Remarks by H. E. Dr. George Manneh Weah President of Liberia and Visitor of the University of Liberia at the 101st commencement convocation ceremonies of the University of Liberia, March 3, 2021
The Acting Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
Other Officials of Government, here present;
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Hon. Matthew G. Zarzar, Chairman, and Members of the Board of Trustees of the University of Liberia;
Dr. Julius Julukun Sarwolo Nelson, President of the University of Liberia;
Professor Ansu Sonii, Minister of Education and Member Ex-Officio of the Board of Trustees;
The 101st Commencement Speaker, Dr. Alvin Nah Doe, Neurosurgeon;
Presidents and Special Representatives of the Association of Liberian Universities and Colleges;
Former Presidents of the University of Liberia, here present;
Members of the Faculty, Senate, and Council of the University of Liberia;
The President of the UL Faculty Association and the President of the UL Staff Association;
The Chairman of the Students Transitional Council;
Administrators, Staff, and Students of the University of Liberia;
The President and Members of the Students Union;
The Acting President, Officers, and Members of the University of Liberia Alumni Association;
Officiating Prelates and Clergy;
Special Guests and their Spouses;
Parents, Relatives, Friends, and Well-Wishers;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Members of the Graduating Class of 2020;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Dr. Alvin Nah Doe thank you for an inspiring speech to our graduates. You have said it all and we will take note. Thank you very much.
Distinguished graduates, I am pleased and honored to participate today in yet another commencement convocation of the University of Liberia, in the statutory role as Visitor to the University, which is the special status accorded to every sitting President of Liberia by the Charter of this Institution.
Every commencement ceremony is historic in its own rights for those that take part in it, including the graduating class and their families and friends, as well as the faculty, administrators, and staff that take justifiable credit and pride in the process that transforms students into graduates.
However, these graduating ceremonies today are of particular historic significance for a number of reasons. You will recall that, in the remarks just delivered by Dr. Julius Nelson, President of the University, he affirmed a few of the historic attributes of this 101st Commencement Convocation from his perspective.
The most outstanding one, which caught my attention, and which is worth repeating here, is the fact that Liberia College, the first, and therefore the oldest College founded at this University, will for the first time graduate more females than males at this 101st Commencement. I have been informed that 235 of the total number of graduates from this college are females, while 203 are males. This is indeed a notable and outstanding achievement, for it is the first time that any College of the University has had a plurality of female graduates.
To the women, congratulations. Bravo!
Mr. President, Members of the University family, Parents and Distinguished Guests: the fact that a college at this University will produce more women than men, is sufficient evidence that the University of Liberia is doing its best at reducing the disparity between males and females in the education sector in this country.
I want to thank you, President Nelson, and all of you here at the University of Liberia, for attaining this historic milestone.
But this is not all that we have to celebrate. I am further informed that 40% of all the graduates at this 101st Commencement are females. This is very heartwarming news for me personally, as Liberia’s Feminist-in-Chief, because of my fervent commitment and dedication to the achievement of gender equality in Liberian society.
I therefore sincerely congratulate all the female graduates this year and hope to see these percentages increase over the next few years until we achieve gender parity in the output of college graduates, not only from the University of Liberia, the Nation’s highest institution of learning but also from all other institutions in the education ecosystem of Liberia.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I would now like to speak directly to the graduating class of 2020:
First of all, as President and Visitor to the University, I want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all 3,312 of you graduates, both male and female, for your perseverance, commitment, and dedication to your studies, which have now resulted in academic success.
I am told that the name that you have chosen for the Class of 2020 is “Meni-Nina.” and that this is a phrase or expression from the Kpelle language, which is translated in English as “New Beginning”. In my view, this is a very appropriate name for a graduating class, because graduation should never be seen as an end in itself, but as an opportunity to begin afresh to meet and conquer new challenges, better equipped with the new knowledge that your degrees signify. That is why such ceremonies are referred to as a “commencement”. Mena-Nina! A new beginning!
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
It is important that more of our young people, particularly, our young women, pursue the goal of post-secondary education. My Government will play its part to ensure that some of the binding constraints that prevent increased female enrollment into institutions of learning are identified and removed.
This is why, in our first year in office, we introduced the tuition-free policy for all public universities and colleges. This policy is now being debated at the National Legislature in order to transition into law. This is also why we introduced the payment of examination fees for students sitting our national exams, as another of the many initiatives we have taken that aim to create an enabling environment for learning.
As you are aware, I have just concluded the first leg of a nationwide tour to six of the fifteen counties, returning to Monrovia at 5 am this morning. How I wish each and every one of you had accompanied me on this tour so that you could have witnessed first-hand what I saw and experienced. But some members of the cabinet and legislature, together with other officials of Government, did accompany me, and for all of us, it was indeed a revelation.
Together, we saw a lot; heard a lot; learned a lot, and experienced a lot.
For example, there are many children in faraway places we visited on this tour who have dreams of their own to one day attend this and other universities and become proud graduates as we see before us today. But if we do not make strategic interventions right now in changing the course of their future, their dreams will never be realized. They will forever remain dreamers, stuck in their unfulfilled dreams.
If they are not able to enroll and remain in grade school and complete their studies, we would have failed them, in the same way, many leaders who came before us, for decades upon decades, contributed to the failure of many of our countrymen and women to get the basic education that would lead to a better life.
So the challenge is with us now, and we in our turn must never repeat the mistakes of the past. We must not contribute to any more failures than those that we have already experienced and suffered.
Therefore, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no better place for me to say this, other than at this 101st Commencement Convocation. In the same way that the Class of 2020 marks a “New Beginning” for the University of Liberia and for those who are graduating today, permit me to say – since this is my first public statement following my return to the Capital – that the end of the first leg of my county tour also marks a “New Beginning” in my administration’s desire to change our country.
That is why this day, right now, at this very hour and hereafter, indeed marks a “New Beginning.”
So, to you the graduates, members of the Class of 2020, I say please accept my congratulations for a job well done. I am proud of you; your parents are proud of you, and your country is proud of you.
My only request is that you now go out there to the University of Life and make a difference. Use the knowledge and skills you have acquired at this University constructively. Continue to improve yourself and your communities. Never be satisfied with what you have achieved thus far. From today going forward, reach for the stars, and let only the sky be your limit.
God bless you all.
I thank you!