As Liberians pray and look up to seeing the country freed of the Ebola virus, the principal of the G.W. Gibson High School is suggesting a vigorous counseling program to be set up in all schools in the republic to deal with students.
The G.W. Gibson High School is a public school that forms part of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS). It accommodates over 2,000 students, many of them self-supporting.
Rev. Spencer S. Togba, sharing his concerns about problems that would surface after Ebola, predicted decline in enrollment and student academic output.
He said the disease outbreak has brought a big setback in the entire economy with foreign investors drawing back.
People rarely buy these days and many parents doing business are at the losing point which, according to him, will not enable them to have the needed funds to pay their children’s tuition fees and at the same time feed them.
“Remember, it is not only about tuition, but uniforms, copybooks pencils and other things that students need,” he said.
Going further in justifying his predictions, Rev. Togba stressed that Liberia is not cultured in reading and students are not interested in studying.
As a result of what they as teachers have observed about students, he believes that the Ebola crisis has led students to abandon lessons to focus on food and other activities.
“Liberia has not been cultured in reading even before the civil war. We have worked with the students at least to get them to develop an interest in their lessons in the midst of scarcity of reading materials. Now that the Ebola crisis has come and students are no longer in school, there has been a tremendous setback in our efforts and will need counselors in all schools to make direct and one on one contacts these students, in a bid to get them to become more focused and more serious about their studies” Rev. Togba stressed.
He lamented that the education sector in Liberia is vulnerable and lacks all basic necessities, including libraries, laboratories, amongst others.
“Liberia does not have a national library and most schools lack laboratories. The President once described our educational system as being “in a mess,” and I agree with her. Government needs to invest in the education system by making public libraries available where students can go and read. Government also needs to encourage Liberian writers to localize materials for students to draw their interests. But in the present situation, the Ebola crisis will have serious negative consequences on enrollment and academic performances,” he added.
The G.W. Gibson principal also attributed the weak academic outputs of contemporary students to shortfalls in the teaching system.
“Earlier, students began from ABC to Primer I, II and then Grade One, and after completing these kindergarten classes the student is able to read and write. Contrary to this, students, especially those enrolling in public schools now, begin from Grade One upward. This creates a wide gap in the students’ learning and it is responsible for their underperformances,” he stressed.
He said government will have to consider this situation and reintroduce the old system to prepare a new breed of students to evaluate them over a 10-year period to know how they will come out.
Students now do not read or write and this is an indication of the failure of the education system, which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last year described as being in “a mess.”