By Mengistu Eddie Wolokolie
For 171 years, Liberia has tried, and we failed to be a country like America. When our founding mothers and fathers left the United States for freedom, they may have gotten their physical freedom, but not their mental freedom. Look at the facts of our 1847 constitution, it was a replica of the United States of America’s constitution. Our 1986 constitution tried to move towards the true meaning of Liberia, but it came up short.
So, this is the time for us to move our country in the direction that is long overdue. I have come to realize that change is hard in Liberia and mostly in Africa. The change we need in Liberia cannot come from the old guard, but from our generation. The generation in Liberia and abroad. Liberian leaders over the years have failed to build a middle class in Liberia. We can as a nation, at this time in our life and this time in history, build a solid foundation to leave for our children.
As children of this land, we all were affected in some shape or form. But we can’t allow our parents’ mistakes to be the defining force that will reflect our children’s future. Our generation must live for a set of values that we need in Liberia. Many of us were at a disadvantage to not grow up together like our parents’ generation because of the civil war. But I say to you that is an advantage. It is a great advantage to our generation; we were able to learn and acquire experiences of a different world.
Another advantage we have in our generation is the acceptance of each other. We are not bound by tribalism and a religious divide we had in the past. We are at an advantage because we have information at our fingertips, unlike our parents. Currently in history, at this moment we are at a crossroads in our nation. We have a President who has no core beliefs or knowledge of how to build a middle class in this nation.
A President that has surrounded himself with people that are fighting to keep the status quo government that have refused to build a nation on togetherness, a principle that if we work together we can achieve all together. It is the principle that progress can only be achieved if we as this generation put our personal self-glorification out of our state of mind. We must look at things through the lens of the generation coming after us.
What country are we going to leave for them? Are we going to be selfish and do what our parents did to us? Are we going to rise to the occasion and build a better nation for our children? Are we going to set the example that the rest of Africa will follow to make us like the kids of East Africa who have a life like the kids of West Africa, South Africa and North Africa? Our generation must work together to make sure our government and economy are built on working together and lifting the masses along the way.
We as Liberians need an economy that is creating jobs and building the nation socially. Our generation must set up a country that our kids and the kids can come up into a country in which they will not be judged by how much money their parents have. We desire a country in which every kid can go to school and get the best education without having to worry about how they will pay for it, a country in which when a family member is sick they know and believe that they will be taken care of.
A nation that knows that healthcare is a right for every citizen and not a privilege; a nation that is using its natural resources to develop her nation and improve the lives of the masses. Our generation must stand up for a government that is by the people, for the people, and with the people. We need an inclusive government that will spread the power to the people of our country. To have this type of nation we must decentralize with the upmost importance to develop this nation.
When I say decentralize, I mean that we have two levels of government within Liberia. We need a national level and a county level. The counties should be governed by their own people that live in those counties. Elected officials of these counties should be able to make economic decisions that is best for their counties. This means Superintendents should be able to solicit new business and industries in their counties to create jobs for the citizens of those counties.
For example, in 2011, BRIDGESTONE FIRESTONE announced a US$1.2 billion investment in Aiken County, South Carolina. This company opened a new power plant in South Carolina. This community sees between US$1 million to US$1.3 million accruing annually to that community.
According to Global rubber gloves market value 2017-2023 statistics, “rubber gloves market was valued at 2.35 billion U.S. dollars, the global rubber gloves market is anticipated to witness a compound annual growth rate of 7.95% during the forecast period to reach total market size of US $3.714 billion by 2023, increasing from US $2.347 billion in 2017.” These are jobs that can produce in Liberia for Liberians.
We can also tap into the steel industry. We are one of the largest iron ore producers in the world. Why are we not making steel to sell around the world? Liberian steel could be used to build ships and other steel made items around the world. We need to put our people back to work, instead of been consumers all the time. To our generation all is not lost when it comes to education, but we need to improve on it.
We need to go back to the days when education was the order of the day. We need to invest in our education system more than ever before. Education, and educating our future generation is the only means I believe we have for our country to not go back in time. We must invest in state of art facilities that will improve the lives of everyday Liberians. We must pass a law that makes it mandatory to have an education budget that is 1/3 of the country’s budget.
Under this budget we must make early childhood development the right of every kid that enters the doors of a school and not a privileged of the country. We must make grade K-12 free to attend at no out of pocket expense to parents and teachers. We must invest in our Teacher. Teachers are the driving force of our nation. The teachers are you and me. We must educate our teachers because they will be the one shaping the future minds of this nation.
Every child graduating from high school must obtain a technical skill degree before graduating from high school. We should strive to build three elementary schools which consists of grades K-5, three middle schools which consist of 6-8 and four high schools which consist of 9-12 grade. All schools within the borders of Liberia must have a technical skills program in their schools to operate in Liberia’s borders. All State colleges/universities must have an annex campus in each county.
We should have the first two years of college paid for at all state institution. As we can see today in Liberia, our health care system is not what it should be for our citizens. As for me I believe we must have a Universal HealthCare system. I believe health care is a right of every citizen and not a privilege. I believe it is the government’s duty to provide healthcare for all its’ citizens. Government must build hospitals in each county to serve the people.
Private hospitals must be welcomed to Liberia, but the government should not neglect her duties to her citizens. With a universal health care system, we can have a system that is people-centered and not profit driven. We could have people that could work in Research and development “R and D” that could improve the lives of Liberians and of Africans. In closing, I call upon the current administration and Liberians home and abroad, especially my generation, to look deep inside of your soul and find a love for Liberia and Africa as a whole.
How can we work together to build a foundation for our children? I believe I have laid out fundamentals core values that we all could build on. We all may have a different way to get there but if we believe that is the goal we want, we can work together to get there.