Says former PUL Secretary General
The communications, media and public affairs manager at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh, over the weekend blasted all stakeholders, including parents and students, for Liberia’s messy education system.
The journalist who preferred his former title of secretary general of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and a common Liberian citizen for the occasion rather than his present portfolio, neither compromised his words nor offered any apologies for holding government, parents, school authorities and staff, as well as the student community, responsible for making the country’s education sector messy or backward.
Serving as the keynote speaker at the sixth graduation and thanksgiving exercise for students leaving K-2 (Kindergarten-2) and the sixth grade of the Great Commission Junior High School in the LPRC community, he said today’s education system is not a challenge for students. “It does not require any special skill or an academic dean to determine how failed and appalling our learning system has gotten and the terrible outcomes. Anyone who acquired some level of quality education in the past can state how the system is weak, messed up and dying today,” he lamented.
“Corruption, greed, alleged sex for grades, or grades for sex, dishonesty, unruliness, disregard for order and policies, production of half-baked graduates, and criminal syndicates are among some of the unwholesome practices that have flooded the education system today. It’s troubling and worrisome, and it signifies doom for a country and people like Liberia who speak of hitting middle income status by 2030. Even 2050 will not take us there with our messy education system, which is getting worse year by year,” he noted.
Sengbeh said his research shows that one person or institution cannot be blamed for the critical hurdles the system is faced with.
“I have done my own analysis and realized that almost every one of us in here is responsible. Saying everyone I mean the Government, school administrators, and from you the parents and down to the students, we are all responsible.”
He said: “It is the responsibility of every government the world over to ensure that its citizens, especially the younger ones, are properly educated in a bid to ensure a nourishing functional society with literate citizens capable of making sound national decisions,” adding that governments accomplish this by not only drawing up appropriate policies to govern the education system, but by ensuring that the crafted policies are appropriately implemented with both moral and financial support.
“Is this being done in our country? I say ‘no’ to a greater extent. We have fallen short as a nation and people. Yes, the government has often announced and pronounced its commitment to education, but has yet to practically put into place all measures to back these pronouncements, according to educators in and out of the country.
There are indeed sound policies on the shelves that could better the system, Sengbeh admitted, but if our government continues to face challenges to providing relevant oversight and funding to actualize those plans, we cannot overcome the challenge and the subsequent mess.
Yes, after the war, many schools have been built, but the challenge of fully equipping these schools with educational materials and well-paid qualified teachers remains overwhelming. These shortcomings are devastating,” the former PUL scribe recognized.
Turning to school authorities and staff across the country, he said: “But it won’t be fair here to blame the Government or the Education Ministry alone for this national dilemma. You, here listening to me, you the school owners, administrators and teachers are even more contributors to the problem. You are the ones producing those fake graduates, you are the ones preparing them for the future, you are the ones dealing with the students day after day and year in year out, and they are going out with what you teach them. If they perform poorly, it is you; if they perform excellently, it is you. They are your ambassadors, representing your image, your institutions. If they are messed up, you, too, are messed up.”
He outlined schools wanting more money by enrolling more students outside of a merit system, teachers allegedly having sex with students or collecting money for grades as well as poor or no monitoring of the system as the key reasons responsible for the state of the sector.
Mr. Sengbeh blamed parents on the other hand for not helping their children value the importance of learning through studying hard.
“You allow your children to sit before televisions on school days and watch movies that benefit them in no way. Your boys know the names of all the football players in Europe and other parts of the world while the girls have developed the ability to explain Filipino, African and several other movies worldwide but neither gender can say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the Lonestar Forever, among others,” he pointed out.
On the way forward to revamp the education sector, he said that “Our education sector needs a complete overhaul and realignment and actions need to be taken against corrupt persons. It is in dire need of liberation and forward march. Like President Sirleaf has said, unless all stakeholders can redirect their time, energies and resources, Liberia will continue to face problems in providing quality education, and this is unacceptable.”
Sengbeh promised to buy all the needed school materials for the valedictorians of both classes when schools reopen in September.
In his valedictorian message, the dux of K-2, Joe Dumbeleh, said no one should take the opportunities in life for granted. Drawing his message from the theme “Do something good with your life,” he advised his classmates in particular and the audience in general to be positive in their actions and resist all negative influences.
The sixth grade dux, Amelia T. K. Zinnah, challenged all to develop moral aptitude, adding: “Any kind of education you receive determines what kind of life you live.”