.... “We still have problems of unqualified people teaching and running our higher education institutions, but we are determined to weed them out," Dr. Wonkeryor said.
The National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) has disclosed plans to begin a credential audit at various universities and colleges across Liberia starting with the University of Liberia and the Tubman University.
The plan by NCHE, according to its Director-General, Dr. Edward Wonkeryor, is geared toward evaluating the country's “education quality processes” – the key faculty activities required to assess the quality of teaching being provided by universities and college instructors.
Dr.Wonkeryor, who is a former President of Tubman University in Maryland County noted that the commission is concerned about the growing upsurge in educational fraud, which threatens to devalue higher education and undermine academic integrity, as well as harm students and institutional reputations alike.
“We still have problems of unqualified people teaching and running our higher education institutions, but we are determined to weed them out. We have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Finance to allow us to allocate some funds to help defray the cost of evaluating the credentials of faculties at higher education institutions,” Dr. Wonkeryor said while on ELBC on May 24.
“We will begin the evaluation of faculty credentials at the University of Liberia and subsequently, Tubman University. Other higher education institutions will be targeted for the assessment of their faculty credentials. One of the prevailing challenges facing our institutions of higher learning is that some of the people teaching at these institutions are not qualified enough – in fact, they are miseducating the present generation of Liberians,” he said.
Dr. Wonkeryor “I argue that there is an inadequacy of qualified teaching staff at our higher education institutions. We need to train more Liberians to obtain advanced degrees in diverse disciplinary areas, so that they would become adequately qualified to contribute wholesomely towards the rebuilding project of Liberia. I might add that, we need qualified people to teach our people, period.”
Established by an Act of the National Legislature in 1989, the NCHE formulates and implements policies regarding higher education. The commission has the power to accredit institutions of higher learning and also ensures that the various guidelines are met like having the relevant instructors.
The NCHE among other things is mandated to evaluate and assess the various institutions of higher learning in the country, to ascertain that these institutions are fulfilling the prescribed requirements set by the Commission.
The decision by NCHE, which is being announced by Dr. Wonkeryor, comes after a Diaspora group, Campaigners for Academic Crimes Court in Liberia, has exposed an alarming rate of academic fraud among instructors of institutions of higher learning including the University of Liberia.
The working of the group led to the University of Liberia and Cuttington University expelling Representative Alex Chesia Grant of Grand Gedeh County from its Graduate Schools for “Not meeting up with admission requirements, including submission of a valid undergraduate degree.”
Rep. Grant was caught operating with a fake degree said to have been conferred on him by Ibadan University in Nigeria. Other senior government officials have also been caught bearing false degrees conferred on them by institutions with no authority to confer such high credentials.
Dr. Wonkeryor is a former Assistant Professor in the African American Studies Department of Temple University, where he focused on African Studies, African American Studies, and Mass Communication and later served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Mass Communication, Liberian and Africana Studies at Cuttington University.
The NCHE boss noted that they need additional budgetary allocation, personnel, and vehicles to enforce its statutory mandates, “ the lack of funds means the commission is unable to function well.” The current budget of the NCHE is very dismally low — in fact, “we have an approved budget of less than US$400,000. This amount is incredibly inadequate to run the National Commission on Higher Education.”
He added that “these challenges are still prevalent, but we are working with the National Legislature and the Executive to see if these challenges can be resolved. In fact, we are departing from the traditional ways of interacting with international organizations, such as UNESCO, by encouraging them to be very supportive of our higher education reforms, thus bringing Liberia into the orbit of globally recognized higher education institutions.
Meanwhile, Campaigners for Academic Crimes Court in Liberia commends Dr. Wonkeryor and his team at the NCHE for demonstrating willingness and readiness to crack down on fake degrees and academic fraudsters throughout Liberia.
CACC in a release called on NCHE to ensure that the audit is independent and open and should seek to publicly expose all “academic fraudsters and their fake degrees.”
“The names and bogus degrees of would-be academic fraudsters must never be concealed or hidden. The public deserves to know who they are. And the withdrawal and cancellation of all credentials from the bogus online degree mill including Atlantic International University (AIU),” CACC lead campaigner on research and reporting Martin K. N. Kollie argued.
“Since this impending credential audit will basically focus on both private and public universities and colleges, CACC recommends that this exercise be extended to the public service starting with the NCHE which has in its employees a fake Ph.D. holder from an online school,” Kollie said.
The release said that CACC believes that when academic fraudsters are caught red-handed, they should fully account for the damage that they’ve caused.
“We, therefore, recommend the full prosecution of all academic fraudsters whenever they are caught. The urgency to establish an Academic Crimes Court in Liberia cannot be overemphasized,” Kollie added. “We recommend that a National Academic Database System (NADS) be set up in order to track, document, and profile legit credentials from fake ones. The tasks at the NCHE are herculean. As such, more funding is needed to crack down on academic fraud and fake credentials throughout Liberia.”