Monrovia, Liberia – June 4, 2019: A fierce critic of the Weah Administration Martin K.N. Kollie is vowing to resist the ban on student politics at the state run University of Liberia.
In an interview on Tuesday, the vocal student leader confirmed that “on the direct orders of President George M. Weah, the University of Liberia issued a ban on all political activities on campuses of the institution.” This is the second time in the last 6 months that the Government of Liberia has moved to curtail political activities on at the University.
Kollie warned that the action of President Weah was what he described as “dictatorial” and warned that the Liberian President was treading on “dangerous ground. According to him, the authorities of the University have given no reasons for the “ban on politics” not did they back in last January when the first ban was issued.
Kollie accused the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of dispatching “thugs” to the Capitol Hill campus on Monday, June 3, 2019 to intimidate and harass students who are opposed to the policies of the government. The incident, he said, led to the disruption of normal academic activities. The student leader further charged that in the run up to the June 7th protest, the Government was “importing former rebels” to attack protesters.
West African Journal Magazine is unable to independently ascertain the charge of Kollie. The UL Administration blamed the ban on the disturbance on Monday. “ Accordingly, no political group shall assemble or hold meetings or engage in any politically related activities on any of the UL campuses during this period of suspension,” a UL official said in issuing the ban on student political activities.
He further disclosed in the interview that the student leadership of the University of Liberia was mobilizing about 50,000 students in support of the June 7th Protest which he described as “the beginning of the revolution” against the Weah Government.
According to him, he is being followed by state security personnel because of his advocacy and critical views against the Government. “For the last 2 months, I have not lived at home for fear of my life”, he emphasized.
Kollie disclosed further that it was his information that the Government was planning to issue a “State of Emergency” on June 6th, a day before the protest to block the massive anti Government demonstration which is being organized by a group known as the Council of Patriots (COP).
The Liberian Constitution provides for the issuance of State of Emergency in Article 86 (a) and (b):
The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare and the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.
A state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger.”
But the student activist said critics of the Government are prepared to ignore any “unorthodox and illegal imposition of a State of Emergency” by President Weah.
(Monrovia, May 24, 2019) A former Board Chairman and member of the Board of Governors of Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Jackson J. Paye has distanced himself from a decision to suspend the Principal of the nation’s premiere vocational and technical institute Mr. Harry Fomba Tarnue.
He is terming the decision as “preconceived, non-transparent, and strong-arm tactics” by some members of the Board.
It can be recalled that, the Board through a resolution on Friday May 17, 2019 suspended and subsequently replaced Mr. Tarnue with one James W. Walker as Officer-In-Charge of the school.
Our Correspondent reports that suspended Principal Mr. Tarnue has termed his suspension as “preconceived and political witch-hunt” by the Board.
However, following the suspension, a board member and Former Public Works Minister Jackson Paye disassociated himself from the Board’s decision, describing it as an act of injustice against the suspended principal. “In the instant case, it is my opinion, that the Board of Governors, BWI, did not do justice in the manner it had approached the suspension of Principal Tarnue,” he said.
According to him, though his stance may not make a difference, but it would be good for the public to know where he stands as a member of the Board, noting, his interest in his Alma Mater is second to none.
He explained that he was constrained to publically speak out because
of the many telephone, and email queries he has received from friends and fellow alumni both home and abroad about the Board’s decision.
“I am constrained to make my position public due to the many calls and email quires I received since the decision was announced on Friday, May 17, 2019”, he emphasized.
The former Nimba County Superintendent reiterated that while his dissenting view may not matter nor reverse the course of action taken, it will dispel the notion that the decision to suspend the Principal was unanimous as was reported in the local media.
Mr. Paye further said that the Resolution, expressing Vote of No Confidence” in the Principal was shrouded in secrecy, and circulated among select members of the Board and kept away from Statutory Members including him as the Immediate Past Chairman and a prominent alumnus.
