“You Have Empowered Yourselves Without Government”-Amb. Boakai Tells DSSTC Graduates

“Graduating from this privately-run institution tells me that, on your own initiatives, you have empowered yourselves (without the help of government) and thus have taken ownership of your future well-being,” said Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, former Vice President of Liberia and Standard Bearer of the Unity Party (UP).

He made the remarks as Guest Speaker when the District Seven Skills Training Center (DSSTC) held its second graduation ceremony for Cycle Two students. The colorful event took place on Sunday, March 6, 2022 at the Executive Pavilion, located at Ashmun, Broad and Randall Streets in Monrovia with 497 students being certificated.

He said: “I cannot even underestimate what it costs per student to acquire technical education and vocational training in Liberia, considering the financial outlays for the various materials needed for such training.

According to him, such costs-and-benefits analysis should be uppermost on their mind as they participate in the graduation program because there is no doubt in his mind that Liberia needs technically competent workers to truly develop our country.

However, Amb. Boakai said he was bewildered by the fact that the TVET programs lack both the funding and practical environment needed to take these graduates to the next level.

Addressing the students on the topic: “TVET Education for Youth Employment and Empowerment,” the former Vice President mentioned that there are several reasons why it is important to educate the youth vocationally, among which are: young people are big consumers economically, and they help build the economy when they are a major part of production and consumption.

“Our economies do not expand nor grow because of the low economic power of our youths. Also, we cannot build a strong economy if our youths remain underprepared to earn a decent livelihood,” he stated.

He disclosed that he has personally empowered many youths to acquire vocational and technical education, the kind of investments have yielded tremendously in the computer knowledge, carpentry, auto mechanic and other technical arears.

Amb. Boakai pointed the youths of Liberia have the talents and capabilities and are only waiting for an opportunity to be trained and exposed.

Admittedly, he also said, for years now, he has depended on young Liberians to maintain his vehicles, electric generators, plumbing work and the maintenance of his air-conditioners, refrigerators, etc. “Many of the technicians are understudies, with organized technical vocational institutions, we can give them life careers.

“I need not tell you about the dreadful situation of unemployment among the young people in our country, but the situation, I believe, needs to be highlighted or emphasized as we are experiencing presently poor economic growth.

Liberian youth know this situation very well.  In fact, in 2017, they flagged the situation in their YOUTH MANIFESTO, in its priority #3 (Employment and Empowerment).”

He added, “Priority #3 emphasizes or talks about building skills to create employment and to provide the young people with decent jobs. Here the youth feel and say that they “are not benefiting from growth amidst 81.86% poverty rate and about 85% youth unemployment. A growing and changing economy that is youth-based could secure our future and sustain our peace. Majority of Liberian youth are unemployed or found in the informal sector.”

He said one solution proposed for these horrible statistics to be reversed was that youth needed support for development of life skills in order to be marketable in terms of employment and/or to build entrepreneurial skills to create employment or jobs for themselves.

Informing the graduates that the scenartio he gave was in 2017, Amb. Boakai noted that since then such support has not been forthcoming or is so minimal that the same menace of youth unemployment continues to exist, if not even worst.

Today, he pointed out, overall statistics about unemployment are appallingly high, especially among the youth, and have adversely affected the growth and development of the nation’s economy, subjecting many citizens to abject poverty, while  youth are especially affected by these dreadful statistics.

“In most developing countries like Liberia, TVET Education has been identified as one of the most important tools for addressing the pervasive youth unemployment problem. Our country has also taken note of this solution, but the problem continues due to serious shortcomings in terms of access and equity, governance, and funding.”

Given the poor economic growth Liberians are experiencing today and the dire need to increase employment, especially of the youth, the former Vice President urged the doubling of funding and resources to TVET education in order to increase and expand both formal and informal skills training centers around the country.

He quoted a recent report of demonstrating the need for such an expansion as most TVET institutions and training centers were identified as disproportionately located in Monrovia.  “For example, it is noted that training providers are concentrated in Montserrado around the capital, where 70 percent are based. There are also clusters of training providers in Grand Bassa (7 percent), Margibi (5.5 percent) and Nimba (6 percent).”

For him, it cannot be overemphasized that skills acquisition by our Liberian youth will generally provide them with employable skills which majority are lacking and are thus ill-equipped to access economic opportunities in the labor market.

Moreover, he said acquiring technical and vocational skills is vital for an economy like Liberia to compete and grow, particularly in an era of economic integration, transformation and technological change.

The former Vice President was therefore impressed by the large number of DSSTC graduates and extended his appreciation to the Emmanuel Dahn Foundation for giving access to the graduates to acquire skills training and for the gender equity represented in the graduating class, that of the 497 graduates, 371 are females. “In most TVET institutions in Liberia, male graduates are almost always in the majority.”

The DSSTC was established in 2020 by journalist Emmanuel Dahn of Joy FM 101.5 in order to empower Liberians through skills training as part of his longstanding dream of helping the less fortunate by molding their minds.

Making a special statement at the program, Mr. Dahn  congratulated the graduates for undergoing another round of training and commended all of the instructors for showing high level of commitment towards the institiution. He disclosed that given the level of improvement at the school, the Ministry of Education has decided for the DSSTC to start offering advance certificates.

The name of Cycle Two graduating class is EUREKA (meaning: “We have gotten it). The DSSTC administration said the name of the class is a direct representation because the students have gotten the rightful skills by professional instructors at DSSTC, as the aim is to build human capacity by enhancing knowledge through skills.

The 2nd Cycle began on August 2, 2021 and graduates emerged from seven departments, namely Journalism, Soap Science, Cosmetology, Event/Interior Decoration, Computer Science, Tailoring and Pastry.

The DSSTC held its first graduation exercise in July, 2021 after completing six months as prescribed by its curriculum with knowledge in six disciplines: Computer, Journalism, Pastry, Cosmetology, Tailoring and Soap Science. The DSSTC administration satisfactorily approved a little over 339 students for graduation with a mammoth number which can be equated to university standard.

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