Cellcom, one of the nation’s preeminent mobile phone establishments, has initiated a visionary program to help Liberian students.
We use the word advisedly, for ‘visionary’ denotes a creative, imaginative, futuristic thinker–and doer. The question could easily be asked, how did this company, which was not the cell phone pioneer in Liberia, develop such an idea, which is not only fantastic and farsighted, but most seriously facilitative to Liberia’s students and educational system.
In his comprehensive story on the launching of Cellcom’s revolutionary initiative, our Business Correspondent George Kennedy quoted Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh as admitting that the nation’s schools lack libraries and laboratories. So she thanked the company for providing the “world reader,” a major program installed in the Cellcom tablet, that makes books available to all students for only US$129 apiece.
In commending Cellcom for this initiative, we must ask a few questions to ensure that everyone has a good understanding of what it entails.
First, WHAT books will be available on the tablet?
The second deals with the question of relevancy: will the books be useful to elementary, junior, senior high and university students?
Will the books match the Liberian school curriculum?
The Third question: has the company already dealt with copyright issues? In the new world of book reading, when people standing in a cue for any kind of service, or sitting on a bus, plane or train, can open their cell phones or tablets with over 100 readily available books, the copyright issue may probably not be so relevant.
And fourth, what must be done to ensure COORDINATION between what the school system and the teachers require and what Liberian students read? This fourth question is related to the first, the issue of the Liberian curriculum.
The Education Ministry should enter immediately a conversation with the Cellcom management to determine how best the CURRICULUM can match the “world reader.”
We believe this is a wonderful opportunity, but the two should match.
This would give our students a terrific head start in their educational journey, because for the first time in history, Liberian students would have the books they need right in their laps!
Education Minister Tarpeh and her team should, therefore, begin now this conversation with Cellcom, to ensure that the two are on the same page moving forward.
This brings us to our final question–the issue of WHAT KINDS OF BOOKS the Liberian curriculum requires? This newspaper has long suggested that the Education Ministry, probably with the collaboration of the development partners, including UNICEF, the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID), Save the Children, etc., should train and engage TEXTBOOK WRITERS, especially for the elementary and high schools. We have often referred to some African countries, especially Ghana, where primary school students in particular are taught from local textbooks, written and produced by Ghanaians, with all the artwork based on the national culture, history, etc. We have often said what we know to be true–that these local textbooks have made Ghanaian students more successful, because they can better understand and master the subject matter presented from their own cultural and historical perspective. WE CAN DO THE SAME THING IN LIBERIA–so what are we waiting for?
We need to train a new cadre of Liberian textbook writers and put them to work. Let this be properly organized and funded, so that once the writers are trained, they can get to work, and there will be no worry about money to pay them and to produce and distribute the textbooks.
We hope that Cellcom, or any other progressive enterprise, can consider also a world reader for people learning to read and write.
This would spell a massive blow to illiteracy in our country!
We have also always contended that Liberians have in our own hands their future–the building, in every possible way, of a sound, progressive and successful nation. So let us get to work and make it happen.
With progressive and helpful enterprises like Cellcom, the task is made easier and more hopeful. We pray that other commercial and industrial companies will follow Cellcom’s wo thy lead and help strengthen our educational system.