He stated that his name was attached to the Resolution without his signature, and that some of the issues raised in the Resolution as ground for the Principal’s removal were not carefully adjudicated by the Board in keeping with the principle of due process.
This, he said, creates doubts in many minds that the suspension was preconceived; adding, since the re-constitution of the Board of Governors by President George Manneh Weah, the Chairman, John S. Youboty has consistently violated the Charter of the Institute; specifically Article III, Sections 4 and 5 by allowing a non-proxy in keeping with the Charter, to continue to act as such.
In a press statement released in Monrovia on May 21, 2019, Mr. Paye said, he has, on
numerous occasions raised the constant violation of the institute’s chapter in the presence of the Member Ex-Officio, the Minister of Education.
According to him the, the Powers and Duties of the Board, and those of the Principal are clearly spelt out in Articles IV and V of the Charter with the Chair Ex-Officio (President of the Republic)
and Member Ex-Officio (Minister of Education) playing overarching roles.
Therefore, he said, while it is the prerogative of the President of Liberia and the Minister of Education to make national decisions including the hiring and firing of individuals in the government sector, this privilege can be better utilized with advice from the Board of Governors of BWI.
BWI is one of Liberia’s premier vocational and technical training institutes that has produced some of the finest professionals in engineering, architecture, agriculture, politics, and other fields that have contributed significantly to the overall development of the country.
Philadelphia, PA USA- January 5, 2019: A Liberian Engineering professional has been named to administer the Mechanical Engineering Technology Rowan College Burlington County, RCBC, New Jersey.
Mr. Dave B. Wilson Sr. who resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has a long background in Engineering and education and has demonstrated success and breadth of knowledge in engineering to include mechanical, electronics, telecommunications, and Automation.
Based on his vast wealth of knowledge, the Liberian engineer has also been leveraging his expertise and leadership ability to drive renewable energy in solar, wind and initiatives in parts of Africa over the last few years. Prior to his appointment and since 2016, Dave has served as an adjunct faculty in Mechatronics Engineering at the Community College of Philadelphia Workforce and Economic Innovation Department.
He participated as a lecturer at a bilateral human capacity development training effort sponsored by the United Nations (UN) in solar technology at the University of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, College of Natural & Computational Sciences setting up the original renewable energy hub for that region of Africa (a three-month program 2017). Before that, he was the Acting Dean of Academic Affairs at ITT Technical Institute in Liverpool, New York, USA from February to September, 2016.
Dave is a one- time Department Chair of the School of Computer Electronics Engineering Technology (CEET) in Marlton, New Jersey between March 2014 and February 2016) and was and adjunct Professor in Electrical Engineering Department at the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in Mercer County, New Jersey between May 2013 and December 2017.
Professional credit also goes to Dave’s leadership roles at a number of prestigious U.S. corporations including T-Mobile and Global Networks Telecommunications GNT with increasing responsibilities on the T-Mobile Nation Wide Modernization Project between July 2013 to January 2014 During this time he worked leveraging technology to increase profits, productivity, and competitive edge while delivering significant reductions in the cost of doing business for the organizations.
In Liberia, West Africa, he served as broadcast engineer for the Liberian Broadcasting System (ELBS), and “Radio VERITAS between 1993 to 1999.
Currently on a sabbatical from his doctoral studies, the newly appointed Rowan administrator holds the following engineering credentials:
Master’s degree in Electronics Engineering from Khmelnitsky University in Ukraine, Eastern Europe.
MBA in Information System Management from Holy Family University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Presently serving an Academy break, the Ph.D. program in Engineering Management at Walden University, USA.
Diplomas including Ericsson Civil Training (ECT) Parsippany – New Jersey; Project Management, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Bucks County Community College, Global Human Rights Leadership Training Institute (GHRLTI), Lagos, Nigeria, and Aquila Broadcasting Sets, Rome – Italy and several industry certifications and diplomas including Ericsson Civil Training (ECT), Project Management, Cisco Network Engineering, Broadcast Technology Engineering, and others.
