The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Dr. J. Mills Jones says it is important to have the will to hold accountable those responsible for reforming Liberia’s education system.
Dr. Jones said it cannot be overemphasized that quality education is sine qua non for development and it is a major part of the recipe for building a competitive, diversified economy.
Executive Governor Jones also noted that quality education is a necessary complement to investment in infrastructure to move an economy forward and that a good education is necessary to get Liberia over the hump of the crippling notion of tribalism and sectionalism. He said it is critical to building an ethos of a united nation, where the mantra of the citizens will be, Liberia first.
Delivering the commencement address last Saturday at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Dr. Jones said failure to put the country’s educational system on a higher plane is tantamount to gambling with the future of the country.
Dr. Jones said “Given where we are on the development ladder, gambling on the future is a luxury that we cannot afford. We must start to fix the problem now with a clearly defined road map with goals and timelines. It is also important to have the will to hold accountable those responsible for reforming our education system.”
Touching on the BWI, Dr. Jones said this historic institution should not, cannot and must not be treated as an afterthought in the planning of the country’s national educational agenda.
He stressed “If we say, as a people, that we are committed to a strong focus on technical and scientific education, and we ignore this at the peril of the nation’s economy, then BWI and other such institutions must be given the requisite support, financial and otherwise.” He noted that this is not a job for only the government.
Speaking further, Dr. Jones said “I am told that efforts to establish an Endowment Fund for BWI began some ten years ago, but with little success. That need is still there, and I would urge the Board of the Institution to recount this initiative.”
He said the BWI Board should call on private corporations, state-owned enterprises, the alumni and former students of BWI and Liberians in general, saying “Let us put our money where our mouth is. The Central Bank will be happy to join such a collective effort through its Outreach Program.”
He said the call to support BWI can also be made for the Liberian educational system in general, which has been characterized by the public and even some in senior position of government as a broken system.
The Central Bank Boss said it is not enough to simply recognize the problem but called on Liberians to do something to fix it.
He said, “We must think more strategically and decisively to get quality education for our young people and, where necessary, improve training program for those already in the labor force. Our educational institutions must have proper textbooks and laboratories and properly trained teachers.”
Dr. Jones, in a serious mood said, “This is a day filled with hope and purpose for the graduates. Some look forward to continuing their education; others to getting into the job market. Whatever their goal, it cannot escape us that they have demonstrated that they want to make life better for themselves and their families. What they need now is a helping hand; and I don’t mean a handout, but an enabling environment to give them a better chance to succeed.”
Governor Jones said : “The aspect of the enabling environment which I would like to emphasize, not only if young graduates are to succeed but if we are to continue to succeed as a nation, there is a need to pay more attention to defining our purpose as a nation. What we seem to be hearing from various quarters now-a-days suggests that Liberia, at 166 years, is still a nation In search of its soul.”
Continuing, Dr. Jones said although in Liberia’s national anthem Liberians acknowledge that “in union strong success is sure”, it will be difficult to secure that success unless Liberians can define themselves on the basis of a national purpose and why they exist as a nation.
He noted that Liberians must have a common answer to this question in order to more fully realize their potential as a people.
“We must step back from what appears to be a growing sense of alienation, mistrust, and self-doubt. Liberians must face this challenge, because it eats at the core of what makes a nation, its national spirit,” Dr. Jones said.
He further noted that self-denial will not make this problem go away and the politics of smoke and mirror will not help. He told his fellow countrymen that actions that call into question the fundamental tenet of democracy that those who govern do so with the consent of the governed will only increase tension.
He further said “but I am convinced that, as a people, we can correct our course, if there is the collective will to do so. We should be able to generate sufficient commitment to put down the yoke of complacency, self -centeredness, and the attitude of business as usual–live and let live–and take upon ourselves the task of building a more inclusive and more prosperous society.”
He said when Liberians do that; they would have found the soul of this nation, and be a nation at peace with itself, saying “I believe that it can be done.”
Touching on the economy, Dr. Jones said for those who have the responsibility for managing the economy, inclusive economic growth and development must become the watchword.
He said the empowerment of the Liberian private sector must be the cornerstone of that strategy noting that Liberians will find it difficult to build a more prosperous nation, without building a vibrant middle class. “We will find it difficult to sustain democracy without a more equitable distribution of income,” he added.
The CBL boss, whose administration at the bank is economically empowering Liberian entrepreneurs, village people and marketers, said the Central Bank is pursuing policies looking at the longer term interest of the economy to help ensure that the country’s Agenda for Economic Transformation becomes a reality.
In this vein, he said “we must begin now to restructure our economy. We must make added efforts to get more out of agriculture; we must increase productivity; and we must generate more value-added production, all of which will create opportunities for employment.”
Continuing, Governor Jones said: “And yes, we must have an environment conducive to foreign investment, while encouraging enhanced collaboration between foreign investors and Liberian entrepreneurs. One of the points we make about the effort the Central Bank is making to stimulate the economy is that we are saying in concrete terms not only to Liberian entrepreneurs but also to potential foreign investors that Liberia is open for business.”
“I said earlier in my remarks that BWI is a child of hope, with a mission of enlightenment. I suggest to you that Liberia is also a child of hope, with the same mission of enlightenment; that out of the paradoxical juxtaposition of democracy and slavery could emerge an exemplary nation that could be a light not only to Africa but to all who saw our race in a degrading way. And so we sing “The Lone Star Forever, o long may it flow o’er land and over sea,” he said in a patriotic mood.
He said “this is not just a song, but a testament to the commitment of us the people to the future of the Liberian nation.”
Governor Jones told his audience that “indeed, Liberia is here to stay. This is why despite our many challenges, my message to Liberians is and shall always be a message of hope. I know that if we Liberians can look at our situation sincerely–if Liberia can become the nation in the mirror -we will come to the conclusion that we can do better.”