By Kingston S. Kolleh
The former Ambassador of Liberia to the Americas, Canada and Mexico, Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh has stressed the need for the Government of Liberia to prioritize the elevation of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) to a Technical College.
He said if BWI as the nation’s foremost Technical Vocational Educational Institute must be able to adequately address the growing demands for 21st Century middle level technicians in the country, the need to raise the standard of the institution cannot be over emphasized; saying that eight years from now, the school will be a hundred years old.
The 1980 graduate of the BWI who served as the keynote speaker at programs marking its 92nd Founder’s celebration over the weekend in Kakata, Margibi County stated that the institution can only be elevated when the skills and capacities of the staffs are enhanced therefore, he encouraged the administration to start re-engaging its traditional partner institutions in the United States of America like Pierre View A & M University, Tuskegee University including Hannippen Community College for staff development respectively.
According to him, the government should also consider an increment in the BWI’s budgetary allotment in the next eight years and that could help make the institution a revenue generating entity through agriculture and technical productivity; asserting that the Carpentry Department could produce armchairs for schools in Margibi County while the Agriculture Department could also do likewise by producing agricultural products for the consumption of the public relative to business transactions.
Mr. Sulunteh then challenged the Legislature to establish what he calls an Infrastructural Development Budget on an annual basis so as to support the infrastructural needs of the envisioned new ‘TVET Technical College’ and encouraged Senator J. Emmanuel Nuquay and Representative Ben Fofana of Margibi County lead the effort.
Speaking on the theme ‘BWI at 92: Shifting the state of TVET towards the 21st Century Skills Acquisition, the former Vice Standard Bearer to Mr. Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) in the 2017 Elections indicated that there is a shift in the labor demand by industries that are operating in the country.
He noted that they are seeking for technically trained workforce such as, mechanics, electricians as well civil engineers including plumbers, geologists and agriculturalists among others to fill the human resource needs of the 21st labor market pointing out that the supply of labor must meet the shifting demand.
He intoned that as some young people are pursuing degrees in Sociology, Management including Public Administration, majority of the industries are demanding for engineers; stating that, Liberia’s labor force is estimated at 75 percent which constitutes young people between the ages of 15-25 years old and that 17 percent represents paid employment, 48 percent represents unpaid family work while 32 percent represents self- employment explaining that majority of the Liberian youths are unemployed in the informal sector therefore the workforce will continue to be dominated by non-paid employment for a long of time.
The Principal & Executive Officer (EO) of the BWI, Harris Fomba Tarnue, paid homage to the employees and classmates who have died particularly in the month of June 2021 to include Mr. Jarwo formerly of BWI Clinic; Austin Paye, procurement Unit including James Karnly, General Building Trade and Post-Secondary Professional Program (PSPP) and recently, Joseph Montgomery of the Class of ’80.
He said on this years’ Founder’s Day, June 26, 2021, a renowned Judge, George Gatakpah who served as Students Council President in 1974 was being laid to rest in Bong County among others and as such, he extended the BWI family’s profound condolences to the bereaved families.
According to him, it is a strange phenomenon that the school was commemorating its Founder’s Day and the euphoria that always characterized the occasions were paused like the parade, sporting including other out-door activities due to the strict adherence to the health protocols but said that he was grateful to God that the doors of BWI have remained opened.
He then commended the following personalities as well as development partners, the Board of Governors specially Professor D. Ansu Sonii, member ex-officio, Minister of Education (MoE) along with Mr. Sekou Dukuly, Assistant Minister/ MoE TVET, Science/ Special Education for their contributions to the success of the Founder’s Day celebration and also lauded the Class of ‘1987-90’ for its sustained commitment to always give back to BWI as they presented US$3,000 toward an on-going project on campus along with a stove and some cooking utensils as a gift for the Domestic Science Department, a Dell Computer with the latest auto card containing the relevant software as well as a generator to powered it as gift for the Drafting Department while the Principal’s Office was benefited a printer along with stationeries.
He also lauded the European Union (EU) for providing grant to Liberia which he noted was intended to improve the TVET program in the country as he further informed the gathering that they are currently carry out massive renovation on the Machinery, Electrical and the Carpentry Departments adding that those trade shops will be equipped with 21st Century modern tools and equipment.
He expressed gratitude to the German International Development Cooperation (GIZ) for working with BWI as they have developed new programs in road construction, maintenance and extended the program indicating that his institution has also established new partnership with the Government of France with a new grant to support TVET in the Electrical Department relative to training of trainers (ToT) for staffs of that department.
He maintained that those engagements are geared toward raising to the school to 21st Century degrees granting Technical College assuring that will be achieved because President George Weah has already committed his administration to raising the foremost TVET institution in Liberia by 2023.
Assistant MoE Minister Dukuly expressed thanks and appreciation to the BWI family for its continual contributions toward the manpower development needs of the nation saying that as the administration targets the elevation of the school to Technical College in the near future, they at the MoE are assiduously working with partners who are providing the support in order to build the skills and capacities of instructors.
He promised that BWI will lead the transformation process of TVET in the country disclosing that the is preparing 100 teachers who will be sent to abroad to acquire advance training in early July 2021 in South Africa, Zambia including Kenya and Australia.
Earlier, the Industrial Coordinator, James Walker, who introduced the ceremony said that Founder’s Day brings them joy to see old friends and be united with classmates, teachers after being away for many years and relays memories whenever they are back on campus.
BWI Needs Technical College Status …Amb. Sulunteh Asserts
By Kingston S. Kolleh