Liberia's Foreign Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan has stressed the need for the holistic preparation of students in order for them to effectively cope with the complex challenges of the real world.
While noting that academic excellence is a positive quality that should be encouraged in students, Minister Ngafuan said that academic excellence alone is not sufficient if African societies are to produce youths capable of performing excellently not only in the classroom, but also on the job market and in the larger society.
The Foreign Minister identified teamwork, research, creative and ethical leadership skills as well as a deeper appreciation of the culture of peace and tolerance, self-discipline, self-esteem, and the ability to cope with failure and setbacks as important qualities that must be inculcated into the youth.
He therefore called on the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and school authorities to incorporate in the curriculum and the testing system subjects that promote the cultivation of these skills and values in students.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, Minister Ngafuan made those remarks in Lagos, Nigeria on Monday when he served as the Guest Speaker at the 20th Annual Lecture of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on the theme: “What Else Are We Writing on the Slate?
WAEC exams are administered to students in their early or late teens, which coincides with the formative period in their lives when they are “impressionable” and “malleable” and depending on whether they are exposed to positive or negative influences, may turn out to be good or bad adults.
Minister Ngafuan compared the life of a young person to a slate which is largely empty that beckons for scripts.
He said there are numerous stakeholders, including the family, peer groups, religious or faith-based leaders and teachers who impact the life of students in varying degrees, which could be positive or negative, good or evil. He however emphasized that the impact of the teacher and the entire learning environment is overly significant during the formative years of young persons.
Minister Ngafuan, who in 1989 earned a WAEC Award for Academic Excellence for being the third best performer on the WAEC exams administered in Liberia, said stronger measures needed to be taken by all stakeholders to stem out examination malpractices, stressing that “exam results should mirror actual performance.”
He said the most effective way to buttress the integrity of the educational system is for governments, the private sector, donors, and ordinary citizens to provide increased financial support to education, which will go a long way in improving the entire system as well as the working conditions of teachers and educational workers. “We must change the situation where to pursue a career as an educator is to sign a perpetual contract with poverty,” Minister Ngafuan stated.
He concluded by congratulating Dr. Evelyne S. Kandakai and Hon. Hawa Goll-Kotchie for their elections as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively of WAEC.
“Dr. Kandakai’s assumption of the position of Chair of the Council is historic in that this is the first time in the 63-year history of WAEC that a female has been elected to chair the Council.
Therefore, on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president, and the government and people of Liberia, I salute Dr. Kandakai and Hon. Goll-Kotchie for bringing honor and pride to Liberia,” Minister Ngafuan said.
The 63rdAnnual Council Meeting of WAEC, which should have been held in Liberia in line with WAEC’s principle of rotation, shifted to Lagos, Nigeria as a result of the Ebola crisis.
WAEC is the premier public examinations body of English Speaking West African countries. Its 63rd Council Meeting convening in Lagos is bringing together Heads of WAEC National Offices (HNO’s) and Chief Government Nominees of the five WAEC as well as renowned academics and intellectuals from West Africa.
Also attending the Council meeting are Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh, Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Alhassan Conteh, and the Head of the Liberia National Office, Mr. John Gayvolor, Sr.