U.S. News & World Report ranks Rowan University 19th of Northern Regional Universities and third among the public institutions in the category. The College of Engineering, at which Dave is now a member, is ranked 32nd nationally among master’s level programs and the Chemical Engineering program is ranked third.
The decision by the Government of Liberia (GoL) to provide free tuition for students is welcome news, but I think the priority is mixed, farfetched and mind-boggling. I think it is troubling no matter how nice it sounds.
I expect that the party has started and the balloons are already out for the celebration. Good, but in my mind, this isn’t a strategic priority right now given the alarming and distressing economic situation in the country. It makes me wonder what’s behind this sudden act of kindness.
If you read the just released World Bank Assessment (WBA) report on Liberia, it paints a complex economic situation (a country on the brink of failure) with more than expected declining and widening fiscal deficit compounded by a significant shortage in revenue intake, grotesque underperformance, blockbusting non-discretionary expenditures, and runaway inflation set off by decreasing foreign exchange supply and other negative externalities. Does it sound like a pretty nice picture to you for any new social program at this size and magnitude?
Let me say that in Public Policy there’s a time when collective actions by government are warranted. As a policy wonk, I understand that. But, providing free education to student when there’s depleting foreign aid and limited economic activities driven by new businesses and decreased revenue, it makes no sense whatsoever for government to make an already bad situation worse. We understand the act of kindness and hardships, but a more prudent approach was not this decision. I’m sorry. Look, I admit we cannot be critical about every decision this government makes, but there’s a time when you call a spade a spade. This isn’t a spade. It is a Jack. It makes the administration look like a bunch of jokers. At this point, I can sense vulgarity from some ‘Cdcians’ reading this, but that’s fine.
According to “Front Page Africa” (a Liberian daily newspaper), the Vice President for UL Relations said that based on 20,000 students projection taking 15 credits you will have a budget of $1.2Million to cover the costs. Now that the government has agreed to cover this costs for the UL we also need to consider the costs of the other Public Universities and Colleges and explain where the government will get the funds to cover all of these costs.
I think for now, the more farsighted and logical thing was to engage the Administration of the University of Liberia (UL) to maintain the current $4.00 US dollars per credit per course or better yet, reduce the per credit amount by $0.25 cents to say $3.75 US dollars until the entire situation was assessed. The President should have sanctioned a committee of the best minds to propose the best way forward. Part of this committee’s work would have been a financial analysis of the costs and benefits and using data (facts) to drive decision-making. This committee would have included institutional and education policy-makers who would brainstorm ways in which government can pay for these added expenditures and to limit questions about “…how are they going to pay for it?”
Any important tenet of policy making, design decisions, suggestions, and choices shouldn’t be driven by gut feelings alone. Rather, adequate analysis and data-driven decision-making to ensure effectives and robustness of the outcome. Now, to many, it doesn’t pass the smell test. It appears as though government is trying to recover from the pejorative of issues it is faced with.
Done right, I think free education should start from the pre-primary and primary levels, in order to strengthen the foundation first and build for the future. Focus should be on creating the environment for learning; by renovating and modernizing established schools, erecting new ones where appropriate, paying teachers on time, providing nutritional services since hunger impacts learning, etc. Moreover, making teaching an attractive career choice and recruiting the best and brightest minds in the field should take precedence.
Look, I’m not saying the poor UL students don’t deserve it. They do. But it is not the right time. If I had the chance to advise the President, I would tell him to focus on developing the economy and bring everything to bear on it. Make this a strategic national priority for now. When people are able to find fairly decent paying jobs, they will care for themselves and their families. They’ll pay their own school fees. The rationale here is that Liberians need to start working. Creating jobs will create additional tax dollars to spend on social programs like free education for all. In contrast, even in mature economies like the U.S. where resources are in abundance, public colleges and universities aren’t free.
Let’s assume that this government finds free education a strategic priority choice; it then would have been appropriate to learn a thing or two from our nex- door neighbor – Sierra Leone.
