Fifteen year-old Ruth is very optimistic about school, despite the fact that her mother hardly has any sufficient financial support to assist her with the necessities that can get her through a school day.
Every morning, Ruth has to do her daily chores of sweeping her yard, wash dishes and wash a few dirty clothes before finally preparing for school on an empty stomach. By 8:00am, she walks with a few of her schoolmates to the Saint Paul River, twenty minutes from her house. There waiting is an old and unsafe canoe that crosses up to 14 students per trip over to Caldwell, where Ruth attends school.
“On a few occasions the canoe ride can be very dangerous, but this is my only means of transportation to school every day. It usually takes me about one hour to cross the river and walk to school every day except when it’s raining, it takes longer. If I mind this one, I will not want to attend school,” Ruth added.
‘We Need To Look At Education Again’
A recent statement made by the newly appointed Minister of Education, Hon. George K. Werner, during the handing over of a newly constructed school by UNICEF reminds Liberia that ‘education’ should be taken back into account.
According to Hon Werner, secondary education in Liberia is ‘doomed’ and because of historic and economical reasons Liberian girls need to be empowered urgently.
“The status quo for education in Liberia, particularly secondary school is doomed. We will change that status quo and will do so by forming a broad coalition for students, teachers and the school administrators. We can only do that with the communities, parents, civil society, government officials and our partners support,” he stated.
Hon. Werner strongly believes that sustainable change can only occur in the education sector when those who are paid to teach are held accountable for what they are being paid to do.
“Parents need to be able to monitor all schools that administer. Students, you need to commit yourselves to quality learning and also hold teachers and administrators accountable for what they are being paid to do for you,” he added.
Meanwhile, changing the direction of which education has taken is important. Hon. Werner believes education is there to service the needs of the Liberian community and economy.
“If we had a merging economy, you’ll see all of the investments being made,” he added.
For now, there are graduates in Ruth’s community who she says have yet to find jobs. Ruth wonders what her future will hold, or if it will hold the same uncertainties as graduates who cannot find jobs.
“It feels like some people go to school just to have a paper saying that they went through schooling. But, there’s nothing happening afterwards, after you graduate and its hard continuing school not knowing if you’ll ever get a job afterwards,” she alerted.
Hon. Werner, during his statement, addressed Ruth and many who may be posting the same uncertainties during the handover ceremony in the Fofee Town community.
“We’re quickly educating our children but they are not finding jobs, which means that there’s something wrong with our education sector. We need to look at education again and not just give them knowledge but the skills they’ll need to work and get a job,” he added.