A group of Liberian students pursuing courses in various academic disciplines in Bamako, the Republic of Mali, have expressesd concern about their prospects for gaining employment back home in Liberia upon the completion of their studies.
The students’ academic status range from primary and secondary school levels up to under and post-graduate studies.
The group’s spokesman, Modibo Diakitie, is a university student in accounting, while his colleague, Mustaphy Sidikie, is majoring in electrical engineering. Both of them have the desire to return to Liberia and contribute to the growth and development of the country. Their major concern is whether they will gain employment or not when they return.
Ms. Saboe Diakitie is a nursing student now doing her internship at Hospital Adaco in Bamako. Her only worry is to return to Liberia and find employment with any of the government-run health facilities.
Natalie Diarra, is another student attending high school in Bamako. She told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview in Jegroni Parap that her focus is to pursue a university degree in road building.
“Thereafter, I want to return to Liberia and contribute to the rebuildingof my mother’s country.”
The number of Liberian students in that part of West Africa is small. But all of them dream of returning to Liberia to seek for employment upon the completion of their respective studies.
Whether they will realize their dream or not, the answer will come when they have completed their studies and come back home to liaise with either the ministries of Public Works, Health or Education.
One disadvantage that may restrain them should they graduate and return to Liberia may be the issue of citizenship. All of them are living with their adopted parents or are either born to Liberian mothers.
With that in mind, their focus for now is to complete their respective studies and return to Liberia.
Education in Mali
Public education in Mali is, in principle, free and compulsory for nine years between the ages of 7 and 16. The system covers six years of primary education beginning at age seven, followed by six years of secondary education, generally divided into two three-year cycles which, said Modibo, some of the students have completed.
He said Mali’s primary school enrollment rate is low, to a large extent “because families are unable to cover the cost of uniforms, books, supplies, and fees required to attend public school. Thanks to our parents for providing the cost of our education, at least to complete the primary level,” Modibo added.
Students in Mali pay no tuition fees, but private secondary and vocational schools may charge US$600 a year (in Bamako, 2008), in a nation where the average yearly salary was US$500 in 2007, according to the World Bank
Mali has one of the highest adult illiteracy rates in the world with 52 percent of the male and 66.8 percent of the female being illiterate.
Education is free and compulsory for all children between 7 and 16 years old. Only 71 percent of the boys and 51 percent girls are enrolled in high school as families were unable to afford uniforms, books or school supplies.
The lack of schools in rural areas and qualified teachers are major problems of Mali’s educational system.
In 2010 and up to present, the government estimates that 35 percent of the children graduating from primary school will not meet the secondary school requirements. The gender inequality is significant particularly in rural areas. Public schools are free, but private secondary and vocational schooling can go up to US$500 a year, which is the average annual salary in Mali. It is the basis for increasing inequalities between the rich and poor.
“What needs to be done is reform the educational system to develop a relevant publicly supported curriculum,” a school teacher has suggested.
On the donor side, it is imperative to increase the quality of education by training more teachers and revising the programs. Decentralizing education seems to be the best approach to reach the diverse communities and tackle regional inequalities.
The involvement of the civil society tends to bring a higher enrollment of children and limit corruption. It also ensures teaching more adapted to the pupils especially in the case of Mali that has such a great diversity of tribes and cultures.
A system of tutoring and help group practice using older students as tutors could be tested on the model of the traditional functioning patterns of village communities. Ultimately school should become compulsory for all children to give equal chances to all in life.
On the demand side, it is needed to create enough incentive and adopt cost-efficient strategies to increase attendance. Offering free uniforms, lunch at school and primary health care such as vaccines or deworming medicines have a double impact, increasing attendance as well as improving nutrition and health of the students.
To tackle the gender inequity, bringing women teachers in the scholar system increases girls’ enrollment as well as the number of girl students graduating. Scholarship for girls to continue their studies will also help to reduce the gender gap and create an incentive for families to send the girls to school. Teaching in the dialect of the region also dramatically increases the results in school. It ensures a better quality of teaching and response from the students.
Higher education needs to be taught to ensure integration of the student into the economical context of Mali. Vocational training offers different tracks to address the diversity of students. Exchange and partnership with other universities in Africa and worldwide can increase the quality of education and bring new approaches to development. It is the occasion to design innovative solutions using local resources with a better understanding of the country’s problems and culture.
The content of education is an age-old concern as it will shape the society of tomorrow, but is often overlooked. Basic health care, sanitation, sexual education and prevention and nutrition are essential knowledge that has to be spread at an early age. It is also primary to spread environment consciousness and a better understanding of the importance of biodiversity as it is the next generation who will have to deal with the worsening consequences of human activities. The concept of sustainability and ecologically responsible development is central. Finally it is essential to center education around Malian history and culture to ensure a strong identity as colonialism has left a bitter taste in West Africa. Having a strong identity rooted at the heart of Malian culture will provide the cornerstone to a self defined development path.
“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.”