N.C. Conference on Liberia Offers Ways to Bring Economic Stability
The Liberian Studies Association conference held at North Carolina Central University recently brought together more than 100 scholars, students and concerned Liberians who want to see a stable government and thriving economy become a reality in Liberia.
Eward Lama Wonkeryor was radio manager at the Liberian Broadcasting System in the 1980s before he was forced to leave the country.
“The government started to institute an ethnic cleansing,” he said. “Many ethnic groups were considered … a threat. They thought (my people) wanted to overthrow the government.”
Wonkeryor left in 1983 for the United States. He attended the University of Pennsylvania to obtain a master’s degree in mass communications and later received his doctorate. Today, he teaches at Temple University and directs his efforts toward researching how political communication and democracy can serve as agents for peace and sustainable development in Liberia.
For Reverend David Copley, director of Cuttington University College (CUC) in Liberia, West Africa, the need for improvements in Liberia could not be more urgent. CUC is a four-year college founded by the United States Episcopal Church in 1889. Most of their students attend for free with only a hope of one day being able to repay their tuition. Yet, this educational asset did not stop vandals from tearing the roofs off the buildings during the last civil war.
“Looting took place over the last six months following the civil unrest,” said Copley, who left Liberia in 1994 and is currently based in Virginia. “They took roofs, doors, windows, anything they thought they could sell.”
The college was forced to move the campus in Monrovia. Copley said the rent is extremely high; however, they were still able to graduate a class of students in January. Although there are no guarantees, Copley is hopeful that, through the assistance of the United Nations peacekeepers, the chain of civil unrest has been broken and the school will not be a target once again.
The conference also featured investors who offered ideas to build up Liberia’s economy through new jobs.
“For long-term success it is essential to have a stable government and job creation for the people that will provide decent salaries for families,” said John R. Savage of the Liberian Development Corporation, which is based in Basin, Wyo. “We want to create a viable, profitable corporation that will eventually be totally run by Liberians.”
Representing the only student panelists, North Carolina Central University’s Bushra Portier and Shawn Cunningham gave a presentation titled “The Effect of Civil War on Liberian Education: A Framework for Reconstruction.” Both said working on the presentation gave them a better understanding of the problems in Liberia.
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