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Liberia College- presently called the University of Liberia

Despite its problems, Liberia did manage to make minimal progress in some areas. The Liberia College was established in 1851 by the government, becoming the first institution of higher learning in the country, and the second oldest college in West Africa. Financing was provided by the governmental organization Trustees of Donations for Education, which received money from private societies and individuals in America. The endeavor was led by Simon Greenleaf, a professor of law from Harvard College. The man was already a familiar individual to both the American and Liberian governments, as he had also helped in the drafting of the Liberian Constitution. With the establishment of the college, it was agreed that President Joseph Jenkins Roberts would become president not only of the country, but also of the school. When the school finally opened for classes in 1863, it had three teachers and seven students. However, the coming years would be long ones for Liberia College, and ultimately its history would parallel that of the country it served.

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Through its long history, the Liberia College saw many successes and more defeats. Though it boasted of few graduates in comparison with its total student enrollment, many of those who did graduate went on to play a vital role in the country, often becoming leaders in the government.

Edward Wilmot Blyden was born in the Virgin Islands, arriving in Liberia soon after its founding. Before long, he was deeply drawn into various areas of government development. Highly intelligent, Blyden played many roles, including statesman, journalist, diplomat, scholar, and even theologian. He poured his energies into writing and editing several pieces, particularly A Voice from Bleeding Africa and the Liberia Herald, as well as presenting himself in various roles of politics and diplomacy. This memorable man was one of the founding teachers in the Liberia College, teaching classics from 1862 until 1871 and later becoming its president for a short period lasting four years.

The years during and after World War II saw a significant turn in the history of Liberia College. Having been privately operated and funded since its founding, the college was now taken into the control of the government, which in 1851 established the school as a university. Previously the institution had hosted courses for theology and politics, new curriculum was now added which allowed for the studies and research of medicine, science, and other fields of study.

The fate of the college was tied to that of Liberia; on many occasions, the lasting existence of both was questioned as the country’s stability dissolved into multiple civil wars and skirmishes. Multiple times the institution was forced to close its doors as civil strife threatened to destroy it completely, and during the Liberian Civil War much of it, including both facilities and materials, was looted and vandalized.

In recent years, however, Liberia College, now the University of Liberia, has seen improvement by leaps and bounds. Many of the facilities were restored and courses added, and recently student enrolment was numbered at an estimate of 18,000, far more than had ever been counted in the history of the college.

Copyright villageofbuchanan.org 2008