– LACC official at Corruption Free Schools Campaign Launch; says schools not hideouts for criminals
The menace of corruption has not only devastated and destroyed Liberia’s past and present, it is also the greatest threat to the country’s future as it has overwhelmed every structure of the society, an official of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission has said.
James Kingsley, LACC Program Manager for Education and Prevention, said the menace is even more pervasive leading to the collapse of fabrics of the society, but the most worrisome aspect is how it continues to hold very firm major sectors (education, health and public service) upon which the country’s future hinges.
Kingsley spoke at the program marking the official launch of Corruption Free School Campaign, an initiative of Faith and Justice Network, held over the weekend at the St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Sinkor with several high schools in attendance.
Corruption, said Mr. Kingsley, who proxied for LACC chairman Cllr. James Verdier, is a threat to the shared prosperity and sustainable existence of Liberia.
He, however, informed his audience that corruption is not only practiced by those in offices of public trust, “but is practiced at all levels of society and affects all irrespective of class, culture and religion as well as the poor in agonizing proportion.”
Kingsley’s comments come at a time when many believe that the new administration is proceeding wrongly by indulging into financial transactions that are in clear violation of traditionally established financial management protocols that are meant to ensure transparency and accountability.
Considering the severe impacts the menace has had on the country, the LACC official, in a rallying call, noted that the most important segment of the society to protect from corruption is the next generation of leaders.
The vulnerability of kids to corruption is prevalent, especially in the rural parts of the country where students are required to work on the farms of teachers and school administrators.
He described corruption as the worst form of child rights violation “because it deprives one of basic social services, including pipe-borne water, electricity, roads and healthcare.”
“As a result of corruption, you as students don’t play much, eat much, sleep too little and are deprived of a shelter or in short, you live in deplorable houses around the country,” Kingsley said.
“I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s quote that ‘the Negroes live on a lonely island of poverty in a vast ocean of material prosperity,’ and so like the Negroes, Liberians are fast becoming spectators to the good things of life to the extent that students are still studying with candle lights, while others sit under the light ray emitting from the fences of the privileged few,” he noted.
“There are several indications that the upcoming generation of Liberians are at risk of corruption,” he said.
Kingsley said a research conducted by the LACC in 2013 revealed that students paid too much bribe to their teachers and school administrators. The report, he said, indicated that 90 percent of all the students we talked to said they paid bribes to obtain a desire grade point.
The report quotes students that they pay bribes in the form of sex for grades, money for grades, and in some instances engage in physical labor for the teachers and school administrators.
“The research was quite shocking, especially with students openly confessing to paying bribes in their schools,”he said. The report, besides bribery in the schools, painted a grim picture of the country’s educational system.
Mr. Kingsley also made reference to the high level of teachers’ absenteeism and other educational malpractices in schools as captured in the 2013 LACC report. “It is now the collective responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that our schools do not become hideouts for breeding criminals instead of serving as centers for the development of future leaders,” he said.
He, however, noted that the students’ presence at the launch indicated that they technically agreed to distinguish themselves from bad followers. “This campaign is not for students who only score A+ in class,” he said. “It is an establishment of disciplined, well-behaved and paramount of all, students with exceptional integrity.”
The campaign is in sync with the work that the LACC does, and as such, he pledged the commitment of the anti-graft body to this initiative. He lauded the FJN family for the initiative.
The establishment of the FJN, he said, is a strong testimony of how people of faith can merge their efforts with national institutions to defeat societal ills. “I must indicate here that it is possible for the Church and the society to work together to change and or manage the situation in our society,” he said.
FJN Executive Director, Thomas Tolbert Jallah said there should be a war against corruption in the country’s school system.