When Saki T. Golafale had the chance to address an education and business conference four years ago at the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia, he took full advantage to decry the lack of laboratories, equipment and textbooks at his alma mater blocking his efforts to further his chemistry studies.
Liberia was still getting over decades of civil wars that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Liberians, and the ebola crisis still hadn’t taken hold.
Despite these adversities, Cynthia Blandford, Liberia’s Atlanta-based honorary consul, remains optimistic about the country’s future and cites the accomplishments of Mr. Golafale as an indication of progress the country and individuals like Mr. Golafale can make with committed development partners.
Ms. Blandford told Global Atlanta that she clearly recalls Mr. Golafale’s address and its plea for resources. The conference hall was full of University of Liberia students, faculty and staff along with other presidents of Liberian colleges and universities convened to discuss the future of higher education in Liberia. Also in attendance were Eric Mintz a professor of chemistry, and Olu Olatidoye, an engineering and computer science professor both from Clark Atlanta University, who attended to explore opportunities for augmenting the Liberian university’s science offerings.
Since 2009, Ms. Blandford had been bringing U.S. and Liberian business people and educators together through the University Consortium for Liberia, including the University of Liberia and Clark Atlanta University, which she launched in collaboration with the Liberian embassy in Washington. Both the University of Liberia and Clark Atlanta University have distinguished histories dating back to the mid-19th century.
Her efforts led to the conference providing Mr. Golafale the platform to address his university’s needs. Among the attendees was Carlton Brown, who at the time was Clark Atlanta’s president and the incoming chair of the university consortium .
Dr. Brown took full account of Mr. Golafale’s concerns and pledged that Clark Atlanta would train and provide scholarships for two University of Liberia science graduates on the condition that they return to Monrovia and teach at the university for at least two years.
Upon completing his master’s courses in chemistry this year, Mr. Golafale recently returned to Liberia for the first time in three years with an agenda to update government, donors and university officials, including Liberia’s vice president, Joseph N. Boakai, of the progress he has made in his studies and inform them of his admittance to Clark Atlanta’s doctoral program.
He also has developed a career mentoring program at his alma mater in Monrovia titled ChemTalk that is designed to help students majoring in chemistry gain necessary skills such as the art of scientific writing and the use of research tools.
Ms. Blandford said that large concessionaires such as Chevron Corp., Mittal Steel Co. NV, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and others present in Liberia require a workforce with technical skills and degrees. “In order to help prepare Liberia’s workforce, it is critical to develop these skills to provide local jobs and improve their qualify of life,” she added.
Because of the efforts of the University Consortium, Savannah State University is to send 12 students and two faculty members to the University of Liberia in early July for a study abroad program that is to explore the possibility of establishing a School of Social Work at the university in Monrovia.
Besides his academic studies while in Atlanta, Mr. Golafale served as the chief financial officer of the university consortium. Born in the town of Damballah in western Liberia, he attended elementary school in iron ore rich Nimba County where his father was chief physician at LAMCO Hospital, which was named after the Liberian American Co., a joint venture of the Liberian government, U.S. Bethlehem Steel and the Swedish mining company Granges.
As a youngster and as a high school student, his education was interrupted by civil wars, which he told Global Atlanta that he survived “only by the grace of God.”
His accomplishments help stoke Ms. Blandford’s optimism. “Liberia’s future is bright,” she said. “With an educated workforce, technology transfer and committed development partners, neither war not the crisis of ebola, can rob Liberia of its God given destiny to be a leader among nations. the University Consortium is one solution to answer the clarion call. Saki Golafale and other UCL scholars will help Liberia rise to the occasion.”
She added that she was thrilled to learn of the upcoming trip to Liberia of First Lady Michelle Obama, her daughters, Malia and Sasha and her mother Marian Robinson, who will be promoting the importance of education and the need for girls to stay in school.
In addition to Liberia, Mrs. Obama and her family are to visit Morocco and Spain later in the month.
To learn more about the activities of the Liberian honorary consulate, click here.