A Statement Issued by Varney Jarsey
President of LINSU
April 14, 2015
William R. Tolbert, Jr.
Fellow student militants and cadres across the Republic,
Market women, street vendors, farmers and all laborers striving to keep the breath of Liberia,
Members of the Press,
Citizens of our Alma Mata, the Republic of Liberia
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen:
We assemble here peacefully today, in humble remembrance of the historic bravery of the masses of the people to march out of cowardice in defense of the sacred heritage of the Republic of Liberia against the prolonged, oligarchic and barbaric rule of the True Whig Party on this day in 1979.
Many would ask: Why is it significant to commemorate this day? Others will wonder how this day is so relevant to the memory of the National Student Union and why we should always take lead in commemorating it. The answers to these pondering questions have been answered so many times both by senior members of the progressive class and those of the Student Movement. But it is only those on the other side of the barricades- those who were the oppressors of the masses of the people will play blind to the historical relevancy of this day. These are the elements that are commemorating their backward and failed True Whig regime.
Let the fact be established that historical verdict is not render based on neutrality; one renders judgment based on where one stands on the continuum of critical historical issues. The National Students Movement, with its historical revolutionary credentials since its establishment in 1952, has stood in the vanguard against social injustices and backwardness imposed on the masses by micro-nationalists of the ruling clique. This tendency remains our defining trait up to today.
The death of some of our finest cadres is a living testament to our revolutionary existence and our ever resounding victory in the struggle for democracy and prosperity in Liberia. Today, the surviving few are carrying on them the bruises of the tyrant’s whip and the rancid odor of the dingy jail cells. With this memory, we who have inherited the struggle which was begun and passed on to us by our forbearers must continue to submit to the historical mandate, take on the emblems of liberty tainted with the blood and sweat of revolutionaries, and march on to the barricades to continue the struggle, never surrounding.
On this historic day, we recollect the emergence of LINSU since its founding in 1952 and its historical role play up till today. We remember how, at birth, the Student Movement was faced with the great controversy that had it origin in the class struggle and quest for political dominance by backward elites under the name of True Whigans whose actions paved the way for the dismal state of affairs as we have today. It was a time when the Tubman regime, remembered for its undemocratic tenancies of policing the state to crack down on criticisms from the press and opposition, had gone twenty seven years in what would be recorded as the longest and most controversial rule in Liberia’s history. It was a time when the struggle for the liberation of Africa was in its prime and the consciousness of the Liberian masses was awakening from the abyss it had been subjected to by the suppressors’ of liberty and justice. Thus the coming of the Student Movement provided the platform to zoom out this consciousness and extend it across the Liberian landscape so as to get the nation on the rightful trajectory of national integration, recovery, and development.
Today we also recall the establishment in 1970 and joining to the Student Movement of the Vanguard Student Unification Party of the University of Liberia to battle against sons and daughters of backward decedents of freed slaves who taught education was only for their race.
Noteworthy, the 1970s saw the few educated sons of the masses, those who understood the readings of the evolution of history and the prevailing circumstances of the day, returning from abroad and taking to the class rooms to educate and open the eyes of the masses to the historical dynamic. Although they were some of the most educated in the republic, these men of virtues refused to side with the elite to wine and dine in the pleasure that all historical calculations suggested had fermented and would soon be ended.
These men, who soon became known by the revolutionary name of Progressives, understood that the suffering of the people was a result of the narrowness of the elite in power to understand that the forward mobility of the country needed to be in the context of the African liberation movement; hence, it was eminent to abandon tenancies that characterized oppression, corruption, and disunity. Thus, the merger between the Student Movement and these senior members of the progressives was firmly established on the basis of share ideology and quest for social justice and academic freedom.
This merger of the conscious student masses and the senior progressives sent tremors down the spine of the oligarchs as the consciousness began to go down to the slum communities and villages where the students hailed from. The battle to open the democratic space was hard on the regime and criticism on the operation of the entire governance machinery became high. It was on this fateful day in April 1979 when the masses of the people came out in the streets to protest against the regime of the wretchedness and hash cost of living of their parents, the True Whig Party regime responded with violence, thereby introducing the gun and killing more than 150 people many of whom were students.
Today, fellow Liberians, as we commemorate this day, the Liberia National Student Union is challenged and see it most deserving to share light on some contradictions that are stalling the progress of the state, in keeping with its historical mandate to standing on the side of marginalized, spreading consciousness amongst the masses and providing alternative direction for national development and growth.
