What continues to be seen as Liberia’s downward spiraling education system, has prompted the Speaker of the National Legislature, J. Alex Tyler to express deep concern about this national crisis. Yet Speaker Tyler is of the firm belief that it can and will get better.
According to him, in terms of attaining quality education, Liberia is nowhere. Yet he declared, “we have nowhere to go but up.”
Speaker Tyler made the observation recently when he delivered the keynote address at a program marking the launch of a scholarship scheme by Graduate Students Association of Liberia (GRASAL) held on the campus of Cuttington University Graduate School in Congo Town.
GRASAL comprises a group of students pursuing graduate degrees at the University of Liberia and Cuttingon University, the nation’s two oldest institutions of higher learning. The program was designed to raise funds to award fellowships to over 100 students whom the association believes face the risk of dropping out of school due to the financial crisis that hit most families following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD).
The graduate student organization has since the outbreak, observed that the Ebola virus affected the Liberian economy so badly that a good number of its citizens, some of them pursuing Master’s degrees, are unable to continue their education due to financial limitations.
GRASAL also believes that the strength and growth of the increasing number of universities and colleges across the country depend on the availability of more qualified Liberians with Master’s degrees.
The launch of the scholarship scheme was hosted under the theme, “Prioritizing Liberia’s Human Resource Development for Sustainable Growth.”
Speaker Tyler’s argument is primarily based on recent statistics released by the authorities of the University of Liberia (UL) and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC). The two bodies recently reported 100 % failure of candidates sitting the national and entrance exams.
The dismal performance of students who sat the WAEC (Liberia) exams reflected what William Shakespear called “a comedy of errors,” said the Speaker.
He recalled how under the administration of the former Education Minister, Dr. Joseph Z.D. Korto, the entire national examination had to be cancelled nationwide as a result of the “massive fraud and cheating discovered during the process.”
Referring to the human development index, a survey which looks at the educational rankings of 169 countries, the Speaker recalled that Liberia fell second from the bottom, below the Republics of Guinea, Sierra Leone and La Cote D’Ivoire.
“We are competing with Somalia for last place and we might just reach there if we continue along these lines,” he declared.
Considering all the negative statistics and analyses, Speaker Tyler ardently believes and sincerely entertains the hope that the prospects for graduate education in Liberia are promising, “because, graduate education, in his mind, is an imperative.”
He then challenged students pursuing post graduate education to see themselves above reproach, adding that “graduate studies put the fine-tuning on your schooling; it refines and hones your skills; it puts the finishing touches upon book-learning, and elevates you to a completely different level of engagement with your environment, your peers and your country.
“Yes, the prospects for graduate studies in Liberia are not merely possible, but indeed, probable.”
“But the challenges are also formidable, he declared, “and if anyone can, graduate students must rise and face the bully of ignorance, that has plucked out the nation’s hair, and now he stands in the middle of the street, daring anyone with the gall to cross the line from ignorance to education and enlightenment.”
Speaker Tyler urged the graduate students not to stop at the Master’s degree level, but to push further, aiming for the terminal degree (doctorate).
GRASAL is at present run by its acting chairman, Kusee L. Armstrong, the Acting secretary-general, Jonathan A. Wordsworth and the chairman on Scholarship Committee, Samuel Worzie.