Under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio, the country pursued a similar flagship initiative to increase access to education benefiting 1.5 million Sierra Leone students – from pre-primary to secondary levels. But, it wasn’t a government only funded inventiveness; it started as a Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that included UK Aid, World Bank, Irish Aid, World Food Programme (WFP)and UNICEF. Additionally, the Maada Bio government increased its education budget from 12 to 21 percent so that the education program would be broad-based to covers tuition, admission fees, teaching and learning materials, text books, examination and assessment fees – the whole yard. This sounds like a more ‘pro poor’ education policy objective to me, than just free tuition. Do you agree?
Look, I give credit to President Weah for this gesture, since it will help ease the burden on students and parents who are making a lot of sacrifices under extremely difficult economic conditions. However, by just reducing school fees without adequately studying the situation is the wrong approach of stretching an already cash strapped government that has no wiggle room because of large budget deficits. I would have felt better if the President had proposed to reduction in salaries of top government officials to pay for this initiative first. Well, the damage is done.
So, I caution this administration to do itself a favor and learn from this lapse in judgment. This isn’t how government works. Moving Liberia forward requires new mindset and new ways of looking at the world by enabling policy makers to do their homework first. The ‘status quo’ is not sustainable. An initiative requires taking a systematic approach by examining both formal and informal impediments such as political, legal, bureaucratic, organizational, economic, financial, and social factors that affect it. Decisions that impact a lot of people cannot be hastily done. These things take time and effort to get it right. Be smart people. The world is watching!
Dr. A Joel King has a doctorate in Management and a diploma in Public Policy Economics from University of Oxford and Executive Coaching from University of Cambridge, UK. He is a Wharton Online Scholar and an academic tutor at Cousera and volunteers at the American Academy of Management (AoM) and Strategic Management Society (SMS)
Monrovia, 24 Oct 2018 : In an unprecedented move to quell persistent cries by Liberia’s impoverished growing student population, President George Weah on Wednesday declared tuition free for undergraduate studies at all public universities in Liberia’.
President George M. Weah
In a major policy speech on the main campus of state runned
University of Liberia in the Capitol Monrovia, President Weah acknowledged government’s responsibility to educate its citizens and prepare them for the duty of nation building.
He repeatedly cited Nelson Mandela’s belief in the power of education to change the course of mankind in any society, saying Liberia cannot be an exception.
University of Liberia Logo
As the academic calendar began Monday, the huge undisclosed economic out lay needed to fully implement this policy cannot be overemphasized.
Besides UL and Tubman University in Harper, Maryland County where over 40,000 new entrants who attempt to enroll yearly, dozens of faith-based and private universities run undergraduate programs in Liberia.
Lofa County Community College
Aside from that, most of the 15 counties have functioning community colleges that could begin awarding undergraduate degrees in a few years.
Weah, accompanied by the country’s Finance and Development Minister Samuel Tweah, received deafening applause for the landmark declaration.
Graduates of William VS Tubman University in Maryland County – File Photo
In his short speech, the Liberian President explained no details about how the policy will be implemented.
UL student leader Mau Mau Flomo, in remarks, informed President Weah that “vibrations” would echo from the UL when authorities fail to listen to grievances of students.
But Weah urged students leaders to eschew “vibrations” on their campuses and solely concentrate hard on their studies in order to achieve academic excellence.
In his reaction to the pronouncement of free education for public colleges in Liberia, the National President of the University of Liberia Alumni Association In The Americas Mr. Melvin D. Howard welcomed the news as a “good” for students attending the University of Liberia and other public institutions.
UL Alumni Association In The Americas President Melvin D. Howard
The UL Alumni President Mr. Howard, however, called on the Liberian Government to go beyond the free tuition pronouncement and fully fund operations and salaries at the University of Liberia to sustain quality education and avoid future chaos at the institution.
There is a wise saying which goes, “Give a man his flower while he is still alive.”
