“The educational crisis in Liberia is becoming a crisis for the entire economy, thus endangering our country’s ability for a brighter future. As such, there has to be critical awareness of our social reality through reflection and actions where we have observed that people nowadays use their connection to acquire higher positions rather than worth (value) the merit,” the president of Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC), Rev/Dr. Olu Q. Menjay has observed.
According to Dr. Menjay, a fundamental problem in the Liberian culture today is that too many people want to bypass the small assignments and are attracted right to the big jobs—jobs with the influence and prestige; jobs with huge budget and massive financial benefits.
Dr. Menjay is also the vice president of Baptist World Alliance and Principal/Chief Administrative officer, Ricks Institute and Assistant Professor at Mercer University, Macon Georgia, USA.
He spoke recently on the theme; “The Emergency for Relevant Education in Liberia,” when he delivered a keynote address at the 25th Commencement Convocation of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion University (AMEZU) held on their Vincent Town campus along the Bomi highway.
During the ceremony, inadequate sitting capacity compelled both the parents and some of the graduates to scramble for a single seat. This situation detracted graduates and most of their invited guests’ attention from the keynote address and other important parts of the program.
The 890 graduates have over the years studied and completed various academic disciplines including Management, Sociology, Accounting, Economics, Public Administration and or Religious Study, among others.
For Dr. Menjay, there is the need for the government to institute radical actions with urgency to bring back the merit system rather than relying on connectivity, “because we have no time to play around, else, we will die or the future of our existence as a country will be miserable.”
“We cannot build this country on incompetency or on weak footing; we cannot build our country from the top by strengthening only higher education, because we need to widen our definition of education—to see it as a process that starts before kindergarten and takes place outside of school as well as inside.”
The Baptist Prelate added that the essential value of education is to prepare today’s people to be not only tomorrow’s servants, “but also to be the caretakers of our environment, the tenders of our global relationships, the creator of our arts, and the innovators of enterprise.”
He believes that the key to bringing educational reform to reality in Liberia is allowing competition to thrive amongst the students and schools.
“Today, completion is not encouraged, because the competitive spirit that used to exist in our learning culture has been compromised by corrupt educational practices to include buying and selling of grades, nepotism, and laziness.”
According to him, Liberians are being driven more so by receiving certificates and degrees, and not on the ability to perform.
Nevertheless, Rev. Menjay recommended that incentives for performance must be encouraged among students and schools, where one should not be penalized for not doing well or achieving higher marks.
“Regardless of one’s background, tribe, county of origin, the political connection, economic status,” Rev. Menjay opined that one should be rewarded according to performance.
In his mind, the significance of merit-based system in the Liberian educational system has diminished, and in its place, people paved their way up by getting connected through other means, whereby successful societies in the world embraced competiveness.
“If we must advance to a brighter future in this country, we must create space for competition and merit-based rewards, politics must take a back seat when we select persons to lead our schools or our educational system. Competence, effectiveness, accountability, vision and energy should be the criteria,” Dr. Menjay suggested.
He said, Liberia must get away from compromising her educational standards and offerings for any gimmick (attention-grabber), but must strive for excellence.
The global economy now, he said, is first and foremost established on creative knowledge and technology, where critical thinking and problem-solving skills are paramount as are abilities to innovate and to collaborate with others.