A call to the Pro-Poor Government of Liberia
By Foldestine Paye
Clearly, it is globally accepted that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) can play a major role in rendering quality education. Yet, in Liberia and in this digital dispensation, the delivery of primary, secondary, and tertiary education is not supported by ICT-based systems. We (Liberians) have without a doubt, acknowledged that our education system requires reforms and therefore, I use this article to urge our Government, to integrate ICTs in the education system as part of its efforts to bring reforms in that area.
It is generally acknowledged that the education system of Liberia is in dire need of reforms. Revitalizing the education sector through the adoption and integration of ICTs is indeed a viable option for social and economic growth in Liberia. Investing in ICT-driven education system requires considerable capital, vision, and political will on the part of Government. The question arises: Is the current government with its Pro-Poor Agenda willing to make such an investment to improve our education system?
Much has been said about the impact of education on poverty reduction, advancements in technology, improved healthcare, gender equality and empowerment and, sustainable development. Just as much has been said about Education’s impact on national development, so too has much been said about ICTs impact on the delivery of quality education delivery.
We have seen the impact on the internet, online education, student information systems (SIS), Computer-aided learning and testing, just to name a few, on the development of human capacity globally. This impact on human capacity has led to innovation, creativity, significant changes and advances in science and technology, thereby benefiting and improving our lives and way of living. With this in mind, we cannot continue or perpetuate an education system that is frozen in time or that has not undergone significant reforms since it was setup by the colonial ruler’s yesteryears.
I strongly believe that a reformed education system that integrates ICTs has the potential to catalyze and accelerate development of education in Liberia, to enable us achieve and build a strong human resource repository.
I am fully cognizant of the plethora of challenges that need to be addressed when planning ICT interventions in Liberia. Some of these challenges include, inadequate educational facilities, scarcity of ICT qualified educators, lack of infrastructure (Energy, terrestrial fiber, etc), lack of educational resources and contents, lack of ICT curriculum in high schools, with very few educational institutions in Liberia have Internet access, the lists goes on.
The Republic of Liberia is known to be the oldest African country blessed with a variety of natural resources. Yet, it lags behind in many areas. Other developing countries including our neighbors (Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Botswana, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, and Namibia) have succeeded in meeting many of the ICT-related challenges they faced. Although not successful on all fronts, they have, however, managed to respond to some of the increasing demands of modern education. Liberia cannot and should not continue to use its troubled history of dictatorship, persecution, wars, corruption and poverty, to justify its failure to adopt and deploy modern technological tools to improve its education system. There is still hope for Liberia, but we have to have the WILL.
The increasing use of ICTs in education has brought a major shift in pedagogical paradigm at all levels of education. We now hear about 21st century pedagogy in other countries, while we (Liberia) continue utilizing the traditional approaches at a time when the world has changed and continues to change. Traditional forms of teaching and learning should no more be utilized in our schools and should not be a part of our education reform process. There are endless possibilities with the integration of ICT in the education system, including improvement in the classroom teaching learning process and the creating of an environment that allows innovation and creativity.
ICTs have enhanced distance learning in this modern era and should not be taken for granted. By the Integration of ICT, the teaching community of Liberia will be able to reach remote areas and learners will be able to access quality learning environment from anywhere and at any time. It is important that teachers or trainers of Liberia should be made to adopt technology in their teaching styles and begin using the 21st centry teaching methods. Successful implementation of ICT to lead change is more about influencing and empowering teachers and supporting them in their engagement with students in learning rather than acquiring computer skills and obtaining software and equipment.
Indeed, access to ICTs can allow educators and students in any part of Liberia to share knowledge with the rest of the world and access resources which can enhance their learning experiences. Students (even the most disadvantaged including women and children) and teachers in Liberia with the help of ICT will then be able to compete internationally with their counterparts. It would be a major development in Liberia to see students in different parts of the country working together simultaneously, leveraging ICTs. Using web applications and collaboration tools can enable students in Bong County, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Nimba, and Grand Bassa, for example, to take the same courses from the same educator, share their experiences, and compare their notes, which is the beauty when ICT is intertwined with Education.
Recently, Ministry of Education hosted the National Education Summit in Kakata, Margibi County, under the theme: “Prioritizing Education, why should we care?” I felt passionate about the theme and as a young ICT champion of Liberia, I care about the inclusion of ICTs in the Education System of Liberia. I feel that the Government needs to implement numerous ICT in education initiatives, Including ICT training for teachers, rendering more science and technology scholarships to students, especially to women, girls and disadvantage people In Liberia. Moreover, the Government needs to provide connectivity and deploy ICT tools in the various high schools in Liberia for students to be current and connected. The Government also needs to create an environment to interconnect more Liberia’s institutions of higher Learning and link them to the global education and research networks and create a one-stop portal for education information. These initiatives can be used to transform and improve the delivery and quality of education in Liberia.
Finally! It appears that ICT use in education and economic growth are closely correlated. In today’s interconnected world, ICTs in education is increasingly playing important roles in boosting the economies of many developing countries. ICT has become a key driver in education, economics, politics, and culture around the world and Liberia is not excluded. Virtually all countries are investing in ICT in education today.
The Republic of Liberia is one of the few countries that have yet to benefit from ICT tools in education which is very saddening. Evidently, there are challenges to overcome before Liberia can effectively adopt and implement ICT in our education system. All education reforms initiatives in Liberia need to address the new ICT skills and tools required in today’s global economy. To be clear, computers into schools are not enough to impact student learning. A well-structured educational technology plan should exist to support Liberia’s education system. This can be done by major stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, and other stakeholders. I look forward to such an initiative as I continue to remain fanatically positive about the future of Liberia.
About the Author
Foldestine Paye is a Cyber Militia and a young Technology Advocate. He is the energetic President of Liberia Information Technology student’s union. He’s a graduating senior of Blue Crest University, studying computer science. You can contact him on [email protected] or 0775751153.