At this time in our nation’s historical journey from the path of decadence to that of gladden prosperity, it cannot be disputed that education is the foremost vehicle in driving this wheel. The transformation of any society is heavily dependent on the level of education of its people. The advancement in science and technology should cause every country to shift its educational paradigms to this changing dynamics.
Unfortunately, the truths of the above have not been manifested in our educational system. The Republic of Liberia is sadly crawling behind its contemporaries in pursuing quality and affordable education for its students. In this scientific and scholarly age, the Liberian student does not understand what modern laboratories and libraries are. He sits in jammed classes under the tutelage of instructors, many of whom are unqualified. He graduates and can barely compete with his counterparts in the job market where merits are the order of the day. This affliction in our educational system is truly a mess and is even worst in rural quarters of the Republic.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
To you Madam President and your regime, the Liberia National Students Union remains ever unbending in its quest for academic freedom, social justice and peace. Madam President we are aware that history is swinging across starling events of your regime and two years to the expiration of your regime is no time to continue to delay why the educational system lies in total paralyses. The pronouncement by you that the educational system is a mess and that your government is working out modalities to revert the situation is so far a mere bluff. If you think there is progress made in the educational system, we want to challenge all officials of government from you, the Vice president and members of your cabinet, the Speaker, Protempore and members of the National legislature, the Chief Justices, Associate justices and members of the Judiciary and all other government officials to now take practical steps to send your children and grandchildren to public schools. It is only in this way that you will get to know and feel the decency or indecency of the learning condition of other children. This, we believe, is the perfect solution to solving the educational problems of the state because you will not stand the many complaints from your children and grandchildren and will be moved to act.
The National Student Union has been alerted to a pathetic situation in Grand Kru County. Students have been without teachers for more than 30 days in the categories of mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. Prior to this, they were helped by so called contractors, street passers or helpers. This situation needs serious attention as it is detrimental to the learning of students affected and may keep them short to be on course with other students around the country. Even though education is a mess, these students cannot acquire the mess. We cannot afford to have such a dismal situation in our educational sector if we must transform this country.
Fellow Liberians, the forward march of Liberia is determined by the unity of all its citizens without bigotry to tribe, social status and religion. This Republic is the great melting pot of people from all works of life and the upholding of this is paramount.
Against the foregoing, we the leaders of the National Students Movement, the historical bedrock of consciousness, have deemed it necessary to take our side in the controversy regarding the Christianization of Liberia or not. We put seriousness to this issue because the safety or destruction of the Republic depends on whatever decision comes out. Thus, our side as students of Liberia must always be what it has and ought to be: The side of liberty and justice for all.
The proponents of Christianizing Liberia by legislation are claiming to restore the country to status quo ante. Let us assume that Liberia was a Christian nation. The nagging question to answer is: Is the action expedient and consistent with the principle of justice and equality before the law? On the analyses of this question rests the basis of the side we think it is most prudent to take.
It is obvious that the Republic of Liberia (the first three counties) was founded by former slaves who became known as Americo-Liberians or settlers. It is indisputable to assert that they were Christians. We should understand the historical fact that the expansion into the hinterland integrated the indigenous tribes and religious traditionalists as well as Muslims. As citizens it became obvious that these indigenous Liberians share the same equality with the Americo-Liberians. Thus, the 1986 constitution of the Second Republic firmly established this, especially on the basis of separation of state and religion.
The noteworthy contradiction in the entire issue is this: Those who want to reclaim the nation Christian’s status; however, will, till death, not support a restoration to an Americo-Liberia or settlers state even though this was the initial state of the republic at its establishment.
Taking these into consideration, the National Students Union sees a secular state as the best option for a nation whose people are derived from several ethnic, racial and religious background. The beauty of democracy is that it is based on unity in diversity. It is thus obvious that making the republic a Christian nation would negate the true tenants of democracy that many have struggled to protect. We believe that democracy is not only about the majority but it also protects the minority. We hold to the belief that “those who deny others of freedom deserve it not for themselves, and under the rule of a just, will not long retain it.”
The Liberian National Students Union comprises of students of diverse religious backgrounds. The coexistence so far has been rewarding. We cannot afford to have such a situation where others will be seen as lesser in their own country. We therefore maintain that this nation should and ought to remain a secular state.
