By Patrick Stephen Tokpah (Suakoko, Bong County)
Cuttington University- Former Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai has cataloged challenges facing higher education in Liberia saying they are numerous.
He named the lack of modern facilities, ill-equipped classrooms and labs, insufficient qualified and well-paid faculty, efficient staff, and poor financing as some of the numerous challenges undermining the education system of the Liberia.
Former V.P. Boakai said, “I believe that these institutions can survive and contribute to nation building now and in the future. I therefore challenge all stakeholders of higher education, including college administrators, domestic and foreign donors, families of students, and the national government, to be fully engaged in finding the necessary funds for their sustainability.”
The Unity Party Political leader said government’s increased financial support is especially needed now in order to build up the system.
Mr. Boakai was vice president for 12 years and during their presidency, former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the educational system as a mess, but speaking in Bong County recently, the former VP said poor funding of the educational system by both the legislative and executive branches of government is lowering the standards of good governance and educational relevance which provided quality higher education in the past.
Dr. Boakai said given the economic and political conditions of the country, government must prioritize the financing of higher education in order to target human capacity building with the national development agenda in the quest of attracting investment.
“For example, one comparative study of the labor market and college graduates from the University of Liberia and Cuttington University noted the importance of such an alignment”.
Speaking additionally on the labor market survey, Dr. Boakai said the study shows that graduates were not satisfied with their employment situation, noting that they wished their respective universities would have improved on the skills they are developing in students for better alignment between college education and the workplace.
Based on the study, it was found out that most graduates interviewed felt that they are either wrongly employed (if they found employment at all) or their worlds of work are not career oriented.
After speaking to the labor market survey, Dr. Boakai said, “I suggest therefore that this Government takes the necessary steps to strengthen the link between higher education and the labor market by associating government financing of higher education with its agenda for national development.”
Additionally, he said institutions of higher education in Liberia, in the past, have hinged their funding on the Government and foreign philanthropists beginning with the University of Liberia in 1862 and Cuttington University in 1889.
“This dependency syndrome has meant that over the years, college administrators and the government officials have not been thinking OUTSIDE THE BOX for other means of funding higher education” the former VP said.
He went on to say, “I am afraid that government will continue to increase funds to these institutions and may even allocate additional funding to build county community colleges in the rest of the six (6) counties that do not have community colleges because of political interests or consideration.”
He praised and encouraged the President of the Cuttington University College and the board of trustees to increase their efforts at soliciting non-government funding, such as direct contact with external donors, well-to-do alumnae, and fundraising activities.
“I need not tell you, President Browne, that there are a lot of money around to fund programs in Education and Agriculture” he added.
He said another opportunity that has not been tapped as a source of funding by higher education institutions in Liberia is the area of research, adding that developing a research emphasis at institutions of higher learning will both impact the implementation of national development programs and contribute to the global economy.