This is why, following his retirement in February 2018 after laboring for more than 50 years as a journalist, it is my honor and privilege to pay homage to Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, a legendary journalist, fearless warrior with the pen and mentor.
A youth from an under-privileged background, I was given an opportunity out of poverty by Mr. Best,who trained and mentored me to be a professional journalist. He truly exemplifies the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Over the years, Mr. Best taught, mentored, empowered, and employed many young people, especially in Liberia, and The Gambia – where he relocated with his family in 1990 during the Liberian civil crises and founded that country’s first independent daily and first modern newspaper, The Gambian Daily Observer. His influence speaks to the conscience of the Liberian society in particular, and to humanity, in general.
While preparing to graduate from the D. Twe Memorial High School in New Krutown, Monrovia, in December 1982, I took a letter I had drafted to Mrs. Rachel A.B. Cox-George, then D. Twe’s Vice Principal for Administration, to proof read for me.
The draft was one of several letters of appeal I had been sending to prominent individuals in the Liberian society seeking financial aid for college enrollment.
Without financial support or a job, my prospect for college enrollment did not look promising.
As she handed me back the proofread letter, Mrs. Cox-George (May her soul rest in perfect peace), offered to sponsor me to pursue professional study in journalism at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) in Accra, Ghana. Concerned that many young people who graduate from public schools like D. Twe are often stuck in their poor communities due to lack of support and opportunities for advancement, Mrs. Cox-George said she did not want me to fall through similar cracks because I had distinguished myself to be a studious and respectful youth.
When I enrolled at D. Tweh in the 10 th grade in 1980, there were many organizations, including the Science, Debate and the Press Clubs. I joined the Press Club and became the reporter for my class. Upon promotion to the 12th grade, I was elevated as chairman and editor-in- chief of the Press Club. In 1980, I was one of the original reporters of School Special, a popular program which aired every Saturday on national radio ELBC, during which reporters from various high schools in Monrovia and parts adjacent filed news reports from their respective schools.
Some of School Special’s notable reporters were Patrick Manjoe of Boatswain High School and my best friend, now late Gabriel Gworlekaju of Monrovia Central High, both of whom went on to successful journalism careers.
It was having closely followed my activities as a student journalist at D. Tweh that Mrs. Cox-George offered to sponsor my study at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). While gathering information about GIJ, we learned that a critical requirement for enrollment was that an applicant must have no less than six months working experience with a recognized media entity.
And this is why, after graduation, Mrs. Cox-George sent me with a note to Mr. Best, Managing Director of the Liberian Observer Corporation, the publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper. The note was a request for Mr. Best to kindly take me in as a cub reporter at the Daily Observer, one of West Africa’s leading independent dailies.
As God would have it, Mr. Best was in office when I arrived at the Daily Observer facility to deliver the note. The secretary requested me to be seated and she took the note in to him. When she came back out, I was informed that Mr. Best was waiting to see me.
I was almost a nervous wreck when ushered into Mr. Best’s office.
“Sit down young man; I heard from your principal that you want to be a journalist?” he asked.
“Yes Sir,” I responded.
“Do you know what it means to be a journalist in Africa, especially here in Liberia?”
With those two questions, Mr. Best gave me a pep talk about the importance of the role of a journalist in society. As the watchdogs of society, he said, journalists are obligated to serve the common good of society by being the voice of the voiceless, and to advocate for equal justice and good governance, among others. Nevertheless, he added that being a journalist in Africa or Liberia, for that matter ,was fraught with personal risks and dangers.
This is because freedom of speech and of the press was basically
criminalized, as journalists suffered arbitrary arrest and detention and independent media entities were banned for alleged anti-government reporting.
Following his pep talk, Mr. Best had me accompany him to the newsroom, where he introduced me to Mr. T. Maxson Teah, then News Editor of the Daily Observer.
“This young man says he wants to be a journalist. Test him and let me know whether he has a foundation for development,” Mr. Best instructed.
