Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my regular thinking thoughts, I considered the recent concerns and disappointments among stakeholders over the new Education Minister’s proposal to change the existing school calendar and introduce a new version. Rumors are that the Honorable Minister intends to nullify all credits students have acquired for promotion to higher grades, and declared current 2015 efforts of school teachers and administrators as “vacation school operations,” as his own construct of education reform. The question asked in various circles is therefore, if the existing academic 2015 calendar was endorsed by stakeholders, and approved by President Sirleaf, does “dumping” it by Hon. Werner mean it was a flawed document crafted in error?
President Reagan’s Construct of Education Reform You see, education reform is not a new phenomenon for history is replete with efforts to fix pedagogy. When research and experience showed that US Education had become substandard and people graduating from US schools and colleges were not meeting expectations, President Ronald Reagan, like George Werner attempted, instituted a major education reform.
However, it was after consulting education professionals and pundits, that Reagan declared a “State of Emergency in US Education” in 1982, and set up the Gardner Commission to evaluate the whole system from kindergarten to tertiary level. The commission found that US education had become rotten to the core, and needed serious reform; hence it submitted a report entitled, “A Nation at Risk: An Imperative for Reform. Today US education is now in sync with global standards and expectations as a result to that well thought-out, properly strategized education reform construct of Reagan’s.
President Sirleaf’s Construct of Education Reform
There is a groundswell of opinions that President Sirleaf’s construct of education reform is the “changing of guards” Indications are that each time there is an outcry over student performance, the President hurries to change education ministers, including valuable technicians. For example, Dr. Korto’s team was replaced by Dr. Gongar’s, which was subsequently replaced by Etmonia Tarpeh’s team. Recently, seven ministers in Tarpeh’s team were dumped and Werner’s super team of legions pounced in, roaring like a mighty lion, as an apparent sequel to the construct of the President’s strategy for education reform.
While the President’s frequent changing of education administrators may be the prudent move in Liberia, President Obama once noted, “What Africa needs is not strong men, but rather authentic systems” Despite this assertion, in one of her interviews, when asked why a new education minister had not been nominated, the President noted that she was still looking for the proper person to head the MOE, to move education from its current status; hence the change of the Tarpeh team to usher in George Werner’s.
The message that this frequent changing of ministers send is that, it is the education administrators who are making the mess either by their lack of savvy, inadequacy, or lack of will power, instead of looking at other issues such as inadequate logistics, stunted budgetary allotment, and misplacement of senior decision makers (as reportedly confirmed by Minister Amara Konneh in his alleged “misplaced appointees” assertion).
Audacity of Minister Werner’s construct of education reform
To be audacious in layman’s terms is to be fearless or brave; to venture into a strange terrain that holds mysteries; to tread where angelic beings have trod and dare. In Werner’s case, the status quo in the education sector is the tumultuous grounds swelling under his feet due to his recent audacious proposal.
Currently, education professionals are questioning Werner’s awareness that before his advent to this sector, in addition to poor budgetary support, the failure of students in the WAEC and UL exams always backlashed on MOE leaders; does he know that in this sector all and sundry, underachievers and people whose careers have plateaued can enter without professional vetting due to their contacts; hence, the sector usually swarms with major decision makers who, though aware they possess inadequate acumen or minimum qualification to manage education, refuse to revert to people whose profession is education; in this sector, does Werner know that Legislators do not summon people to increase budgetary allotments, but rather to grill them, and correct faulty policies and issues that affect their people. The Hon. Minister
needs to take cognizance that this sector certainly is tumultuous grounds where professionalism should be applied, and caution placed over audacity.
Audacity to dump the gains Now, there appears to be a curse on Liberia that each time new leaders assume power, they refuse to ensure continuity, or implement initiatives of their predecessors. For example, President Taylor dashed a fine opportunity to complete the numerous infrastructural development initiatives President Doe left behind, and today the country is suffering.
In similar vein, Werner’s team may be following the same path of folly by dumping Etmonia Tarpeh’s gains no matter how infinitesimal they may be. While the Tarpeh team may have been replaced for whatever reasons, some people still believe there were authentic gains made, especially its strict enforcement and compliance to Minister Gongar’s Education Act; formulation of a comprehensive “Three Year Operational Plan”; development of an exceptional “Teacher Education Reforms initiative” and most of all, the risk and tenacity which Tarpeh’s team exerted during the Ebola crisis to ensure schools were re-opened using a widely accepted school calendar. If the Werner Team were to focus on these, instead of dumping them, its success would resonate overwhelmingly.
Sad to note, Liberian education reform has always taken on diverse, non-contemporary, and peculiar constructs from all and sundry administrators; hence perspectives among education professionals and pundits, who have religiously studied and understood education are that if George Werner’s construct is accepted and rolled out; it would be an audacious trek on tumultuous grounds, and a construct stakeholders, students, and parents could be poised to challenge.
Now, although Almighty God had proposed that David, the young shepherd boy become King would build His temple, he reassigned the task to Solomon when David erred. Solomon for his part, asked only for wisdom and good counsel; the success he enjoyed from the application of his wisdom resonates to this day.
Now to Him who is able to save us from tumult and present us faultless before the most High throne, of the only wise God; may He make His countenance to shine upon us and give us grace and give us peace that passes all understanding, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
About the author
The Rivercess Man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson (The Mwalimu-Koh) is a triple Ivy League product, and a Jesuit protégé; Mr. Jackson is a Yale University Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. Mr. Jackson holds a Master of Education degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics concentration from Saint Joseph’s University.
Blonkanjay Jackson (The Mwalimu-Koh) was recently removed from the position of Assistant Minister for Teacher Education, having diligently served the Government of Liberia for two years.
The title “Mwalimu-Koh” in Swahili means “Veteran Educator and Scholar”; it was conferred on Blonkanjay in Philadelphia in 2008 by his Swahili colleagues for the demonstration of exemplary scholarship, and when they learned that he (the first African HGSE Student Government Senator) had been elected Senator of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts.