New Education Minister Introduces Tough Policies

22
4629
Min. Sonii at yesterday's media interaction with his DMA, Da-Thong

…Says teachers, like drivers will hold license before teaching

The new authorities of the Ministry of Education (MOE) have instituted 12-count plans they would execute to strengthen the country’s education sector in the coming years, the Minister, Dr. Ansu D. Sonii has revealed.

Some of the tough measures, which the ministry has already embarked upon, according to Dr. Sonii, include the licensing of teachers, re-introduction of civics education in the national curriculum, and the drafting of law to establish an academic crime court to prosecute individuals suspected of committing fraud in the sector.

Sonii explained that the new policies will ensure strict compliance, “because the new team has resolved that all teachers be licensed by the MoE authorities to identify a particular holder as a trained and bona-fide teacher.”

He said teachers would be evaluated through examinations to determine whether they are qualified to serve as teachers in the classroom, “but mind you, graduating from any of the rural teacher training institutes does not automatically make a graduate a teacher, until that person can be licensed by the MoE, you are not a teacher.”

The ministry, Dr. Sonii said, will not consider degrees and certificates from teacher training institutes across the country as a basis for licensing of teachers; because those certificates and degrees are papers obtained to teach, which doesn’t necessarily make the holder a qualified teacher.

Dr. Sonii spoke on Thursday, March 1 at his first crowded press conference since President George Weah nominated him to the position couple weeks ago.

According to him, the exercise will soon kickoff and is expected to be completed in two years’, as part of the President Weah’s ‘Pro-Poor Agenda’ to protect the teaching profession, adding, “one cannot just come from anywhere to teach our kids. This is unacceptable.”

Min. Sonii says the MoE will regularize 580 teachers on its supplementary payroll.

“We don’t want a 5th grader teaching calculus, because such persons will only be displaying their knowledge and not necessarily teaching,” he emphasized.

Minister Sonii said those who have spent more than 35 to 40 years in the classrooms would be exempted from writing the test to be qualified to obtain the pending teaching license, but those in such category will have to go through a ‘cleaning process,’ thereby refreshing memories to their previous lesson plans.

Sonii spoke against the backdrop of reports of unqualified teachers being assigned in the classrooms, especially in rural parts of the country, where it has been repeatedly proven that high school graduates and or school dropouts are teaching, because of the lack of qualified teachers to take up assignments in those areas.

Minister Sonii meanwhile threatened to aggressively punish principals of schools, who will allow ‘unlicensed teachers’ into their classrooms.

He noted that teachers’ licenses would be revoked for various reasons, noting that when a teacher’s license is revoked, that person will not be allowed to teach in any school (public or private).

As a result of those policies, Dr. Sonii said he would formulate a monitoring team to visit every school, “because President Weah appointed my colleagues and me to compliment the works of county and district educational officers by visiting their respective schools’ territories.

Bringing aboard local authorities As though the education officers are effective in the discharge their assigned duties, Dr. Sonii wants the ministry to provide compensation to local government authorities, including district commissioners, city majors to help monitor schools with the intent to discourage students working on the private farms of teachers or leaving school to attend video clubs and entertainment centers, especially the ones trading alcoholic beverages to school-going underage pupils.

Dr. Sonii, a former professor of the University of Liberia, has also crafted one new policy to also ensure that students are not transferred from one school to another, except under the supervision of the schools’ administration only, or else students who failed or were expelled for one reason or the other, would be allowed to register in any other school.

“Under our laws, doing so constitutes one of those crimes in academia, and is punishable through the academic crime court,” Dr. Sonii declared.

According to him, the ministry would initiate fines and penalties for businesses selling alcoholic beverages to students during school hours.

Minister Sonii noted that the admission of students into video clubs during school hours is prohibited and operators of video clubs and beaches caught would be severely punished by his team of officials.

He also disclosed that the new team has drafted a law to be forwarded to the Legislature to set up of an academic crimes court that would prosecute perpetrators of crimes ranging from malpractices during exams, self-promotion of students, as well as collection of the so-called flexibility fees during the administration of public exams and so forth.

Sonii’s dream is to improve the country’s education sector. Therefore we wants the academic crimes court separate from other criminal courts at the Temple of Justice, but with budgetary support from the Supreme Court.

His first media interaction was attended by his deputy for Administration, Latim Da-Thong and several other appointees and several other members of the clerical staff.

Authors

22 COMMENTS

  1. The Minister’s intention to improve the educational sector is well commendable. My only concern is regarding individuals graduating for recognized teacher training institutes. Such individuals I suggest should be license by the ministry. Over period of the last three decade in Liberia, there are also some individuals who I believe have made significant sacrifices in teaching our less fortunate children but are not trained as classroom teachers. I like to suggest that these individuals be given the opportunity to be train as classroom teachers with the education ministry providing funding for such project for those who will qualify. Some of them I also believe has always wanted to be a teacher but the civil conflict affected their plan. I successful reconciliation of our country and all it’s functionaries, require us bring our brothers and sisters along. Let us show love and compassion with the mind set of lifting each other. Those unqualified teachers have help thousands of our children to learn how to read and write their names. Mr. Minister, in your plan please considered what our nation and it’s people have endured over the past thirty years of troubles. Thanks for listening.

