Imagine watching one of your dreams unfold and come true.  On May 5, 2012 I watched the “pomp and circumstance” of ABC University’s first graduating class since the civil war.   I was indeed a proud mother, since I had taught each one of the graduates at least one time and the education students multiple times.

Over 800 chairs had been set up in the arena for attendees.  I laughed and said, “There is no way that we would have that many people attending.”  Why was I so skeptical – for many reasons.  One is that the road to Yekepa is difficult to traverse and we were entering the rainy season.  Another reason is that most people do not have vehicles to drive.  You either walk, take a motorcycle, an overly crammed taxi, or ride on the top of an already loaded truck.  Besides, all of this takes money and many people have little money.  I knew that it would take most graduates’ family members a day or two just to reach Yekepa and then where would they stay?  How would they eat?  All odds were against so many people attending.

Families come to celebrate their loved one’s graduation.

Imagine my surprise when the people kept coming and pouring into the building. We had over 1,000 proud family members and friends attend.  We ran out of chairs.  People were standing in the back and overflowing to the outside.  It was a joyous occasion!

The arena was packed with family and friends.

I asked one of our graduates how she enjoyed the graduation.  She smiled as she told me that her daughter had said it was one of the best events that she had ever attended and that it wasn’t even too long.    I was a bit surprised by the last part of the statement, because it was 2 ½ hours long and I was about to have a heat stroke in my regalia.  Once again I was reminded that we Americans are quite impatient and do not suffer discomfort well.

Talking with Dr. Slawon who is Executive Director National Commission of Higher Education and Sharon Rechienbach a visiting professor. I was in my regalia for 4 hours and nothing like standing in the hot African sun with it on (notice I am still whining:-).

Perhaps this will help explain why families and friends were willing to travel so far under such tough conditions.  Having a bachelor’s degree in Liberia is indeed an accomplishment.  According to the 2009 report of the Assistant Minister of Gender and Development, of adults age 15-49 years old, only 18.9% of men and 7.7% of women have completed high school or higher.   So kudos to ABCU graduates who persevered and made it through the four years.  It was not easy because most of them had read few textbooks before they came to ABCU.  Yet once they were on campus, they were expected to read college level texts and do college level work.  Needless to say their freshmen year was extremely stressful as they tried to adjust!

How blessed I was to see their and my dream fulfilled as they walked across the stage and I was able to hand them their diplomas.

Against all odds – Zephaniah was a child soldier and now he is a leader in his community and is determined to make a positive difference in education.

Honorable Etmonia Tarpeh, the Minister of Education was the guest speaker. My education students were thrilled.

The Minister of Education talked about her traditional engagement to a high school teacher.  She did not want to be engaged nor married, so she talked her grandmother into first letting her go to university.  When she completed her university studies, she was able to break the traditional engagement and go her own way.  Madame Tarpeh challenged the audience to make education for females a priority.  She challenged the ABCU faculty to raise up teachers in a country that is desperate for qualified educators.  And she challenged the graduates to go forth and make a difference in the lives of their students.

Traditional Mano tribal singers present a number.

Many of the graduates, but not all, were from the Mano tribe. Though we do not focus on one tribe or another at ABCU,  it was important to blend the traditional with the modern.  So, we invited the traditional singers from the Mano tribe to present a song of thanksgiving.

It was indeed a joyous day.

And now drum roll please…may I present to you the ABCU’s graduating class of 2012!

The graduating class of 2012.

Praise to God for allowing me to be a part of such a wonderful event.