This is how I began my career as a journalist at the Daily Observer, which was also a training institution, where the editorial staff benefitted from regular in-service training programs to upgrade their professional skills. At the time I was brought on board, Observer staff members were undergoing a training program conducted by a lecturer from the London-based Thompson Foundation, which enjoys global recognition as a leader in journalism training.
My skills were sharpened while working under the tutelage of some of the best journalists in Liberia during that time, including now late legendary Stanton B. Peabody, Editor-in- Chief, whose imprisonment in the 1960s by the government led to journalists coming together to organize the Press Union of Liberia.
Others were Sub-Editor Isaac Thompson, Features Editor Joe Kappia, World News Editor Mlanju Reeves, and now late News Editor T. Max Teah, who was commonly known as T-Max.
At the conclusion of my six-month journalisim internship at the Daily Observer, after which I was expected to enroll at the GIJ, there came a major stumbling block. Ghana, then an unstable country due to successive military misrules, had been plunged into yet another bloody crisis that resulted into the closure of institutions of higher learning, including the GIJ.
The economy and living conditions in Ghana had deteriorated in those days so much so that that Ghanaian merchants and others came to Liberia to purchase basic commodities, such as toothpaste, tissue and bath soap.
But today, Ghana is one of the most democratically peaceful and prosperous countries in Africa.
By God’s grace, Mr. Best decided to retain me as a reporter at the Observer because, according to him, I had performed satisfactorily and that he saw in me the potential for growth.
Mr. Best also asked if I could go to New Kru Town and find one of my former schoolmates and colleagues of the press club, who was serious minded and dedicated to duty as I was, who would be trained and deployed in New Kru Town as a Daily Observer correspondent.
I went to New Kru Town and contacted Philip Wesseh, who graduated a year earlier as my senior. I succeeded Wesseh as editor-in- chief of the Press Club. Even though he graduated as the valedictorian of his class, Wesseh was unable to attend college and was without a job. He was also an example of the many students in public schools who are unable to transition from high school to college due to their economically disadvantaged background.
With the opportunity afforded to him to excel, Wesseh soon became one of the best reporters at the Daily Observer, and he was later promoted to News Editor. Today, Attorney Philip Wesseh, a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, the University of Liberia, is Managing Editor of the independent Inquirer newspaper and a university lecturer.
Mr. Best maintained a culture of hard-work at the Observer and did not have tolerance for mediocrity. He often reminded us that journalists are part of the intelligentsia of the society. He strived to ensure that the media is positioned to play its role as part of the main foundation on which rests a democratic society.
The Daily Observer was launched by Kenneth and his wife Mae Gene Best February 16, 1981, less than a year following the military take-over of the government in Liberia. In the succeeding years leading to the civil crises, the Observer suffered five closures, including one that lasted nearly two years, for alleged anti-government reporting.
There were several government imprisonments of the Observer staff, including Mr. Best and his wife; as well as several arson attacks, the last of which completely destroyed
the building housing the newspaper’s offices and facilities during the early stage of civil upheaval.
During the prolonged period of the Observer’s closure in 1984, I landed a reporter job with then newly-established SunTimes newspaper, led by legendary journalist Rufus Darpoh, following his release from the notorious Belle Yallah prison, where he was incarcerated for alleged anti-government reporting.
While at SunTimes, I applied for an international journalism fellowship, through which about three to five journalists are brought to the United Nations Headquarters in New York annually for education andmentoring in international affairs and to cover the annual session of the UN General Assembly.
From the essay submissions, I became number one out of more than 380 journalists around the world competing for only four spots in 1986. I became the first Liberian to serve as a Daj Hammarskjold Scholar, one of the most prestigious awards in international journalism, since its establishment in 1961.
Upon return from the U.S., I became Secretary General of the Press Union, and during the civil war, acting President. I was the founding Managing Editor of The Inquirer newspaper in 1991, after which I fled to the United States due to death threats during the civil war and served as Staff Writer of the Sacramento Observer newspapers in Sacramento, California.
