Liberia, a West African nation founded in the 1820s by freed slaves and free African-Americans, had experienced years of civil war, which culminated in the exile of its then-President in 2003, followed by two years of transitional government. The more than 13 years of civil war had decimated the country’s economy and infrastructure, and most colleges and training institutes had closed, or had seen their programs operate at decreased capacity. Patrick McCallum was invited to Liberia by a U.S. Army Colonel working under the auspices of the United Nations who felt the U.N.’s almost exclusive focus on security had created a big gap, and that someone needed to come in and help provide some direction on where to go with the nation’s higher education system. Patrick had lived in Liberia in the mid-1960s when his father worked on an aid project to rebuild the science department at the University of Liberia, so Patrick welcomed the invitation to return to Liberia.
Challenges & Opportunities:
- Extremely high unemployment/poverty.
- Most colleges and training institutes had closed during civil war.
- Infrastructure, particularly in and around Monrovia’s University of Liberia, had been destroyed by civil war.
- Many educated individuals left country during civil war and have not returned.
- Patrick McCallum’s efforts were not part of the officially sanctioned United Nation’s Mission in Liberia, so he had to be very circumspect about his contacts and advice.
- Educators were eager for assistance.
- Wrote document discussing horrendous lack of higher education resources.
- Convinced U.S. colleges and universities, including Harvard, to send thousands of books and some computers to Liberia.
- Created relationships with U.S. colleges to send visiting faculty members to work in different departments of the University of Liberia.
- Liberian educational officials arranged a series of meetings with representatives of educational institutions. Patrick met with the University of Liberia President, staff, faculty and students. He also met with representatives of a high school and private vocational college. Finally, he met with staff from the United Nations, European community, and U.S. Embassy.
- Patrick provided a truncated version of what he would generally do in a strategic planning session.
- Patrick’s recommendations included providing books and tools to the university and a system to make sure the books and other tools got to the students who needed them.
- Because Liberia’s K-12 teachers have little training, Patrick worked with the California State University and tried to get the U.S. Congress to fund sending a team of K-12 experts over to Liberia to run a two-week intensive training program for their K-12 teachers.
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