Speech delivered on The 10th Anniversary Week at William V.S. Tubman University, 2019/2020 Opening Convocation, By Rev. James Andrew Lablah, Deputy Director For Quality Assurance, National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE), 2nd September 2019

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SPEECH DELIVERED ON THE 10th ANNIVERSARY WEEK AT WILLIAM V.S. TUBMAN UNIVERSITY, 2019/2020 OPENING CONVOCATION, BY REV. JAMES ANDREW LABLAH, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE, NATIONAL COMMISSION ON HIGHER EDUCATION (NCHE), 2nd SEPTEMBER 2019 THEME: “Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education” ADDRESS OF PROTOCOL CONGRATULATE TUBMAN UNIVERSITY FOR ITS 10th ANNIVERSARY Let me first of all thank the Steering Committee of the 2019/2020 Opening Convocation through its Chairman, Rev. Cyrus W. Tugbe II, and Dr. Mle Too Wesley for inviting me to visit Harper for the very first time to serve as Guest Speaker of this occasion. I bring you greetings from the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE), with its Chairman being the Minister of Education, Prof. Hon. D. Ansu Sonii. Also, I specially convey warm felicitation from my wife, Neidah who encouraged me to honor this worthy invitation.
As I read the letter of invitation, it presented a theme: “Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education”, a theme I consider vital for the current state of affairs, although broad for my deliberation. Nonetheless, it could serve as a goal for national concept, since it requires collective efforts of all stakeholders; including the national government to provide the political will and needed resources; the regulatory framework by the relevant arm of government, the NCHE; the tertiary institutions for relevance and educational quality provision; the students who must have the quest for learning and ambition to serve with love for their country; and the work places provided by employers among others. All of these corporate bodies have their specific and collective responsibilities that when they effectively play their roles, improving economic sustainability through tertiary education will be a reality. In as much I do not attempt to address all the roles of stakeholders in this regard, I have decided to consider some specific functions of tertiary education quality provision and students characteristics for their successful achievements during and after the learning process. It is indisputable that tertiary education has a paramount effect in the reproduction of social structures. Which means that, as places of knowledge transmission, universities can play a transformative role. Tertiary education institutions are torch bearers and sources of workforce for the nation’s socio-economic development and sustainability goal. It shoulders greater responsibility of molding, educating and training professionals; entrepreneurial, engineers, teachers, scientists, doctors, economists, accountants, agriculturist, managers, lawyers, politicians, leaders among many others. The collaborative supports tertiary education institutions require cannot be overemphasized. A neglect to this is an equal neglect to the socio-economic development goal of any nation. The Pro-Poor Government has demonstrated its intention for increase enrollment of students in public tertiary institutions with the pronouncement of free tuition for all. It is with the intention of rapidly increasing the nation’s workforce for anticipated maximum productivity. While all citizens remain patient and hopeful that strategies will be workout by technocrats in the nearer future to sustain this good intention for the effective operations of all public tertiary institutions, it is prudent for the administrations of these institutions to employ innovations that will cope with any impediments through means of research, partnerships, economic ventures, lobbies, etc.
The National Commission on Higher Education, being the regulatory arm of Government for tertiary education institutions in Liberia, has adopted a new policy for “licensing” all post-secondary institutions in support of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. The new “Licensure” policy provides Guidelines and Standards for Licensing Institutions to Conduct Post-Secondary Education and Training in Liberia. It ensures prospective and existing institutions and the citizens of Liberia that post-secondary educational institutions (otherwise referred to as higher education institutions) operating in Liberia demonstrate the capacity to deliver the required good quality of education by providing up-to-date instructional curriculum, faculty, library resources, personnel, student services, facilities and equipment that meet the demands of current realities of the socio-economic situations of Liberia. “Licensing” will be required by all newly applying tertiary institution before “accreditation.” It is to encourage standards with more access, relevance, and quality of programs offered in Liberia. Therefore, with the intention of government to increase students’ enrollment and the establishment of new measures by the NCHE, tertiary education institutions should be accountable to their stakeholders in one form or another. They must ensure that the educational experience they are providing to their students remain sound, relevant and of a quality that supports the economic and social development which is increasingly driven by the advancement and application of knowledge. Ensuring this requires a supportive system that monitors its compatibility to achieving the stated objectives. The range of activities for effecting, monitoring and enhancing this educational provision is “Quality Assurance.” As tertiary education is widely accepted as a major instrument for the construction of knowledge based economy and society, its relevance should be driven to: contribute to national development through high level relevant manpower training; develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society; develop the intellectual capability of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environment; acquire both physical and intellectual skills which will enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society; promote and encourage scholarship and community service; forge and cement national unity; and promote national and international relations. Despite its relevance, higher education in Liberia is going through a series of challenges.
