Officers and members of the Bong Town High School Alumni Association, former teachers, parents, ladies and gentlemen.
May I take this time to express my appreciation to the Planning Committee of the Bong Town High School Alumni Association in the Americas, for inviting me here as the key note speaker. Indeed, I am honored by your invitation. May I also have the honor to convey my admiration to all members of the Planning Committee for the outstanding job of bringing us together here today. Ladies and gentlemen, please stand and applause the good work of this committee.
It was back in 1978, when Charles Allen discussed with me on the campus of Cuttington University College , about the possibility of obtaining a teaching position at the Bong Education Center , Bong Mines. I told Mr. Allen that I received several letters from different school systems and none from Bong Mines. Few minutes later, he handed me an application form and asked that I studied it and consider its content. Two months later, Mr. Allen took me to Bong Mines for an interview with the late Mr. George Clinton, the Superintendent of Schools. What I saw in Bong Mines was so great, I turned down offers from the LAMCO Area School System, Gbarnga Methodist Mission, Firestone and LAMCO International School in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County . Through the influence and persuasions of Mr. Charles Allen, I took up teaching assignment at the Bong Town School in February of 1979. My years of teaching in Bong Mines were most rewarding. Students were serious about learning, most of all, the Bong Mines environment was conducive for the academic process.
Please stand once more and let us pay silent tribute to the late Superintendent of Schools of Bong Mines, Mr. George A. Clinton and others who made meaningful contributions to Bong Town School . In this endeavor, I would like to congratulate Mrs. Mary Brownell, for her outstanding leadership, which made it possible for Bong Town School to leave its mark of academic excellence, on the national level in Liberia during the eighties. I would also like to recognize the various contributions made by all former teachers of Bong Town High School . It was their commitment and that of parents that have produced such beautiful minds of young men and women as evidenced by our gathering here today. It takes a good mind, a good spirit and a good soul to look in the eyes of former teachers and say “ thank you for the enlightenment you have given me when I was just a young boy /girl, I was so oblivious to the things of life and forgive me for driving you crazy.” And there are some here in this audience who drove us crazy at Bong Town School . From all indications, you have done well for yourselves. Some of you have obtained your master degrees in your respective fields of study. Some, I am also told, have obtained or are pursuing their PhDs. Professionally, most of you continue to advance in your careers. Your success is an indication that your parents and the teachers at Bong Town School have done a good job in preparing you for the future. I congratulate you and hope that you continue to advance yourselves academically and professionally.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a blessed day. It is a time for us to reflect and remember our good days in Bong Mines. It is also a day to remember those friends and parents who cannot be here with us because they have left us. But most importantly, it is a day for us to formulate plans in order to create a better tomorrow for our children and ourselves. The question on the minds of most Liberians is, what can each one of us do to help our nation gets back on her feet when the dust of violence and stupidity settled? In my presentation here today, I will endeavor to provide a different perspective in this endeavor. At no time in the history of Liberia has the need to be of service more evident, more demanding and more critical than now. The development of post war Liberia requires each one of us to put aside our individual selfish-intentions and reach out to the needs of the nation.
I will briefly discuss with you my topic entitled: The Philosophy of Service and its Implications for Liberian Youth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the act of rendering service is a spiritual attribute, is that inner desire of man to reach out in order to fulfill the needs of others. Throughout history, there have been men and women who have devoted themselves in helping others. In recent history, names such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of United States, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, India; President John F. Kennedy of United States, Mohammad Gandhi of India, and others who used their positions in life to improve the daily lives of others. In the early 19-century, Edmund Ignatius Rice, an Irish businessman, used his financial resources to set up schools for poor boys in Ireland . He organized the Congregation of Christian Brothers in order to fulfill his dream of providing quality education to the poor. Your speaker here today is a direct recipient of the generosity of this great man, Edmund Rice. His organization opened a school in Liberia , which most of you know as Carroll High School , located in Nimba County . Songs, such ‘Wake up my People’, ‘ Africa we praise your name’, etc, were songs that were taught to me by the Christian Brothers. During my employment in Bong Mines, these songs were passed on to those of you that were members of the Bong Town High School Glee Club. Edmund Rice was indeed a man of service.