  2. I agreed with the Minister suggestion that teacher be issue a teaching license. The ministry of health administer test to graduates of nursing colleges as such teachers should also sit and pass a standard test before entering the classroom.

  3. We have been left behind for long in many things. It’s time for Liberia to meet up to International standard and best practices. The honorable minister should also think of setting criteria for University Instructors. Some of those Instructors at the various Universities are teaching courses they are not specialized in. Instructors are too engage that they turn the teaching over to PA who is also a student of that identical course.

  4. Thanks Dr. Sonii and I think you mean well for the nation’s future, but how about foreign educators such as the Peace Corps and others. Do they get certified by MoE by being tested or do they fall under separate standard? Just wondering since that detail is not stated here…

    Given where the nation has come from, I do agree that the school systems need a radical overhaul and you’ve layout some measures that would help bring about remediation, but I am not sure how would your team severely punish businesses that open their video club doors to minors during school hours. I do agree this is a major concern and must be addressed, but the method and extend of enforcement without the ministry or the team getting into trouble is what concerns me.

  5. The Examination for Licensing will be corrupted believe me….great idea by the minister, but Liberia is just a different country. Those charged with drafting/drawing the test will sell the test for their own gains and those administering the exams will be corrupted as well. If you want to bet on this one, I’ll put $1000.00 USD down. The West African Examination Council (WAEC) is corrupted by the very teachers who are selected to administer/supervise/proctor the exam especially in the lewer counties. In 1987, when I sat for the exam, I saw teachers helping my fellow classmates who were bad and dull students in my class. These students, some passed the exam and had to repeat the 12th Grade (or perhaps graduated under some arrangements because they marched with us and received their diplomas) because they didn’t have the grades to pass the class or graduate.

    People who will be charged with the responsibility to administer the test for the License from the Ministry of Education will take bribes from candidates who want to become license teachers. We as Liberians need to examine ourselves and critically look ourselves in the “mirror” asking important questions. “Do we desire a better nation? Are we going continue to live in mediocrity?” “Will we be able to respect our laws and institutions?” “What kind of country we want for ourselves, children and how do we want the world to look at us?” These are the fundamental questions Liberians everywhere need to be asking themselves. Great idea Mr. Minister, but I wish you good luck in the implementation. Foreigners especially Ghanaians, Sierra Leoneons and now Nigerians will come to our country and take advantage of our ineptitude to undermine our educational system. Want kind of people are we, we undermined our laws to cheat ourselves because we can gain few more dollars? Something mentally is wrong with Liberians in general.

    • My brother I share your frustration but we’ve got to start from somewhere and it will take real leaders for this to happen. The hope is Dr. Sonii and his team would be the team that break this chain and turn the tide. As I can recall Ghana was no different from Liberia until J. J. Rawlings and his astute leadership came along and the rest is history today.

      Legitimate concerns you’ve raised but perhaps that is where the Academic Crime Court that Dr. Sonii referenced comes in play. Hopefully this court will be the enforcer. The problem in Liberia is the political will to enforce the existing laws on the books. If only we can enforce our laws most of our problems will be resolved.

  6. I am glad we finally got a Minister who knows what’s he’s doing.
    I can’t still get over how former president Sirleaf got the last Education Minister (George Werner) in that post – he was a disaster.

  7. Good plans, however, the ministry has to look at building the capacity of teachers and do some improvement in their salaries and other incentives that will make the profession attractive and encouraging.

  8. Liberia is not an authoritarian country so calling for educational court to punish students and teachers is just ridicule….are we going to start putting teachers and students in jail when they are found guilty by the so-called School Court. If punishment is going to improve education in Liberia why not introduce corporal punishment…most of what is being suggested can not pass basic legal standard in a free county like Liberia. Better focus on investing more money in education infrastructure, training and trying other innovative teaching methods from different that is working…the overall message from the Minister is punishment….it will not work….punishment is not innovation.

    • You make a salient point about the educational court, which in my view goes contrary to the entire philosophy of education and learning. While the Minister may have very good intentions of purging the Liberian public education system of unqualified teachers, the methods being considered for doing so seems quite troubling. I know of no country or research studies done that demonstrates that when such approach has been applied, it has served as a deterrent, an effective deterrent for that matter. If for example, a teacher is found to engage in a fraudulent act, ie, taking money from students, selling grades, or engaging in sexual acts with a juvenile student, that teacher should then be turned over to our established court system for prosecution since such matters fall within the courts’ jurisdiction. But the MOE will be well served if it first develops a Policy manual or Code of Conduct that would govern all Liberian teachers teaching in the public school system. There is absolutely no need for an educational court!