Education acquired is only relevant to the extent it makes notable impact in the lives of the individual and society. The quality of tertiary education in Liberia reflects in its products the graduates. There is wide perception from public and private employers of university graduates that the quality of most university graduates are inadequate. Employers believe university graduates are poorly trained and unproductive on the jobs and shortcomings are particularly severe in oral and written communication, and in applied technical skills. The educational system in Liberia is yet to have the anticipated financial resources to maintain educational quality in most of the significant expansions with access provision of 8 public community colleges around the country, and 2 public universities. It suggests that factors responsible for the poor quality of tertiary education graduates appear to be both internal and external to the institution. Internal factors include strikes sometimes associated with demonstrations not void of violence, lack of employee motivation, and weak accountability for educational performance. External factors comprise teacher shortages, corruption, and inconsistent funding efforts by government, and admissions of students without merit based. These factors have serious impact on the quality of tertiary education in Liberia, not to talk about its contribution towards “Improving Economic Sustainability.” For instance, strike or demonstration has become the most effective weapon to get what is due from the government without appropriate dialogue. Consequently, hardly is any agreement reached or implemented without some signal of strike or demonstration. It makes students to think and believe that there is no harmonious approach to receiving their desire intent but through reactionary or revolutionary means. The result is that the students’ concentration on doing things positive is reversed. It affects the psycho-social development of the human resource production which impedes development of the nation that is struggling to meet a threshold of economic stability. Moreover, inadequate relevant faculty fueled by brain-drain, and low funding to recruit sufficient lecturers also has significant impact on the quality of education provision. It leads to high student and academic staff ratio, resulting to situations where an academic staff teaches more than the number of required courses without venturing into research. They only find solace in preparation and distribution of handouts that are longstanding without being revised. The quality of education to a large extent depends on the quality of instructional staff. Up skilling the instructional staff to enable them to make efficient use of new technologies in their teaching is imperative in today’s technological driven world. High quality teachers with knowledge of information and communication technology must be prioritized in order to produce quality graduates. Instructional staff development should be goal driven by tertiary institutions. Furthermore, the quality of curriculum and academic programs should be made to meet the growing demands of our society that consume its products. The quality of teaching & learning process is vital to the overall quality of education.
The output of an educational system is the graduates of that system. And that quality of output has two dimensions, internal and external. The internal consists of the test scores, pass rates and general performance of students before graduation. The external manifestation of output quality is found in their performances and achievements on the job outside the school system. At the job site is where they demonstrate their competence or incompetence. The quality of education is measured by the extent to which the training received from an institution enables the recipient to think clearly, independently and analytically to solve relevant societal problems in any given environment. In ensuring quality of output, admission into tertiary institution should be based on merit, course content should meet job market demands, minimum academic standard should be met before progression, and Institutions should invest in faculty development programs, taking into consideration education technology as a means of providing learning resources to instructional staff. The role of higher education in improving economic sustainability is very strategic and indispensable. The struggling quality of education in Liberia by some institutions has become perennial issues that require pragmatic approach. Sustainable tertiary education is possible if quality assurance and development are given deserved attention. Without quality assurance and development, sustainability of tertiary education in Liberia will remain an elusive endeavor. There is need to adopt technology-based teaching and learning as a means of improving quality and sustaining higher education in Liberia. More importantly, entrepreneurial education in tertiary institution is a take off point for sustainable economic development. The inclusion of entrepreneurial education is because of its capacity to produce job creators rather than job seekers. Entrepreneurial education makes an individual self-employed or self-reliant. Self-reliance calls for a system of education where citizens acquire the right type of values and attitudes, practical skills and knowledge that will enable them attain self-development. The high incidence of unemployment with its associated social ills are clear indications that entrepreneurial education are not inclusive, or neither has it made significant impact in the lives of graduates due to poor implementation.
Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education requires the exploration of the economic, political and social implications by encouraging learners to reflect critically on their own areas of the world, to identify non-viable elements in their own lives, and to explore the tensions among conflicting aims. Educational approaches must take into account the contextual realities with global comparatives, acknowledging and facilitating their original and important contributions to the process of sustainable development. More so, the movement towards sustainable economic and even social development depends more on the development of our moral sensitivities than on the growth of our scientific understanding. Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education should not only be concerned with disciplines that improve our understanding of life and nature, despite their value. Success in the struggle for sustainable development requires an approach to education that strengthens our engagement in support of other values, especially trust, honesty, justice and fairness; and the awareness that we share a common destiny with one another. Ethical values are the principal factor in social cohesion. At the same time, it is the most effective agent of change and transformation. Ultimately, sustainability will depend on changes in behaviour and lifestyles. Changes which will need to be motivated by a shift in values and rooted in the love and moral precepts upon which behaviour is based for oneself and society. Without change of this kind, even the most enlightened legislation, the cleanest technology, the brilliant education, the most sophisticated research will not succeed in steering society towards the long-term goal of sustainability. Education provided and achieved without values makes an individual an educated fool. Having said that, let us consider that ethical values are shaped through education, in the broadest sense of the term. Education is also essential in enabling people to use their ethical values to make informed and ethical choices that contribute to their community, county and country. Fundamental social changes, such as those required to move towards sustainability, come about either because people sense an ethical imperative to change or because leaders have the political will to lead in that direction and sense that the people will follow them. The effectiveness of “Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education” must ultimately be measured by the degree to which it changes the attitudes and behaviours of people, both in their individual roles, including those of producers and consumers, and in carrying out their collective responsibilities and duties as patriotic citizens of Liberia.
Let me now come down to you, the students of Tubman University. I assume your motivation of being here vary, but what remains common is your desire to succeed. Some may want to succeed by shortcut, and that is avoiding the rigorous process required. On the other hand, there are some of you who have prepared your minds to undergo the process as it requires. While you may all desire and seek to succeed in your educational endeavor and have a successful vocation or career, let me leave with you these five (5c) for becoming successful during and after your studies at Tubman University; (5c) For Becoming Successful During and After Your Studies:
1. COMPETENCE: Competence is the ability of an individual to do a work properly. It is the desire that you have to do all of your academic work accordingly, and doing it as it is required. Competence includes all the related knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes that form your work. Competence is concerned with doing rather than just knowing. It is more about performance than knowledge. Someone’s qualification does not determine his or her competence, it rather assumes their competence. That is why people have to apply for a particular job, be examined and interviewed before they are employed. Employers need competent people, not just qualified people. A person’s performance determines his/her competence. Our society today is flooded with too many qualified people with degrees, who claim to know plenty, but lack the ability to deliver or demonstrate what they claim that they know. Our nation is in dying need of more competent people to contribute to solutions rather than having many qualified people who identified problems but lack the knowhow in solving it, with them being the very originator of those problems. Competence begins on the training ground, it starts from the classroom and you can begin it here, and right now. Take note: a strong “B” or even stronger “C” is better than a weak “A”. That is not meant to discourage you or make you think of settling for the less, but you must have a desire to justify your education by proving what you have learnt through hard work, not taking shortcuts through cheating for better results, which you will not be able to demonstrate later.
2. COMMITMENT: Commitment has to do with your willingness to give your time and energy to something that you believe in. You should be self-motivated to study on your own and explore every learning opportunities to your disposer. The books in the library are not for decoration, but for reading and collecting of information. Your Commitment to learning calls for action. No excuses. No debate. No lengthy analysis. No whining about how hard it is. No worrying about what it looks like, or how others think about it. No laziness and no delays. Your level of commitment plays a key role in the process of creating a fulfilling career. Commitment occurs when your thoughts and emotions are pointing in the direction or your vision and ambition. It requires hard work with time consciousness. You don’t have to be punished for coming to class or activity late before you become committed. You have to know the time and be there in time. Neither do you have to be reminded about your homework, but let your instructor know you have completed your homework. Committed people are always achievers and successful. You can become one of them right now.
