Liberian Students Mobilize to Advance Liberia’s Open Government Partnership Commitments
By: Ahmed Konneh, Co-founder of SMART Liberia and a student of the University of Liberia
Students Making a Real Transformation (SMART) Liberia, with funding from the Accountability Lab and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, have worked together over the last two months to implement “Update 8.”
Update 8 is an awareness campaign that encourages public institutions to regularly update their websites with fresh content (a component of the government of Liberia’s Open Government partnership action plan). The goal of this project is to allow the public make informed decisions and monitor the operations of various public institutions. As a student-led institution, SMART Liberia is focusing on the University of Liberia website.
Updated government websites are crucial to maintaining the trust of the Liberian population and allowing them to become an integral part of the governing process of their country. Through regularly updated websites, young people will begin to hold their leaders accountable and become more fully involved in the fight against corruption and mismanagement.
SMART Liberia, the main implementing partner, is a youth-led non-profit organization that delivers innovative youth-driven solutions to empower students and provide a support to them to improve their schools. With firmly planted roots in the student community, SMART Liberia has more than four years of experience in leading innovative and youth-centered change in Liberia. A co-founder, Marvin Tarawally, has interned with the Lab.
Update 8 was officially launched on November 09, 2015. Over the last three weeks, SMART Liberia has conducted training workshop in advocacy for over 35 university student leaders, made a video that shows the struggle of course registration, launched an online petition campaign and solicited signatures for petition to the University of Liberia’s administration. The online video has now reached over 25,000 views on Facebook.
The training workshop, held at the offices of the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU) focused on various methods and strategies used in advocacy. The student leaders in attendance came from the Society and Anthropology Students Association, Political Science Students Association, Stars of the University of Liberia, and LINSU.
Over the coming days, SMART Liberia will appear on four local radio stations to discuss Update 8. SMART intends to use the local media to remind the struggling students about the stress associated with the registration process and how there is a better way out, especially with the mushrooming technology in Africa and the entire world. With almost every major university in Africa going online, the radio shows will urge the students to challenge the status quo and seek an alternative to the difficulty associated with the registration process or even getting other basic information at the university by signing a petition to be presented to the administration.
A petition exercise is currently ongoing at the campuses at the university the Liberia. SMART Liberia volunteers along with members of other partner campus based organizations are leading this effort. Every student of the University is encouraged to sign either the online or the offline petition which be used to petition to the administration of the university to adopt a policy that will ensure the regular update of the University of Liberia’s website. This exercise will end with a grand ceremony where the president of the University will receive a petition from his students to begin work on updating the school’s websites.