  9. Lots of plans….one simple question….where is the money for all of this?
    Point 1 of the plan should be to increase the Education allocation in the national budget. Ideas don’t fund themselves. IF we can’t achieve point 1….you’ve just wasted my five minutes!

  10. Repressive measures alone will not fix the problems. Already there are not enough teachers to teach in the rural areas. Now if you dismiss 50% of the teachers we currently have for not having the right qualification how are you going to solve the problems of under-staffing? If there are no teachers, why would the students sit in the classroom all day? It is good to act against bad practices but there also needs to be pro-active plan how to fill the gaps. That requires a lot of money and time. Its not fixed in the first 90 days of office.

  11. “New Education Minister Introduces Tough Policies, Says “teachers, like drivers will hold license before teaching”. The quote brings to the fore, the 64,000 dollars’ question, are teachers’ licensure the main driver of the ongoing public school education “mess”, or the attitude of successive political leaderships since nationhood regarding literary and skills development of the entire inhabitants of our landmass?

    Let’s stop the perennial hypocrisy.

    Liberia, in the mid-19th century, aping its colonial overlord – the US which even today uses access to education as tool for perpetuation of racial dominiance in the economy, politics, and culture – wanted advantages for the settler-ethnicity and its descendants. However, truth be told, it’s a natural inclination of most minority occupying power-groups, whether French Normans in 11th century Angles, 18th century Spanish in Southern America, or 19th century Dutch in South Africa.

    Minister Sonii shouldn’t read from American prisms regarding pedagogy of public school teaching; theirs is not successful, after all. Tellingly, the emphasis has been on holding teachers accountable instead of creating accomodating atmosphere from home to school that would make students from marginalized Black/ Brown communities learn stress-free like their White counterparts. Sonii would do well doing comparative studies to find out if the American model of public school education (under a leadership of “shithole”- countries-pivot) is worth the bother, especially after reportedly exacerbating inequality of opportunities in the US itself.

    So inasmuch as teacher accountability for student learning outcomes is significant, equally so are other dynamics.

    For instance, providing incentives – like compensations, training, opportunities for advancement, job security, health/ life insurance – in the teaching profession that make it also a go-to career choice. And what about making available learning resources such as libraries and regulated extra- curricular teaching interactions which augment the class room experience? Teaching Liberia’s future leaders not only the skills to transition our country from under-development, but also respect for family values, ethics, and rule of law should superimposed all other goals. If our educators can’t get that, change, as desired by GMW, will be a mirage, folks.

  12. Your plans are very good for our country, but I think that the act of training our teachers is an imperative. The need to equip the various teacher training centers across the country should be prioritized.

    • Great idea, Mr Minister, but we must first look at the salary of those in the teaching field. I think teachers are taking money for grades because they are underpaid. I remember a teacher asking a four grade student to give him money so that he can pass the child because he had not taking pay for over two months.

  13. The new Education Minister of Liberia has brilliant plans or policies to strengthen the Liberia’s educational system. But does he understand why unqualified teachers are found in the classrooms or malpractices are constantly occurring in the sector? In his new educational plans, He did not mention how he would ATTRACT more people into the teaching profession. Teachers need good incentives – they need to be paid well; there should be bursary programmes for teachers to benefit from whilst they are being trained. The government needs to establish a scheme where teachers would receive training that would be paid for by the government. The government should lobby for “teacher training/education scholarships” so that more teachers can travel abroad to obtain quality teaching education.

    If the government does not initiate plans to attract teachers into the teaching profession and ensure teachers who are employed into to the sector are retained, I can guarantee the Minister that all these good plans would not work.

    Mr. Minister, I challenge you to change the mind-set of Liberians that the teaching profession in Liberia has no prospects and respect; that the profession is a poor regime.

    To the teachers: the time for “thank you and making sacrifices” I guess should be approaching its end!! If majority of the ministers and other top government officials are not willing to make sacrifices, why you as a poor teacher should make sacrifices all the time?

    Finally, Mr. Minister, you need to stop making noise about policy development, instead, you should start strategising on how you would identify a durable solution to improving the economic situations of government teachers – decent salaries and retirement packages after many years of service.

  14. Iam very delighted to God all might for his grace upon this propoor government. Also for the issue of the war crime court I will be very glad if established and accepted by the government of Liberia. I really want for those nefarious people to facing justice and if wrong go to good jail for life time. I do believed that they are the cause for the backwardness of our country today. Because I can remember when conscious mindness man like Prince Y Johnson and other crazy people we’re killing our fellow citizens, due to stupibility in our country years back. No sin should go unpunished. What those nefarious guys did years back should subsequently live after them today. 0776719987.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here