Memory of Booker Washington Institute (BWI)

March 2015

On March 28, 2015, the Administration of the Booker Washington Institute finally conducted her postponed commencement for last academic year. The ebola virus outbreak caused the postponement when the Liberian Government ordered the closure of all schools as some of the means to reduce the farther spread of the virus; when the pronouncement was made at first, some of the students, teachers, and family members felt unhappy with the decision of the government, but when the number of ebola death increased daily with very small treatment centers in the country, more people across the country started commending the government’s farsightedness. The virus destroyed many lives in Kakata and Margibi Counties at large, especially when over twelfth nurses from the Government only Hospital, C.H. Rennie, died at the ELWA Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, Montserrado County. Some students of BWI also lost their lives. Sources say that six of the graduates lost their lives. What still remains debatable is that whether most of the people died from the virus or other sicknesses since many deaths took place outside ebola treatment units. Whatever the case, most people were happy again for the graduation; in-fact, the students, family members, teachers among others were seen cheerfully hugging each other. Everyone forgot that ebola was still in the country. The traditional women and cultural dancers were seen performing as usual, before the virus outbreak and everybody tried finding ways to look at the splendid performance; however, few people were also crying for the absence of those who died.

BWI President

The school graduated three hundred and thirty students (330) in various disciplines: Agriculture, Business Education, Drafting, General Building Trade, Automachanic, Home Economics among others. These students completed four years of study in both secondary education and vocational education and successfully passed the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Test.

The Booker Washington Institute was established as an Agricultural & Industrial Institute in 1929 in Kakata- 45 miles from Monrovia; In March 1929, a ground breaking ceremony was done on 1000 acres of Land the Liberian Government provided and the Phelps-Stokes foundation made an initial grant of $10,000 to start the process. The late president of the Republic of Liberia, Charles Dunbar Burgess King, was the one behind this establishment. History says that during an official visit to the United States of America in 1924, President King was asked by a reporter to name any thing of significance that he would like to take back to his country. He said, “If it were possible I would like to take Tuskegee Institute with me to Liberia.” As such the President meant he wished to have similar institute in Liberia. In 1924, the year in which President King visited the United States, Ms. Olivia Phelps-Stokes, an American Philanthropist expressed her desire to finance an educational institution somewhere in Africa to be names in honor of Booker T. Washington, embracing the educational philosophy of Booker T. Washington, that of educating the mind, heart and hands.

Happy Family Members performing the usual traditional dance outside BWI graduational Hall

Since the establishment, twenty-two persons have served as principals of the institution. The first person was Mr. James Longstreet Sibley and the current principal is Mr. Alexander Massey.

The institution has existed over 80 years and made great contributions to human development in Liberia. But, BWI was devastated by the long year of civil wars in Liberia. So, the school needs immense resources to rehabilitate its infrastructures and human capital to put it back on the map as before the war. Since it reopened in 1997, the school has been struggling to meet the many demands of the public with her small resources. Hence, the administration is calling on everyone who has love for education to help BWI keeps its memory of quality education in Liberia.

One of the graduates under the monument Booker T. Washington Himself