It is hard to find anyone in our entire education spectrum more qualified than this young man from rural Rivercess, which is yet one of Liberia’s most backward counties. Yet, it is Rivercess that gave Liberia its first PhD, in 1956, Dr. John Payne Mitchell. He was Secretary of Education from 1962 to 1965. The Mitchell family has produced several other educated sons and daughters, one of them Sam, Jr., who is running a successful hotel and entertainment business in Sinkor, Monrovia. Unlike the children of many highly privileged Liberian families—and some churches, too—leasing their prime property to foreigners for 30 to 60 years, Sam is now building a multi-storied building on the small property bequeathed by their father, former Rivercess Representative Samuel Mitchell.
Young Sam’s eldest brother, Dr. John Payne Mitchell, and the eminent Liberian lawyer and one time pastor of Providence Baptist Church, Peter Amos George, were sons of a Rivercess mother, Madam Nyon Ware.
But guess who else hails from Rivercess? Emmanuel Bowier, Toga Gayewea McKintosh, Othello Gongar, Gabriel Williams, Christopher Neyor. Does everyone recognize these eminent names?
But this Editorial is not about the other Rivercess greats. We only thought to inject a little historical background of the place from which our main subject hails, another Rivercess son slowly rising to eminence: Moses Blonkanjay Jackson.
Young Jackson is a talented Liberian, who has so far made good use of the brains and opportunities that God has given him. We pray that all other young Liberians will do the same—make use of the brains and opportunities God has bestowed.
A product of Tubman High, Blonkanjay is a triple Ivy League product—Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. Who can beat that?
Blonkanjay did his work in Math. He could have gone on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the world’s preeminent technological school. There he could have studied Aeronautical Engineering and landed a job at the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), where he could have been on his way to the moon or Mars. But no, he chose Harvard’s School of Education, where he took his degree in Math Education.
Blonkanjay did one thing more: He could have landed a top job in some American school, college or university; but no, he returned to his war-torn country to serve his people. How commendable. He could have yet decided to spend his youthful dynamism serving American academia or industry and only opted to return “after retirement with all my benefits,” as we have heard so many Liberians say. Not Blonkanjay.
Now to the theme of this Editorial, here are what we consider to be his three challenges: First, to tour all our Teachers Colleges—Kakata, Zorzor, Webbo, etc.—study all their needs and problems and make a plan to turn them into first class teacher training institutes. Here, he will make sure that the teachers are especially trained in Math and the Sciences—his area—so that they may go out and rejuvenate learning across Liberia in these critical disciplines.
His second challenge is to lead the government in creating more teacher training institutions. He knows what we are talking about because in his impressive think piece in last Thursday’s Daily Observer, he wrote about the proliferation of what he called “Trojan” teachers in our school system. We need at least 10,000 more trained teachers NOW for Liberia’s schools and who else but this Harvard-trained educator can help make that happen? Here, President Ellen Sirleaf’s government must SEIZE this great opportunity to have this highly educated and committed young man lead this charge and give him and the Education Ministry the necessary resources to do it. We could begin, within three years, to feel the impact.
Third, Blonkanjay should, if he has not already done so, start a Math Club with membership across all 15 counties to rekindle our young people’s interest in this vital subject. This would facilitate the revival of strong Math and Science teaching in the schools and nurture the young through high school, college and on to graduate school, just as Blonkanjay himself has done.
How are your first three challenges, Blonkanjay? We wish you Godspeed!