Liberia: "Education Is A Right Not Privilege For Every Child"

Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe: Our message is that ‘a better Liberia is possible’ on the foundation of integrity and a strong commitment.”  

.... Says Gongloe

Counselor Tiawan Saye Gongloe believes that education is a right for children to obtain and not a privilege therefore it is the responsibility of every government to provide education for its citizens, especially its young people. 

He said it is the only way to prepare the young people of every country to succeed their parents in running the affairs of their country and not a matter of choice for any government; but a duty to perform.

Gongloe is a presumed choice of the Liberian People’s Party (LPP) when it shall hold its national convention to elect candidates for forthcoming presidential and legislative elections scheduled for Tuesday, 10 October next year.

He made these comments during the 47th outdooring or graduation exercises of the Saint Mary Secondary School in Sanniquellie, Nimba County when he served as Guest Lecturer last Friday, 4 February, 2022.

Article 6 of the constitution provides, “The Republic shall, because of the vital role assigned to the individual citizen under this Constitution for the social, economic and political well-being of Liberia, provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of available resources. Emphasis shall be placed on the mass education of the Liberian people and the elimination of illiteracy.”

With this, he believes the government must provide school buildings to accommodate all the children of Liberia to have access to education because their parent’s lack of money should not stop any Liberian child from going to school.

“Basic education must therefore be free and compulsory for all Liberian children. Education is also a right that every citizen is entitled to under the universal declaration of human rights,” he noted.

Article 26 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides, “Everyone has the right to education therefore education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages likewise elementary education shall be compulsory.

Technical and professional education shall be made available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

Gongloe pointed out that the government has over the years failed in its obligation to provide access to education for the citizens of Liberia. At least in the past the Government of Liberia rented private buildings just to provide access to education for most of the children of Liberia.  

Pre-war in Monrovia, the government rented private buildings for the use of public schools such as the Monrovia Central High School (formerly Charlotte Tolbert School), Esther Bacon, Ellen Mills Scarborough School, Susan Berry School, Ora Horton amongst others.

He said the present government came to power largely based on the votes of the youth has not done much to promote access to education although laudable it to have declared free education for students attending government universities and community colleges, it has not taken any significant step to provide access to education for all Liberian children at the elementary and secondary school levels.

Gongloe said the first condition for providing access to education is to build more schools, to equip those schools with textbooks, libraries and science laboratories as well as to provide qualified teachers for them.

Regrettably, Weah in his state of the nation address on Monday, 24 January, mentioned that for the year 2021 only one educational project was completed and that project was the construction of an annex to the Wells Hairston High School.

 “Available school statistics have it that the total number of senior secondary schools in the country is 752 as of Academic 2020 / 2021, of which, the Government owns only 156,” he noted.

Gongloe went further that with such a wide gap between the number of schools built by private institutions and those by government, the government has not taken any step to build more schools, in order to accommodate more Liberian children.

“This poor performance of Weah on the education of the Liberian youth is a gross betrayal of his promise of “youth empowerment” as one of the pillars of his campaign and his pro-poor agenda,” he lamented.

Other presidents such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, Adama Barrow of The Gambia, amongst others have done much better in educating the children of their respective countries.  

Gongloe stated among many things that the best comparison between Weah and any of his colleagues on education is the one between him and one of his next door neighbors, Maada Bio.

He said that Bio’s performance on education has been far higher than Weah because last year Bio commissioned 100 public schools in Bo, Kenema, Portloko and Bombali as those schools were equipped with libraries, science and computer laboratories, amongst other necessities.

More than that, Gongloe continued: “Bio’s free compulsory elementary and secondary education covers no fee payment; free textbooks, copybooks, pens, pencils, sports equipment, school feeding program in government and government assisted schools, amongst others.

Instead in Liberia, Weah is building more private homes and producing more songs as well as spending more time at his Jamaica Resort and having good times, instead of spending more time at his official office to do the Liberian people’s work.

“The worst area of Weah's poor performance is in the area of football because Liberian youth expected him to perform the best but no serious effort has been made to improve the youth of Liberia’s performance in football,” he said.  

Gongloe expressed regret that Liberia did not make it to the African Cup of Nations saying of the four Mano River Union Countries, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, only Liberia did not make it to the African Cup of Nations.

The Gambia of Adama Barrow, a non-footballer made it to the quarter finals of the African Cup as Liberia is the only country in the whole of Africa that is headed by a world football superstar.

Having failed Liberia in football that Weah knows best, the former President of the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA), then asked, “Where else can Weah Succeed?

Gongloe therefore urged Weah to pay attention to empowering the youth because that is what he promised them during his campaign and that is why the young people of Liberia voted for him.

“The best and most sustainable way to empower the youth is to educate them. Education must include basic education, vocational and technical education and physical education,” he said.

Gongloe noted that if Weah does not take any step to empower the Liberian youth by providing them quality education and improving on the sports and athletics programs for them, then the best thing for them to do is to vote him out of office in 2023.

Thereby electing a president who will take concrete steps towards the empowerment of the youth of Liberia through the provision of quality education and comprehensive sports and athletic programmes.

To the graduants, he said commencement means the beginning of your preparation for life and not the end of their learning process as those who did well in their basic education subjects such as Mathematics, english and science are better prepared for university education and will complete university education with ease.

For those of them who know that completing high school was a great challenge, Gongloe said to them they should enroll in vocational and technical schools in order to acquire skills that will prepare you for the job market and self-employment.

Whatever path you take, he continued: “Whether to a university or a vocational or technical school, each of you must learn well and commit yourselves to building a better Liberia because a better Liberia is possible.”

Gongloe is a 1976 product of the Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Sanniquellie, Nimba County. Thereafter, he enrolled at the University of Liberia in 1977 and completed in 1981.

This is Gongloe second time addressing his alma mater the first being in 1987 nearly years now.