MONROVIA, Liberia -- A teenager in Liberia who has become a national hero after finding $50,000 and returning it to its rightful owner said he will meet the country's president next week.
Emmanuel Tuloe told The Associated Press Friday that he has been invited to meet President George Weah on Monday.
“I’m set to go see the president and when I meet him I will talk to him about my education," the 18-year-old said. "I will tell him I want back to go back to school.”
Tuloe dropped out of school in the seventh grade to run a taxi service with his motorcycle to make money to help his family, he said.
“I will ask him to encourage other young people to leave motorcycling and go to school because there’s nothing in it ( the motorcycle taxi business),” he said.
Tuloe's father confirmed the meeting with Weah, saying an official from the president’s office had called to offer the invitation.
Tuloe was driving his motorcycle taxi on a highway on Tuesday when he saw a bunch of money wrapped in a plastic bag that had dropped unnoticed, he told AP.
“I was afraid because it was plenty (of money) and so I brought it home and gave it to my aunty to keep until the owner could ask for it," he said.
That day, Musu Yancy, the businesswoman who had lost the money, went on the radio “crying for her money and appealing to anyone finding it,” he said. So he took it to her.
The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission commended Tuloe for returning the cash.
Tuloe said that while many Liberians are praising his actions, others including some friends, are mocking him for doing what is unusual in Liberia, where many are mired in poverty as the country slowly recovers from lengthy back-to-back civil wars.
“Since my decision, when I have a breakdown on the highway and some of my rider friends see me, they don’t help. They say I acted stupid to find and return money,” he told AP from his hometown of Gbolor Dialla on the border with Ivory Coast.
“They tell me I will never get rich in my lifetime," he said. "They say because I returned such an amount of money, I will live and die poor.”
He said he’s also received threats for his actions. “I need to protect myself,” he said.
But Tuloe strongly defends his honesty, advising others to return money, cellphones or other items they may find.
“If the owner asks, they should return it because we don’t know the future,” he said.
The businesswoman rewarded Tuloe with cash and materials worth about $1,500, he said.
He will share the reward with some of those who were traveling with him on his motorbike, he said.
“But the mattress I got will be given to my grandma,” he said firmly.