• VP Taylor Addresses two-day National Summit on Education

By Leila B. Gbati

Vice President Chief Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor has disclosed that it is important that they invest in the educational sector rather than in cars and travel.

Quoting Nelson Mandela, VP Taylor said, “Education is the only tool to ensure development in any nation.”

She spoke on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, at the opening of a two-day Post-Transformation Summit National Conference on Education held at the EJS Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

The conference is being organized by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with UNICEF. The aim of the conference is to transform education in Liberia by addressing bottlenecks and challenges in the fulfillment of rights to education for all children in Liberia, especially out-of-school children and adolescent girls.

In a keynote address at the ceremony, VP Taylor said that the circle of education involves the child, parents, community, education system, government, and partners.

According to her, she faced a lot of challenges back in school, and those challenges were not the same as the ones the young people are faced with today, but the truth is that every generation will face its own challenges, and every season comes with its own difficulties.

She emphasized that it is important that these individuals, whether male or female, determine where they are, how far they want to go, and the challenges and sacrifices necessary to get there.

“Today our young people have computers in their hands as a smartphone or tablets, and those are tools we never had, and we had to walk from our school and go to the U.S. Embassy or somewhere else that had a library that we could use.” “There are many tools today that make learning a lot easier than it was when I was in high school,” she said. “However, each of us must determine what our own desires are and how we can overcome those challenges, ensuring that at the end of the day, each individual must take responsibility for their own lives and become a ribbon effect of educational opportunity across our country.”

The Liberian leader admitted that there are lot of challenges in the education system, such as sanitary pads for girls who will not go to school because they don’t have them and the lack of interest by young people in education because they don’t understand the value of the total mind being educated and don’t necessarily go and sit in a classroom.

VP Taylor stressed that education transcends the classroom, like the different dreams and aspirations they all have.

She went on to say that statistics show that girls are dropping out of school at a higher rate in the last two years and that there are many schools in beautiful settings that are empty, with no teachers or students.

She also mentioned that as they talk about social-cultural environments that take children out of school for cultural practices or farming, they do not understand the value of education and what they are talking about.

“The first thing we must do is begin to talk about why education is important and why information dissemination is important for everyone to understand.” Each circle needs to understand this message so that the mother will not take their daughters and send them to the Sande Bush or the father will not take their sons, who are the strength of the family, to be a part of farming, which is good, but the children must be allowed to go to school. “If we must grow and develop this beautiful land, the only way is to make sure every child has the opportunity to get an education,” she said.

She continued that the government must make sure that programs address the gaps in the education system because it is their responsibility.

VP Taylor believed that the 2023 budget for education has increased, and as such, they will see a smaller number in 2023 if something is not done to ensure that the educational sector gets what it needs.

She further said that there is nothing more important than a child being educated, adding that “I believe it is because I had a decent education that I can be called the First Female Vice President of Liberia.”

She asserted that the National Legislature has the responsibility to allocate, and there are many things in the budget that they can cut to ensure that what they need to raise 1 million dollars over the years for the education sector is met, stressing that if they provide what is needed to the Ministry of Education to do their work, all of them will be benefited.

“If we need to stop traveling, buying cars, and other things, then this is what must happen.” “This charge for 2023 is that a minimum of 20% of the budget will go to education,” she said.

VP Taylor issued a call to action, urging all stakeholders to come together and draw up a plan, as the Minister of Education has already done, and make the decision that they will allow the Ministry of Education to lead by the plans they have put in place.

She also called for a donor conference to ensure that the $1 million that they need over the last 5 years is put on the table so that the work that is necessary for the upliftment of the lives of this generation is secured.

She stressed that a nation whose generation in the 50s and above is better off than the ones behind has a very serious problem, and if they don’t fill this gap, they don’t know how they can go. 

“We need all hands on the children because there are empty schools across our country.” We need everyone—from the children to the parents, community, government, and partners—to work and change the trajectory of our education sector. “We have no more time left, and the time is now,” she said.

“On behalf of President Weah and the Government, I am honored to call this two-day consultative conference on the education sector open. We hope that at the end of these two days we will have a plan of action that we will use to change the trajectory of the education system of our country,” VP Taylor concluded.

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