Amid the continuous growing demand for teachers across Liberia, Liberia Cooperative Standard Education School System (LICOSESS) has been endeavoring over the years to breach this gap.
And as the nation’s premier teachers training institution, LICOSESS keeps making its contribution by training more qualified teachers who are prepared to fill gaps in many areas of the country.
It was against this backdrop that over the weekend, the teacher's education college graduated three hundred ninety five (395) teachers.
Lewis Brown, former Minister of Information delivered the keynote address as a proxy of Alexander Benedict Cummings, the political leader of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP).
Brown began his remarks by borrowing a few clauses from Benjamin Wehyee’s remarks in which he said “What you will be in the future lies not in faith but in the decisions you make.”
The former Liberian Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), graduating from school of any kind is not by faith but decisions made in days preceding one’s graduation.
“You are graduating not by faith but by the decision you made yesterday. You sacrificed the time to study while others were playing or went to nightclubs; The decision you made to come to class as you attended this institution and the decision you made to not accept anyone discouraging you from continue with your education either because you are a man or a woman, poor or not led to your graduation today,” he told graduates.
He said there are people who spend almost all of their life time blaming other people for their own failures, something he said is unnecessary for progress.
He noted that teachers are the foundation and bedrock of any nation’s growth and development but it is sad that Liberia is not investing in teachers.
Brown added that education can be done not only in buildings but also under trees and many other spaces but not without qualified teachers.
He argued that it is frustrating that instead of the salaries of teachers to be increased, they are harmonized by reducing them to the extent they can barely pay for basic needs.
“Are we ready to develop our nation? What are we doing for teachers? This nation will not grow because of the diamonds and gold but educated and qualified teachers,” he said.
According to Brown, it is a sad mistake to outsource one’s nation’s education sector to another nation or organization.
“We cannot outsource educating ourselves my people. Where in the world a wife recovers from malaria when her husband takes the malaria pills she is supposed to take to recover? Six thousand teachers from elsewhere would never help us as a people. We cannot burden other countries to educate us,” he said.
The former Foreign Minister of Liberia challenged the government to consider paying teachers better incentives in order to motivate them to teach well.
“An uneducated society is a dangerous society. Without good teachers you cannot have qualified doctors, instructors, and, certainly you will not have a good president, too.
He lamented that teachers are poor not because the country lacks the means to give them better incentives but lack of interest in doing the right thing.
To the graduates, Brown said even though there are challenges, they should be the change makers Liberia deserves and that they should not consider teaching as a part-time job but a lifelong career.
“Challenge yourselves each to do more and better. You can earn BSCs, Masters and many more advanced degrees. Do not be complacent,” he said.
Marilyn Y. Siaker, the valedictorian thanked LICOSESS for ensuring there was and continues to be accessibility and affordability.
Siaker, a strong and determined looking young lady said her class known by the Latin expression “Pari-Pasa” or “Side by side” when translated into English has every reason to be thankful to LICOSESS for, more so that each and every one of them received the needed encouragement and consideration to remain on campus and continue with their learning while they look for money to settle tuition and fees.
She continued that based on the quality training they have received; they are prepared to make the needed impact in their respective disciplines.
In his message, Benjamin Wehyee, President of LICOSESS said his graduates should consider themselves as midwives who deliver babies without worrying about the nationality, color or gender of the infants they help bring out.
According to Wehyee, Liberian children are in desperate need of trained and qualified teachers every day and the best products of LICOSESS can do is to fill the gap where seen.
“The older I get in this profession, the happier I become because I discovered some years ago that I am a “Chalk-holding midwife,” he said.”
He elaborated on his analogy by saying that midwives are patient and they have empathy and compassion in their duty to the people they serve.
Wehyee noted that excuses such as low salary, not teaching materials should not be dignified by teachers because midwives improvise when there is nothing available to help ease their job.
He appealed that teachers should be creative and always ready to make learning materials available for students so as not to allow any of them (students) to embrace the life of the street in which addiction to drugs is common and normal.
“Keep doing your job with such delicacy and commitment because the life of a child depends on it. Never think about how ungrateful the parents, the child or even the society is going to be. Think about how you will feel when there is still birth as a result of your actions or inactions,” he said.
He added that “Like a midwife, your job is complete when a child has climbed a societal ladder and is contributing in a positive way.”
Wehyee urged all teachers across the country to make sure the sales of grades is not only discouraged but completely put to an end.
He noted, however, that teachers should not be “complacent” as midwives who boast of many years of experience but do not further their education in most instances to rise to other levels in the medical and healthcare field.
Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, former Education Minister was at the occasion and she thanked LICOSESS for the job well done.
She called all partners to rally support around the teacher education college and all other colleges and universities across the country that are training teachers.