake technical assignments. That is why she did not rest until she got the Chinese to agree to rehabilitate, at the cost of US$10 million, the MVTC. Last Saturday’s marked the first graduation since the rehabilitation of the Center was completed.
So she felt she had to show up and do something tangible to demonstrate her appreciation not only to the Chinese, but to the Liberian students who took seriously the opportunities afforded them to learn trade skills that will elevate them from idleness to positive engagement in vocational and technical fields, to make them highly marketable.
We pray that more of our young people will be recruited to enter MVTC, study hard, learn and attain the vocational and technical skills that will land them into well paying jobs or empower them to be self-employed.
Vocationally and technically speaking, we believe there are two things more on the President’s mind. The first is the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), which she has committed herself to turning into a “center of excellence.” The second is the thousands of young people on the streets of Monrovia and other urban centers around the country minimally engaged—loading taxies, selling water, candies or towels or doing nothing at all but pick-pocketing.
Ellen must go to sleep every night wondering how she can change that. MVTC and BWI are part of the answer. But with rampant illiteracy afflicting many of these very people and many more in the country, how can most of them be made ready to benefit from MVTC training of any kind? Can there be created an agricultural enterprise to which they can be assigned to learn on the job and become gainfully employed and earn decent wages?
This has been done in many other countries and it can be done in Liberia. We suggest the President appoints a roundtable to discuss this issue. We are sure something tangible can be done in the near future to put some smiles on the faces of our tens of thousands of idle young people.