Liberia: Civic Education Gradually Re-emerges in Schools
— As MOE Distributes Civic Textbooks in Montserrado
By Claudius T. Greene Jr.
The government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Education (MOE), has begun the distribution of civic textbooks to faith-based and private school institutions across the 26 education districts in Montserrado County.
The distribution, which started on Friday, February 17, 2023, is intended to reintroduce civic education into Liberian schools after decades.
Civics is considered as the study of the rights of citizens and their responsibilities to each other and their government. This also entails instilling love for their country (patriotism) and a passion to develop a wholesome functional society.
The civics books were re-written by the former president of the interim government of the National Unity, the late Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, to be re-introduced in schools.
However, Prof. Ansu D. Sonii, Minister of Education, who spoke at the first distribution site at Voker Mission in Paynesville, said the books are for the elementary level.
Minister Sonii told the students that the books will take them back to knowing what it means to be a responsible citizen of Liberia.
"Those of you who are under my voice today, these books are not for you. They are for the children in grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6," he explained.
According to him, citizenship comes with some responsibilities, and that is what is missing from our definition of citizenship in this part of the world.
It has been more than three decades since Civics was officially taught in Liberian schools in an organized approach across the country — not until the 2022/2023 academic year when the government decided to re-introduce the subject into all the schools across Liberia.
The return of this vital subject that is aimed at enlightening Liberian students on their rights, responsibilities as citizens, was done under the auspices of the Civics and Service International (CSI), formerly Child Steps International.
The much heralded civics curriculum is meant for all junior and senior high schools in the country, Deputy Education Minister, Mr. Alexander Duopue, disclosed in 2020.
“As you may be aware, the Ministry is preparing to re-introduce Civics Education. This process should have been done long ago but our major challenge has been the lack of relevant textbooks. But the good news is that the Ministry is working with Child Steps International to address this challenge,” he noted at a training of County and District Education Officers (C/DEOs).
Minister Sonii, however, noted during the textbook distribution that the reason some citizens, especially many of the young people, are oblivious of their responsibilities to the state, is because civics has not been taught in the school system for a while.
"I’m grateful that the books here will be taught as they are, but they must have an impact on you,” he told the students. “This country is ours, and we own it. When you own it, you preserve it; when you own it, you care for it; when you own it, you respect it; this is your country."
Also speaking, Madam Comfort T. Sawyer, the widow of the late Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, thanked the government for bringing back civics in school.
The book distribution coincided with the first Memorial Day of the deceased interim leader.
"My husband, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, the brain behind these books, was a man who always thought ahead; I think that’s why God decided that he should go and rest," the widow said, disclosing further that her late husband worked so hard that some nights she would not have any sleep.
"I [would tell him], oh my God, I cannot sleep because you work from 3:00 in the morning, you come home, you work till 3:00, you go to bed, get up by 5:30, and start working again till 6, what kind of man are you? Are you not tired? And my husband will tell me, he will rest when he dies."
According to her, there is something called rest in peace, but until then, I have to ensure that I tell my stories and inform the Liberian people — children from grade one to grade six — of the importance of being a part of this country and what our country stands for.
"So [you] teachers and principals now from the faith-based and private schools can come to our office and put in orders for the students," she concluded.