Dr. Edward Lama Wonkeyor, Director General (DG) of National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) in Liberia has challenged government and other stakeholders to see to it that education is not politicized so as to ensure its resolve for excellence is maintained.
Wonkeyor appearing on the state broadcaster, ELBC said while it is true that the contemporary world, mainly in Africa, has seen politics as the main base through which many national issues and development are driven, politics weakens education and compromises the quest for excellence.
“There is a need to depoliticize institutions of learning. We understand that in contemporary African society, politics plays on how education is run, but bringing politics in the management of education cripples it and value is lost,” NCHE DG told his interviewer as the public listened.
The seasoned educator said until higher education is depoliticized, the country will continue to struggle to be on par with its regional counterparts who have already taken great steps and are doing better.
“In Liberia,” he noted, “our higher education institutions have diminished since the war years and are yet to be revamped to the level others are on. A graduate from Liberia can barely compete with a graduate from the Korle-bu University of Ghana University. It is a fact because there are statistics to prove it.”
Reflecting on his recent participation at UNESCO’s international higher education conference in Barcelona, Spain, Dr. Wonkeyor said the need for concerted efforts aimed at improving the higher education system of the country requires no overemphasis.
“We know that there is inadequate faculty membership at almost every higher institution of learning. Very recently I made a case at the UNESCO higher education Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The case I made was about the conditions, material, and technical needs to help the institutions do better. We told the forum that it will be very good for Liberia to be an integral part of a globalized higher education system,” he informed the public through the show.
His call for depoliticizing education, mainly at the higher level comes amid the unabated political influences in the running of the University of Liberia (UL) and all other public universities and colleges, experiences that tend to degenerate quality education into a more collective failing system.
Presidents at UL, Tubman University (TU), and other colleges across the country barely work independently of the political decisions of the power of the day.
Raising NCHE to Ministerial level
Dr. Wonkeyor also said that now is the time for the Legislature to elevate the National Commission on Higher Education to the rank of a Ministry, so as to afford the Commission equal rights and opportunities at the Cabinet level within the Executive branch of government.
“We want the Commission on Higher Education to be elevated to a full Ministerial level. So it is in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and other countries. It is very necessary if higher education has to function well,” he justified. Dr. Wonkeyor, a former President of Tubman University, said policymakers in Liberia are not taking higher education very seriously.
He called on the Legislature to do better by employing a collective conscience on ensuring more resources; mainly finance is appropriated for the system.
“They are doing their best but they should do a lot more and put more money into higher education and work with us so we can fix the system together,” Wonkeyor continued.
The call for the elevation of NCHE was also made by Bong County Senator, Dr. Henrique Tokpah. Dr. Tokpah has also argued for the need for NCHE to be raised to a ministerial level in order to allow the Commission to defend its budget.
As yet, the Minister of Education, whose supervision is exclusively on grade schools, serves as the chairman on the board of directors of NCHE with the appointing power still in the hand of the President of Liberia, although the Act creating the Commission calls for a board decision on who becomes the head of the Commission.
Need for specialized and technocrat education
The head of NCHE emphasized that no country, in this contemporary era advances fast enough in development and growth without specialized skills gained from vigorous, excellent vocational as well as academic education.
“Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and Science and Technology Education Management (STEM) will help us transform the system,” he boasted, adding, “UNESCO is willing to provide funds to facilitate this. The current learners must gain better and enough STEM and TVET education so they can be productive.”
Wonkeyor reported that while in Barcelona, other countries, mainly located in the same regions, agreed to initiate conferences that will bring them together to reflect on the progress and challenges their respective education systems are faced with.
“We touched thematic areas such as making up guidelines for recognizing diplomas, certificates and degrees from around the world. We recognized that there are inequalities in the education systems of the world. To have your diplomas and certificates match those of others around the world, there must be instructors with same or similar qualifications, competence and worth. This is what we need to tackle here in Liberia,’ he said.
NCHE boss reported that his Commission is challenged with a lack of vehicles to move around the country and vigorously inspect colleges and universities operating across the country. He continued that “There is a need for rigid supervision of institutions of higher learning to avoid the continuous duplication of inequalities in the system.”