While in California, I published the book “Liberia: The Heart of Darkness” which details accounts of Liberia’s civil war and its destabilizing effects in West Africa.
(www.google.com). Since the restoration of peace in Liberia, I have served in a couple of governmental positions, including Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, and currently a diplomat.
All this is possible because of Mr. Best’s tutorship and mentoring.
Despite the trials and tribulations, the Daily Observer celebrated its 37th anniversary February 16, 2018, becoming Liberia’s oldest surviving newspaper. At 37, the Observer has surpassed the Liberian Herald, founded in 1826, which lasted for 36 years.
It is my fervent prayer that the Lord would grant my professional father peace, fulfillment, and good health in retirement.
Sierra Leone’s newly opened United Methodist University was dedicated at ceremony attended by academics, diplomats, senior government officials and United Methodists who had traveled from near and far.
According to the United Methodist Church, the Jan. 27 event included the official launching of the first faculty, the Bishop Wenner School of Theology, named after retired German Area Bishop Rosemarie Wenner. The school has been up and running since November, with students and staff in place, said the Rev. Edwin Momoh, the university’s adjunct professor of research and development.
Addressing the gathering, Sierra Leone Area Bishop John Yambasu, chancellor of the university, recalled with joy how his dream of a United Methodist University nine years ago had come to fruition.
“My many travels across the African continent (as a missionary of The United Methodist Church) opened my eyes to the massive illiteracy, poverty, misery, marginalization and exploitation of young people and the helplessness of many of them to take responsibility for their own destiny. Many still live in squalor and go through life-threatening experiences every day because they lack the needed education and skills that will make them employable.”
Yambasu also thanked all those who believed in his dream and had either journeyed with him or spurred him on to achieve his goal.
Through our diversified curriculum … United Methodist University will help create opportunities for the present and future population by ushering in sustainable development, reduction of poverty and help create a democratic and peaceful society where respect for law and order is evidenced,” he said.Wenner, who had flown from Germany to Freetown, for the occasion was overwhelmed with emotion.
“Today, when I was honored to unveil the plaque, I saw it with my own eyes: Yes, this is the Bishop Wenner School of Theology. A very nice building at an extraordinary place with great people teaching and learning here — the first faculty of several to come — all this is a great achievement of the UMC in Sierra Leone and I compliment you for that,” she said.
She recalled that United Methodists in Germany and Sierra Leone have a long-standing relationship dating back to the 1960s. She said she was accepting the honor on behalf of The United Methodist Church in Germany.
“We Methodists value education and particularly theological education. We see no contradiction in knowledge and vital piety. In fact, we know: They are twins. Therefore, keep on with the good work. I urge you, the students who are already filling this place with life, make good use of the school,” Wenner said.
Roger and Melania Reiner of Minnesota also were honored at the ceremony. They have been in ministry with Sierra Leone for more than three decades and helped get all of the books for the School of Theology Library, which Yambasu described as fully equipped with the resource materials required for undergraduate studies in theology. He named the library after the Reiners.
Melania Reiner said the dedication was a great day for the church in Sierra Leone. She said pastors in the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church donated the books and that they were just the vehicle through which the books arrived.
Yambasu named professor George Carew as vice chancellor of United Methodist University. Carew has vast experience in university academia in the U.S., Liberia and Sierra Leone. Carew said he believes it is the mission of the church to build a university that addresses the moral and spiritual void in the society.
Keynote speaker, the Rev. Kim Cape, top executive with the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said it was a great day in the life of The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone and the world at large, but she cautioned against complacency.
“We are here because of the vision of Bishop Yambasu. He saw the need of his church and he had a vision for the school. But as we know, vision alone is not enough. (He) shared his vision with you and called you to action. He called you to dream with him, to work to build the school of theology and university for this generation and future generations.
“This work is not finished. There’s still work to be done. We must not sit back and say, ‘Oh, this is done. What a lovely ceremony.’ We must say we have a plan to do great work for God and must nurture it and make it grow.”