April 12, 2015
Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my Thinking Thoughts yesterday, I considered the month of April and how the 12th and the 14th remain memorable but notorious historical signposts to the existence of Liberia. I also considered how those events were either supposedly ushered or initiated by compatriots who at the time called themselves “Progressives” By a rude awakening, I realized the so-called progressives have suddenly disappeared at a time when they are most needed; when the education sector which groomed and nurtured them is failing; when student performance has declined; when gross mismanagement of education has become a given; when the education sector has become a place where all and sundry in need of a job, without the requisite experience and qualification, can be dumped to lead; at a time when blind eyes are being paid to the vices, miseries and woes of this formerly revered sector.
I asked myself, “If these people were progressives in the true sense of the word, why are they suddenly silent in all this noise? Are they progressives only for political power issues? Don’t they know that a silent progressive is an oxymoron? (Timid-lion; girl-boy; ugly-fine female; rued-polite leader; scary-politician) Lord have mercy that it is not the case!! “
An oxymoron is a phrase in which two words of contradictory meanings are used together for special effects, for example, “ a noisy silence(how can silence be noisy?)”, “a wise fool”, “losing winner”, “vanquished victor”, “poor rich country” or “cowardice progressive”, “transparent corrupt officials”, “acceptable unqualified educator”
So-called Liberian Progressives of April 14 1979
I remember April 14, 1979 vividly for I participated fully in the events that led to the breakdown of law and order. Additionally, after several audacious rallies by the progressive alliance of Liberia (PAL) around Monrovia, we usually gathered at PAL’s office on Gurley Street listening to Oscar Quiah and other so-called progressives spew fiery speeches against the Tolbert Government. On this day, Police Commander Joe Dalmeida stormed the rally with tear gas and sent us running with our tails in our behinds through the graveyard to Rally Time Market garbage to wash our red eyes with potato greens.
Sequel to those events, PAL’s well-intentioned April 14 demonstration transformed into loss of lives, a looting spree and destruction of properties; it was on Broad Street at the former Bata Shoes Store where I saw human intestine gushing out of somebody for the first time (a looter). Comrade Baccus Matthews was consequently arrested and the political tide receded but remained impregnated. While April 14, 1979 may have seemed to be quelled or failed, the population had become conscious that indeed “power is indeed inherent in the people”
So-Called Liberian Progressives of April 12, 1980
Well, it was a common view and may still be that the advocacy of the so-called progressives was a major factor to the April 1980 coup.
When President Samuel K. Doe overthrew President Tolbert and was announcing the dawn of a new day, the fight against corruption and Quality Education for All, he was flanked by the progressives: the late G. Baccus Matthews, Togba Nah Tipoteh, and George Boley et al, unfortunately, the progressives later donned military regalia and became colonels. Yes Sir, Sir, I will be subjected to your orders although I am a progressive!! (Oxymoron?)
Now, the progressives as we knew them in Liberia were people who were supposed to rise up and stand out for other people who could not stand; to be the voice of the voiceless, and to be the conscience of society and good governance; or the Johns in the wilderness.
Three kinds of progressives in Liberian history are hence identifiable according to the period during which they operated. The Grand Progressives were the audacious or over confident bunch, the Neo-Progressives were followers or converts of the Grand Progressives, and the Emergent Progressives are current day youth who are easily silenced by catering to their immediate temporary non-essential needs.
So-called Progressives’ Noisy Silence over Education
I recall during our days how we advocated and screamed at Government of Liberia to provide comparable and equal education to both public and private schools. The profound presence of highly qualified teacher in our classrooms leading to impressive academic performance in the National Exams and UL entrance, and the strong competition between public and private schools were fruits of our advocacy. When the government owned Tubman High met St. Patrick’s or CWA, in the “Meet the Challenge Academic Contests” one could hardly tell who had the better education. We demonstrated learning, “neck to neck” until our private school colleagues went down on their knees. Rumors have it that the Catholic school students usually attended special mass with their priests each time they were scheduled to meet the public school that was Tubman High.
Unfortunately, the so-called progressives (Grand, neo and emergent) are still around but have suddenly become quiet over the declining education sector. Before I am remiss, the progressives are still intervening but only in issues in which they believe they are direct stakeholders.
For example, Comrade Kofi Woods intervened in the stand-off between Catholic School teachers and the secretariat simply because he is a Catholic, while other education issues await his intervention. Comrade Tiawon Gongolo resigned from government due to personal or political reasons but has not uttered much about the ailing education sector. What happened to Dusty Wolokollie, Alaric Tokpa, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh and Dr. Sawyer, our role models of those days? Where is the erudite, savvy, out-spoken Economist progressive Samuel Polypheus Jackson?
Today, it appears apparent that the craftsmen and successors of this legacy of progressive activism in Liberia have taken a furlough or simply been appeased and settled down with the very situations for which they sought change. If the latter is the case, wouldn’t that be an oxymoron and patriotic sham? Where are all of the progressives? Why are they suddenly silent and not talking anymore? I intuit they are speaking inside their hearts and not speaking out, and that is a “noisy silence” because I can clearly hear their hearts beating and speaking every second of their lives with guilt, while their mouths are shut.
A progressive should not only be for political change advocacy, but also an advocacy that proposes respect for third generation human rights paramount of which is Education. Asking progressives to rise up does not mean the creation of a vicious situation or one marked by violence; it simply means, participating in the efforts to improve our education sector; it means making a speech about education; it means engaging in healthy dialogues and conversations over the status of education; it means supporting a bill to improve education and move it from its current traditional, archaic, rudimentary ways of management to a more contemporary learning and instructional delivery system.
As we retrospect April 12 & April 14, let us make sober reflections of our past and the role of productive advocacy. Why did we place our lives on the line to disrupt the peace of Liberia on April 14, 1979? Why did we remove President Tolbert on April 12, 1980? Wasn’t it to improve our economy and to ensure social justice and quality Education prevailed? Why then are we silent as the education sector continues to decline?
As we anticipate April 14, 2015, let us renew our vows and re-visit our pervious love: the love for quality education.
Dear compatriots, I have a hunch the progressives are not speaking out because their political future and livelihoods are at stake, but they are NOT silent. I can hear their hearts beating and speaking under their breasts and making the same noise they use to make on their campuses and in LINSU. Just that this time, it is a “Noisy Silence. They need to rise up and act or the events of April 12 and 14 will be insignificant and those of our compatriots who died in those struggles will not rest in peace. What an oxymoron!
I am simply thinking thoughts.
About the author
The Rivercess Village man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University. Blonkanjay Jackson is a candidate for the Doctor of Education (EdD). He formerly serving as Assistant Minister for Teacher Education and got dismissed on April 9, 2015. Blonkanjay can be contacted at 0886 681 315 or 0770 206 645; email: [email protected]