In our contemporary age of technology and information society, for a country to be competitive in the global marketplace, it requires a more healthy and educated population with advanced skills and knowledge than ever before. Education and health are two of the major components of growth and development; hence the development of any nation begins with quality education and adequate health services.
As a case in point, never in the history of Liberia have the demand for quality education and adequate health services been greater or the consequences of failures so severe. Local news headlines and reports from various sources depict perplexing concerns about the poor quality of education, inadequate health services and sagas of chronic corruption. These issues eclipse the nation’s yearning for sustainable development. Corruption, in particular, stifles government spending on education and health, thus crippling these sector’s qualities and services. The main culprit here is poor governance. In the absence of an accountable system of governance, rent-seeking, corruption, and outright thievery often dominate. These are factors that not only impinge on the effectiveness of the state but also erode public confidence (in its institutions and policies), which in turn weakens a country’s global competitiveness and economic position. This fittingly defines the status quo of Liberia that is assertively confronted by striking fiascos.
Thinking and acting strategically about human capital development is often considered as the lifeblood of most developed and high-performing countries. Public education and health services in this nation should be no different provided government has the will. I mean the will of self-reliance, instead of depending on donors and philanthropic organizations dictating our development path. Though we cannot forget or underestimate the crucial role played by them in helping to rebuild these sectors during the post-civil conflict and the recent Ebola crisis, many pundits are skeptical of aid’s effectiveness to poor countries like Liberia because of corruption. The way forward is not by simply relying on donors and humanitarian efforts alone, but rather seeking for a holistic solution that involves all local stakeholders as well as partners in progress to address the plight which is of common concern to all. In fact, with reference to aid or assistance, we have a saying that goes: “when someone is helping to scrub your back, be able, at least, to scrub your belly” else the assistance will be in vain (or tedious). It is essential for government to have the genuine will and commitment to amplify joint efforts by creating a space of collaborative avenues among the core actors delivering services in such significant development sectors. As for health services, public-private-partnership (PPP) is often a desirable solution; whereas in terms of education, an efficient national curriculum, geared towards sustainable development, can only be designed if educators within the four types of schooling structures espoused by the nation (i.e. public, private, missionary and community schools) are involved in designing it. Without their involvement, a uniform curriculum will be hard to implement – not to mention policy compliance which is also a great deficiency in both sectors. Hence, what government really needs to do is to encourage educational institutions to act vigorously on strengthening the quality of education delivery services and its relevance and oblige them to make it a basis of their improvement strategies.
Improving the living standard of Liberians is the greatest challenge of the current administration. This requires a policy of good governance whose efforts are not put only on how much revenue is being generated but how revenue is being judiciously expended. Thus, it is imperative for government to use every tax-dollar collected to improve the livelihood of the people; also in order to move across the dimensions of the current global agenda for sustainable development, government should intensify its effort to support quality education system as well as adequate health and nutrition services to the nation. For effective and relevant education strategy, the use of adequate teaching techniques, the use of education resource technologies and sufficient financial and material resources is a prerequisite. To facilitate the realization of such conditions, it is fittingly appropriate to suggest the establishment of a state-of-the-art National Research Center (NRC) that would serve as strategic and vocational training institution or an avenue for addressing overall issues that are constantly emerging. The establishment of NRC could not only be a complementary to vocational institutions like BWI etc., but rather a Resource Support Center to boost-up the activities or achievements of the technical and vocational education training envisioned by the existing institutions.
Experience from the 14 years of civil strife and the recent Ebola crisis has shown that, besides road construction, water and electricity, education and health are two of the major policies that demand urgent attention. Education and health are important ends in themselves – successful education depends on adequate health. While education plays a key role in nurturing the ability of people to absorb modern technology and to build or develop the capacity for self-sustaining growth and development, health is a prerequisite for productivity. So, for a meaningful development to occur, enhanced quality education and health services are fundamental. This dual role of education and health as inputs of productivity give the sectors central importance in economic development. There’s no doubt that improved health and quality education with better skills and knowledge can help our people to escape from the abject poverty in which they are being entrapped for so long.
This article’s aim is to call on the government to reposition itself through the right policies that foster sound and competitive education and good health services for its citizens. It emphasizes the importance of flexible and well-informed policy-making of solid and well governed institutions wherein transparency is paramount. Competitive quality education does not only make the people more employable but also gives them the skills and values to address the tension between human development and the challenges of unanticipated crisis. Finally, development is not just a function of circumstances; but rather a conscious choice of planning and discipline to be acted upon. As a nation, we can neither leave our education and health services up to whimsical luck or chance, nor let it be at the mercy donors and philanthropic agencies. If we really want to be a great nation, we must take our destiny into our hands – entrusting our national leaders and educators with the primary responsibilities of creating the necessary conditions upon which high level of quality learning and adequate health services are inevitable as well as accessible to all Liberians.