Banning First Degree Holders from Teaching? Anyone Ever Heard of Emmet Dennis?

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The University of Liberia last week announced that it would ban Bachelor’s degree holders from teaching at the university. The question that comes to mind is, what kind of students is UL putting
out?

Who says a good high school student can’t teach some courses in high school? In the late 1930s when he graduated from the College of West Africa, Charles Dunbar Sherman (commonly called Charlie B) was immediately recruited by the school to teach some classes. Among the people he taught were William Bruce, who went on to become Liberia’s first college-trained plumber, and Dr. Christian E. Baker, who qualified at Michigan State University in the United States as a Veterinary doctor, Liberia’s first.

We are sure that there were many other brilliant CWA graduates who filled in as teachers just as Charlie B. did after graduation, until they, like him, traveled abroad to pursue their professional training–he in Economics from Howard University (magna cum laude) and the Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania.

Now what happened to Emmet Dennis? When he took the Bachelor of Science degree from Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) in 1961–when the same Charles Sherman was the Commencement Speaker (“The Search for Self Discovery”)–Emmet was immediately recruited to teach science at Bishop Ferguson High School
in Harper, Cape Palmas, Maryland County.

Few knew of the giants that Emmet taught at Bishop Ferguson until the day of his induction as UL President. In the presence of the Visitor to the University, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, several of Emmet’s Bishop Ferguson students showed up to pay tribute to their high school Science teacher. Among them was the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. J. Mills Jones, who, after leaving

Bishop Ferguson had graduated in three years from Cuttington and went on to earn the PhD in Econometrics (the Mathematics of Economics).

There are many students the world over who were hired as teachers or teaching assistants right in the colleges or universities they graduated from. After all, it is not the diploma or degree that matters, but the person behind it. Who remembers a man named Kingman Brewster? He became, in the 1960s, the first and probably only student with a mere Bachelor’s degree to be appointed President of a major United States university–Yale. Now we all have heard of Yale; it is among the top 10, highly prestigious American universities called “Ivy League” institutions. Many say Yale is number one in Law, just as is Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. How did young Brewster do it? Surely, it was not because somebody on the Board of Trustees liked his face, but because the entire Board saw something extraordinary in this young man. They saw leadership ability.

Brewster proved them absolutely right when Yale, during the turbulent ’60s, when most universities across the USA were rocked by student protests, some of them violent, yes, Yale was spared, thanks to whom? President Brewster.

The University of Liberia has to ask itself some very serious questions when it becomes suspicious of its own graduates. Just the other day UL honored several of them–UL graduates–for excellent academic achievement, including four with 4.0 averages. You mean not a single one of them could be recruited as even a teaching assistant?

Yes, the President said it two years ago–Liberia’s educational system is “in a mess.” During her nearly 11 years in office, she has named four Education Ministers–Dr. Joseph Korto, Othello Gongar, Etmonia Tarpeh and now George Werner. The new Minister Werner, who took over from Mrs. Tarpeh on Wednesday, came in with his own diagnosis.

“Liberia’s school system,” he said, “is under attack by poverty, theft and armed conflicts.”

By theft he meant, we believe, buying admissions, grades, diplomas and degrees with money or sex. The educational system is one totally bereft (robbed) of ethics. How many of our teachers know what patriotism means? Were all our teachers patriotic, concerned not about their pockets and themselves, but the future of Liberia, they would never be doing the things they are doing.

We pray that Emmet Dennis can fix the University, as we pray Mr. Werner will fix Liberia’s education system.

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