Liberian high school students, according to keen observers, are optimistic during public examinations including the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the newly introduced West African Senior School Examination (WASSCE) exams not because they are well prepared to sit and pass the exams, but because they apparently believe in miracles — that success without preparation depends on luck.
Ever since former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2012 described EDUCATION in Liberia as a “Mess,” she did little to change it. The messy education system has continued until now, and Liberians have become accustomed to mass failures in public examinations; even though is a national disgrace that exposes the country to humiliation.
This national disgrace has played out again where 21,580 are failing out of 33,979 in an examination administered by the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). Well, it remains arguable who shares the highest blame for our educational ignominy (shame, disgrace, dishonor), yet we stand firmly fixed in the belief that the national government is responsible for this situation.
In some African countries including Zimbabwe, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, South Africa and Namibia on record for having good education systems; they have strong policies that encourage and promote academic excellence and discourage fraud and malpractices. For Liberia, there is no effective policy that will make academic malpractice an offense.
Many churches these days have a school as a component for business, and they often employ teachers who are not competent or even qualified to teach. What is the MOE’s standard for establishing a private school? Is it following its own policy, if any? It is common knowledge that textbooks and other essential materials provided by UN Agencies including the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for schools do not go to the public schools for which they are intended.
Rather, they are diverted to private institutions owned and operated by some of the very officials of the Ministry of EDUCATION. For instance, the 1 million books former US President George Bush promised on his last visit here reportedly came, but they can scarcely be found in public schools across the country.
In many public and private schools in the country, relevant courses including Physics, Chemistry and Biology are not taught there, and if there were anyone teaching any of these courses, the person would more likely than not be a holder of an Associate’s degree or a high school graduate.
Moreover, we have reliably gathered that in some cases teachers are given assignments in the remotest parts because they failed to give a portion of their salaries to District Education Officers. There was such an instance where a county education officer was seen and heard warning a school principal in 2015 in Ganta, Nimba County, that upon return his two goats and gallons of gasoline should be available or else!
The problems facing education in our country need urgent attention. We believe they need urgent attention not only because education is a foundation for improvement and prosperity for an individual, but it is vital to the future of any nation. Let us look at a classical example of the impact of education in the African country of Zimbabwe.
At independence, Zimbabwe could boast of not more than five university graduates but today Zimbabwe ranks among countries with the highest literacy rate in Africa. Why this reference? It is meant to remind Liberians that any society with determination and commitment can succeed in breaking the chains of illiteracy and ignorance which have kept our people in a virtual state of bondage over the years.
Let the Weah Administration do what his predecessor failed to do — that is, to revamp and improve the national education system through teacher training, the provision of more schools, adequate supply of learning materials including libraries and laboratories and, above all, decent living wages for teachers. With this, we believe government can assure the future of coming generations.