Monrovia, Liberia | Emmanuel Gamoe Kla George

Local Seventh-day Adventist Church officials in West Africa held a groundbreaking ceremony last month for the construction of an Adventist university in Liberia, the first denominational tertiary institution in the nation and the fourth in the church’s West-Central Africa Division.

The school will be called Adventist University of West Africa, so named for its location within the denomination’s West African Union Mission, with headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. The construction site is located on 100 acres of land in Gbeh Town in Margibi County.

When completed, the school will initially launch as a junior college and offer two-year associate degrees in education, business, nursing and theology.

Government officials have previously commended the Adventist Church for its contribution to education in the nation. The church there operates several elementary and secondary schools, including the country’s only boarding school.

The development of a university there marks the church’s first tertiary education offering in Liberia, and church officials hope to contribute to national development following periods of civil war.

Shelton Beedoe, acting president of the Adventist University of West Africa, was quoted in a local newspaper, The Inquirer, as saying the university would offer a “new dynamism” to the educational sector of Liberia and that the university will make a difference amongst other universities in the nation.

Liberia’s director of the Commission of Higher Education said the Adventist Church’s development of a university was “long overdue” since the beginning of Adventist work in the country 83 years ago.

The commissioner also said the endeavor supports the government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy in the area of manpower development.

Liberian and Adventist leaders attended the March 27 ceremony, including the assistant minister of operation of the Ministry of Public Works, members of the National Legislature, and J. A. Kayode Makinde, president of the church’s Babcock University in Nigeria.

According to The Inquirer, Makinde said, “AUWA needs to grow so as to meet the educational needs of Africa to reduce the illiteracy rate and reduce the poverty rate around the continent.”

The Inquirer described Makinde as saying Africa cannot progress without education, and that Africans must mobilize their resources to ensure that they control their own destiny.

During the ceremony, a representative of the denomination’s Columbia Union Conference presented a $50,000 check to the construction project. Columbia Union is the administrative unit of the Adventist Church in the Eastern Mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

The establishment of the university dates back to 2003, when Liberia’s legislature granted a university charter to the Adventist Church’s Liberia Mission. But the project was delayed by civil skirmishes and the lack of a permit from the Commission on Higher Education. The permit was later granted in 2010 and the Liberia Mission acquired land for the project.

The school will be the 18th Adventist university in Africa. The Adventist Church currently operates 112 tertiary institutions worldwide.

Liberia is home to some 3.8 million people, about 26,000 of whom are Adventist Church members, according to local records.

—additional reporting by Ansel Oliver