Once upon a time, there was an African who used his position to bring meaningful services to his people. He used his presidency to address the education shortcomings and inequalities of his nation. In the field of education, he constructed schools in the remote regions, subsidized the financial activities of private schools, colleges and universities. He sent hundreds of students to foreign countries. At one time, he used his influence to send over 400 students to Eastern- Block countries to pursue studies in medicine, agriculture, engineering and education. He promoted democratic activities such as freedom of the press, and free speech on university campuses, and provided opportunities for other politicians to set up political parties. In the area of infrustructional development, he built hospitals in some of the interior counties and constructed farm-to-market roads. He started to pave the road that his predecessor left unfinished when he met his untimely death. This great African personality, according to David Lamb, the author of the book: ‘The Africans’, “introduced universal suffrage, advocated free university education and amended the constitution so he could not run for another term, something no president had ever done on the continent”. He even illustrated to his countrymen and women that they are Africans and not Europeans, by wearing African attires to official governmental functions, contrary to the established customs as practiced by his predecessors. Ladies and Gentile, the late President, Dr.William R. Tolbert Jr. was indeed a man of service.
The education system in Liberia was developed during the colonial period modeled after that of the United States . However, that structure does not fit the needs of a country desperately in need of economic development, nor one trying to rebuild after a civil war. Liberia ’s education system needs to be rebuilt around an economy of business, food production and exporting goods. The system should be redesigned to properly educate as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.
To achieve these objectives, a National Service –Peace-Corps program needs to be put in place. This program should provide teachers to all parts of Liberia . All students coming out of high schools would be sent into the interior to teach in elementary schools for one academic year as graduation requirement. Students graduating from Cuttington University College and the University of Liberia have to do two years national service as teachers in all high schools located in the various counties, upon completion, they will receive their diplomas. Students from agricultural schools such as the University of Liberia ’s Agriculture College and the Agriculture facility at Cuttington would help with seasonal planting and harvesting of food. Like national service plans elsewhere, student participants would be paid a stipend to cover basic necessities such as room, board and transportation. During the junior year of both high school and university, students would receive instructions in teaching strategies and methods. In this endeavor, all students coming from overseas studies must perform one year of national service in order to be qualified for gainful employment in government or the private sector of the Liberian economy.
Thomas Jefferson was correct when he said in a letter to one of his friends in 1816: “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like the evil spirits at the dawn of day.” If the youth of Liberia want to have a happy future, they must be willing to make meaningful sacrifices in the services of the unfortunates. We have paid a price for allowing ignorance of mind and spirit to dominate our national culture. We have suffered so much as a people and as a nation to again allow this enemy to dwell amongst us. Let us endeavor to provide equal education opportunities to all of our people. In 1848, Horace Mann in his Twelfth Annual Report to the Massachusetts State Board of Education: “Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, - the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I reiterate my deepest appreciation to the members of the Bong Town High School Alumni Association for my presence here tonight. We all, especially the youth of Liberia , have an obligation to be of service to our people, irrespective of tribes or sections. In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of a song, which we used to sing in Bong Mines, entitled: Wake Up My People
Wake up my people
Wake up and give a shout
Wake up my people, know what’s life is about
And wake up to the needs of all the ones who suffered sorrow
Wake up and promise now to do your best to change tomorrow
Wake up my people and Open every door
Wake up is time now love my people evermore.
Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.
About Mr. Bargblor:
Mr. Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor is a former Instructor of Mathematics in the Bong Town High School , Bong Mines. He was also Head of the Department of Mathematics.
Presently, he is an Instructor of Mathematics, Mount Pleasant High School , Providence
School System, Rhode Island . He is a graduate of Cuttington University College , Howard University, Washington, D.C. and Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa , Israel .