3. CHARACTER: This primarily refers to the assemblage of qualities that distinguish one individual from another. It is the attributes and qualities you need as a student and professional to succeed in your pursuit of education and career. The concept can imply a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as trust, honesty, integrity, courage, fortitude, harmony, loyalty, or of good behaviors or habits. It refers especially to moral qualities with ethical standards. It can be developed through discipline and right knowledge. When you begin cheating here during tests, you will graduate with a cheating nature and get employ with that spirit. It is that spirit that will later disgrace you when you think you are clever and succeeding. But as you crave for integrity while here, you will become outstanding among your peers and remain successful in life. Remember that whatsoever you stand for that is upright will war against someone’s interest that is corrupt, but never bow down for the wrong in private or open. You will become successful at the very end when you maintain your integrity.
4. CONTACT: This is the good relationship you establish and develop with a person or people that takes you to another level in life. It will enable you to accomplish your dream. The good relationships you make, connections you establish and maintain have much to do with how you will succeed in and out of here. Contact is important and must be kept valuable. - Sometimes it become difficult for some competent people to succeed because they lack the appropriate contact. - Some people because of their contacts are in better places and positions while developing the required competence and others with competence are still seeking for opportunity to establish contacts. Most often, they did not practice good human relations while in school, it is when they get out that they start seeking for contacts and connections. Being in university is also a part of learning how to socialize. Note: Your greatest success in career and life is determined upon the right contacts that you have. Next – Your contact must be strategic and associate yourself with people who can lead you to another level. Last – Value every human being. Keep this in mind – “You will never be successful in life by means of “isolation.” You need the help of others to climb the ladder and achieve your dreams. Don’t feel too big or proud to ask someone for help. Humble yourself and God will lift you up, and be willing to give a helping hand to some in need when it is in your power to do it. One day you might need that hand to help you too. Remember: When building contacts, your first contact must be “CONTACT with GOD” – Prov. 2:3 “So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”
5. CONTRIBUTION: This is giving back with gratitude and empathy what you have achieve; to your Alma Marta (TU), to your people, to your community, to your county, to your country, to those who have blessed your life, and to humanity at large. In other countries, students apply for students’ loans to support their education, and they later pay back. There are policies and bonds they have to sign before obtaining that privilege. Often, they are faithful in returning and contributing their commitments. However, in Liberia, it is far different because our freedom is without bond. Free tuition is provided for all students in tertiary institutions. It does not require bond to sign for it. It only encourages qualified candidates to apply and automatically gain admissions. As you benefit from this generous offer, what will be your contribution in return, to your country, your government and you institution? Will it be to demonstrate, to destroy facilities, to halt free movement, to insult the hands that feed you, to instigate and promote violence in your own communities? Will that be your payback for the free knowledge you acquired. Those who payback evil for good they have received evil will always accompany them. Such people are bunch of ingrates who later end is destruction. But this shall not be your case. Think about what you can do for your country in return, and God will bless you with the opportunity, strength and resources to make your manifold contributions. Also, while you are here at TU, continue to contribute toward the tardiness of the campus. Contribute to the harmony of the learning environment. Contribute to the development goal of the university. Join a group of positive thinkers, and make every effort to become a part of every positive contributions. Don’t allow anyone, whosoever to use you for instigating chaos, conflict or violence. Make your individual and collective contributions to the development programs of the university. Please be aware that successful people are not measured by what they have acquired for themselves, but how much they have impacted their society and the lives of others through what they have. Their contributions to humanity and society are what they are appraised by. Your own contribution to your community is what lives with you and after you have left the scene.
Your positive contribution to Tubman University will always be remembered while you are here, and when you are gone. You will definitely be remembered as one of the successful students of TU and will remain blessed in your endeavor. In conclusion, “Improving Economic Sustainability through Tertiary Education” is an inclusive and sincere effort of patriotic people toward achieving national development goals. It includes the national government to provide the political will and needed resources; the regulatory framework by the NCHE; the tertiary institutions for providing programs of relevance with educational quality provision, and innovation; the students who must have the quest for learning, develop the characteristics to succeed with ambition to serve; and the availability of work places for employee. All of these corporate bodies when they effectively play their roles, improving economic sustainability through tertiary education will not be elusive, but a reality for Liberia. THANK YOU!