Some weeks ago, the Constitutional Review Committee convened a conference in Bong County to deliberate on various propositions. The Liberia National Student Union wants to make it clear that her presence was not adequately felt as the CRC members brought in their children to represent the student community. This even contributed to reasons why the proposition to Christianizing Liberia was voted for. This is a serious problem in our country that must come to an end.
To you our fellow students, young comrades and cadres, especially those in the remotest villages and towns across the republic of Liberia, we are aware of the worst conditions under which you are learning: The makeshift structures and total backward learning environment. We are aware that you are learning only through imagination. We understand the pain you are going through to acquire education for a better future when many of your privileged friends are going abroad to advance themselves in education in order to be at advantage in getting the best jobs. We are aware that the poor quality of education you are acquiring will hamper your dreams and ability of becoming future leaders.
Fellow students, all hope is not yet lost. We challenge you to make it the ultimate sacrifice to go to those makeshift structures and make use of every opportunity to educate yourselves through the rightful means. We also challenge you to go beyond the class rooms, whether by doing constant reading of various literatures or by attending public lectures, forums and seminars. We are calling on you not to abandon your quest for education, regardless of the strife you will have to bear. We believe that your consciousness of pursuing a progressive nation will serve as a lamp to your feet in this dark path.
To you men and women of the progressive class, we salute you for your struggle over the years: the breaking down of the decadent and moribund True Whig Party, a party of 133 years rule of suppression and oppression of the masses of the people through its refusal to allow the people to be educated and join the governance machinery. During the 133 years rule where a few conservatives sat in the headquarters of the True Whig Party and decided the fate of the whole nation, it was you, members of the progressive class, who stood in rejection and demanded that the democratic space be opened and allowed the people to participate in the governance process of the state. When people of certain names were the only ones given access to attend the University of Liberia, again it was you who shoke the pillars and vibrated the system by saying a resounding no and requested that the masses’ children have the same right to education. When tail coats and bollah hats were the official dress code for state occasion, it was you again, members of the progressive class, who lifted high the African dignity and culture by walking in the gowns and lappers of our indigenous people.
Why it is true we admonish your tremendous role in strengthening the democracy of Liberia, it is our sincere disdain and outmost frustration that the division among you is not helpful at all and is major reason for the leadership gap of the state and its backward state of affairs. Remember that when good men stand aside and do nothing, evil men prevail. It is in this light that we challenge all of you to begin looking toward the solidification of your bonds for the betterment of our country and people.
Today, we still have major challenges. In the midst of abundant resources, we still languish in abject poverty with thousands of people finding their way out in the diaspora in search of greener pasture. But we have come to the realization that the problem of the country is the leadership. There is complete moral and patriotic breakdown in the Liberian leadership. The love for self has overtaken the love for country. You, the Progressives, along with us, must continue to confront these issues and at the same time prepare ourselves to take on the mantle soon.
To you the people of Liberia listen to us. We are your children, your brothers and sisters. We are passionate about this nation. We have travelled the world and have seen how nations are progressing. We have seen great leaders and how they are developing their nations. We are convinced that one day the development of our nation will rise like a desert storm where we will be able to account for every Liberian citizen around the world, where our educational system will be second to none in Africa that every child will have access to decent education and better livelihood, where our homes shall flourish with food, and every Liberian and non-Liberian will see this country as a place for decent living. When this day comes, respect for one another will be the order of the day, prostitutes will be turned into modern nurses, and drug addicts will be rehabilitated and their lives will be transformed as they will be reconnected with their families and join the crusade for nation building and many more.
But these can only be realized if you the people can think out of the box this time around. We can only reach that juncture when credibility, nationalism and experience are the major credentials that convince us to vote our leaders. Your vote, which is the instrument of decision making, must be used wisely. The next two years will determine the future of this country. During the period of electioneering, let us stop taking it as a time of merrymaking but rather see it as a moment of deep reflection.
The democracy which you enjoy today was fought for by men and women who have paid with their sweat and blood many years ago. By their committed confrontation of tyranny, many are lying in martyrdom -peace be to their ashes.
As we commemorate this day, fellow Liberians, let us be ever reminded by ultimate price paid by those who fought to make our country better. Let us take on the emblems of liberty and justice which they passed on to us and move on to the barricades to defend our beloved Republic.
We salute you for your courage as a people to keep the faith despite the many problems.
Long Live the National Students Union of Liberia.
Long live the workers, students, marketers, carpenters and all people of the Republic of Liberia.
I thank you.