In my “Thinking Thoughts” last night, I pondered the ecumenical view that Liberian education has declined so much that hardly any learning is taking place behind any of the four walls we call classroom. I also considered how President Sirleaf would be concluding her tenure by 2017 and the only memory of her rule would be her legacy. I asked myself, “Would we consider the poorly performed education sector the Achilles Heel to her legacy? I consoled myself and asserted, “We will not let it happen. God forbid!”
Now, after considering some of the accomplishments of Her Excellency over the 12 years of her reign, par example, the Buchanan highway, the Monrovia-Gbarnga-Ganta highway, and the Caldwell road, I suddenly realized President Sirleaf has achieved much as a legacy.
In addition, I counted the extraordinary victory over Ebola a major milestone of the President’s legacy. Having ravaged Guinea and Sierra Leone, Ebola audaciously but mistakenly strode into Liberia. But with the tenacity of the Liberia people led by the President, Ebola got trampled in no time. What an exceptional feat!
But while all of these are laudable, the dismally performing education sector which remains strapped around the neck with a cable tow, in danger of being pierced in the breast with a sharp object and slashed in the abdomen, appears to be the Achilles Heel of Madam President.
Achilles Heels as a Thorn (dug) in the Flesh
“Achilles heel” as an expression means “area of weakness, vulnerable spot, and a point of frailty in willpower to act decisively”. Achilles heel can be equated to a thorn in the flesh as lamented by the Apostle Paul who had a thorn in his flesh and asked God to remove it but the Lord said, “No, live with that thorn… my grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:7 – 10).
You see, in Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die young. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took him to the River Styx, which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability (never die power), and dipped his body into the water. But as Thetis held Achilles by the heel and plunged him headlong into the river, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. And so, Achilles grew up to be a man of valor and war who survived many great battles.
Unfortunately, one day, a poisonous arrow shot at Achilles was lodged in his heel, the weak spot or part of his body where the water did not wash, killing him immediately. The whole of Ancient Greece was distraught upon learning of the tragedy of so great a warrior whose legacy of valor had been suddenly contaminated.
Battling President Sirleaf’s Achilles Heel
When President Sirleaf observed the education sector was declining, she did not rest but took on various curtailment measures including changing of guards and promulgation of policies. At one point of her tenure, chief lieutenants like of Dr. Korto, Hawa Goll-Kotchi and Esther Catakaw were replaced; at another point, another batch comprising Dr. Kpankpai, Mr. Gongar, Dr. Bility were dumped and education was branded “a mess”. The Education Law was signed and a Tuition-Free policy was unleashed.
Unfortunately, in spite of how hard our President has fought to maintain her legacy, education still looks her in the face as the Achilles heel of her legacy. Does it then appear that the President would exit leaving education as her Achilles heel? God forbid.
When President Ronald Reagan observed US education had declined, he declared a state of emergency in education, and set up the Gardner Commission to evaluate the whole US education sector from Early Learning to Tertiary levels.
The Commission came back with the famous document, “A Nation At Risk: An Imperative for Reform”. When President Reagan received the report, he initiated several reform measures such as (1) declaration of reform policies, (2) removal of square pegs from round holes by placing relevantly qualified people in education management positions, (3) increased logistical supports to education. All of those measures brought US education back in sync with contemporary scholarship; consequently, President Reagan’s vision was eventually solidified and his legacy restored.
I am confident that Liberia is not an exception to such an incredible and resounding success because I submit that we will labor and not rest until education quality in Liberia improves.
I am simply thinking thoughts.
About the author
The Rivercess man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson 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 (Ed.M.) degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics (MsEd) concentration from Saint Joseph’s University. The Rivercess scholar is a candidate for the Doctor of Education, and currently diligently serving the Liberian Government as Assistant Minister of Education for Teacher Education.
The Rivercess scholar can be reached at 0886 681 315 / 0770 206 645, [email protected] .