Some years ago, I listened to a conversation between my instructor and his colleague at a local university. He said to my instructor, “there would come a time when in Liberia we will have more university graduates then less educated people.”
This conversation brings us to the educational aspect of our discussion. The poor performance of students in schools –and at the same time the high number of students graduating from schools –both grade schools and universities –the recent mass failure of students in public exams and university entrances are self-evidence to this assertion.
Lack of interest to learning on the part of students is causing many students to perform poorly in Liberian schools and evidently this lackadaisical attitude is causing more and more students to flunk in public tests. Many students today do not devote much time to things that do matter most to learning. Instead, they do devote much times to television and the internet which are negatively impacting their lives. Although technological advancement is cardinal to the growth and development of any nation, it is beneficial when it is used for the good of the individual and the society at large. Contrarily, in Liberia today, many students devote most of their time to television, Facebook, Youtube, and the like just for amusement. These and other social media outlets can have adverse effects on the learning of students when they are used latently.
Another point –for parents –there are times when their lives are straight as a spear, but instead of letting their children be placed in the hand of God by prayer, to be developed by Him into their unique potential, they try to force them into a particular direction. Some parents overindulge their children, giving them a profusion of wealth. This mistake can be disastrous. Take for example, a classroom teacher once told me some years ago that one of his fifth grade students carried as much as $100USD to school. He then seized the money and contacted the child’s mother to ascertain as to whether she was aware of the money. The mother replied that yes she was the one who gave the student the money for her recess. Some parents even go to the far extreme by giving teachers cash to give their child/children grades that they do not deserve, thereby creating the impression that they love them so much. As these children develop, they become accustomed to this kind of attitude and live with it in the greater society.
The teachers have had their own share of this educational debauchery in our society. A lot of times the public is concerned over the poor performance of students. As a result it blames the teachers for ineffectiveness and/or incompetency, as the cause of the mass failure of students. While this assertion might incomprehensive, here is another side of the coin –some of the people today found in the classrooms are not qualified to teach. Being a graduate from high school or university does not make him/her qualified to teach. Teaching is a profession, indeed a noble one; therefore, those who want to teach must be trained to do so, for it is a delusional for today’s graduates who are not trained to teach in the very system that created them.
Furthermore, just like the authority of the parents which was strong in the seventies and eighties is now weak and ineffective, so like the authority of the teachers today. Often, teachers are compelled to circumvent the ethical values that guide the profession. This becomes lucid when some school administrators and/or proprietors instruct teachers not to fail too many students as this might scare away students and would-be students, as a decrease in student enrollment means decline in revenue generation. This situation which arguably occurs in the private school system undermines the manifest function of the educational institution of our society.
In addition to the foregoing, as we think about why our system of education has become a mess. A former US President once said, “The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves –in their separate, and individual capacities.” Putting this into context, it is the responsibility of the Liberian government –and this government –to provide for its citizen’s quality education.
But it had failed to provide conducive, learning environment for this generation. For example, government institutions lack modern learning facilities –equipped laboratories and libraries as well as internet connectivity just to name a few. The fact that government itself lacks these essentials makes her unable to mandate private institutions to have them, thus creating an education gap between the old and the young.
As I summed up this discussion, what we –your generation and my –must do now is to discover who we really are, where we come from, where we are, and how we got here. When this is done, honestly, we can then get out of where we are and move forward. We need to understand and accept why our generation as an extraordinary and different from all that have gone before it. For example, it got us into the longest and most devastating civil war, it has created a society with so much crime in it that the streets are no longer safe for decent people, and worse of all, our ‘institutions’––do almost nothing to improve conditions.
In concluding this discussion, I am going to say one final thing which many (old and young) may not agree with. We are made to always stick-on to illusion. By this we are made to believe that by changing leaderships we will make Liberia a better place to live –utopia. Yet the world does need changing, society needs changing, the nation needs changing, but under this sky, we are never going to change it until we ourselves are changed. And we are never going to change until we look into the mirror of ourselves, and face the reality with honesty, what we really are inside, and accept change. Until that happens, our effort to ride our society of social problems would be like migrants travelling in a little boat that cannot get beyond shallow water and ill-luck.
An African proverb says: ‘The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.’