China’s High-Tech Boost to Liberian Education: the Schools Must Be Made Ready, Too

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The People’s Republic of China, through the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO), last week donated US$700,000 worth of information and technology equipment for use in Liberia’s three Rural Teacher Training Institutes.

The benefitting institutions are the KRTTI in Kakata, Margibi County, ZRTTI in Zorzor, Lofa County, and WRTTI in Webbo, Maryland County.

This is a significant contribution to teacher training in Liberia which immediately places a heavy responsibility on the government of Liberia (GOL) in respect to all its educational institutions, especially the elementary, junior high and high schools. 

What is the heavy responsibility?  Now that Liberian teachers are being trained in high-tech education, the GOL should immediately start providing its elementary, junior high and high schools with the same equipment, so that the students will become ready to receive effectively what their teachers have to offer.

The point is that computer and high-tech education cannot be taught in a vacuum (an empty space).  As the teacher stands behind his or her computer imparting that knowledge to students, so must the students be behind their computers receiving the instruction.  This would be a very serious motivation for our students, which could at once accelerate their learning capacity because it would make learning far more interesting and challenging.

We vividly recall that several years ago, around 2010-2011, when the Ministry of Education, under Minister Othello Gongar, launched the new Liberian Education Curriculum, it contained nothing about high-tech.  The Daily Observer immediately brought this important missing element to the attention of the Ministry, and in an editorial told Minister Gongar that there was no way Liberian education in the 21st century could be effective without high-tech facilitation.

That was five years ago.  Today, even in or near the nation’s capital, Monrovia, many students are still sitting on the floor, or on broken concrete blocks.  Yesterday’s editorial in this newspaper referred to an identical situation in Schiefflin, Margibi County, very near Monrovia, where an unknown businessman came to the rescue of an elementary school where he found students seated either on the floor or on concrete blocks.   Out of his compassion, he showed up with 78 armchairs to help these impoverished students and their badly handicapped school.

This leads us to wonder whether our suggestion that GOL equip all of its elementary and junior high schools  throughout the country with computers to bring them into the modern era is not too farfetched (unlikely, improbable), if GOL has difficulty providing as basic a thing as classroom chairs.

And yet what can a newspaper do but remind the government of the challenges facing it in this modern era, especially in the education sector.  What the Chinese have done is constructively to help the GOL do what it must to strengthen the capacity of primary and secondary education.

We hope that the new Education Minister, George Werner, is fully cognizant of the many challenges facing him as he attempts to clean up what President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf several years ago called the “mess” in Liberian Education.   Now the Chinese have upped the ante by introducing high-tech into the system, beginning first—and most appropriately so—with the teachers.   Once the teachers are equipped, for the first time, with this technology, it would be foolhardy for them to present it to their students in a purely theoretical fashion.  That would be counter-productive.  That is surely not the way to introduce modern technology.  The approach to teaching it must be hands-on and direct.

Mr. Werner, if confirmed, will have to think seriously about how he can rais the funds to computerize Liberian primary and secondary classrooms, so that when the high-tech-savvy teachers arrive, they will find students   equally ready to receive the new instructions being offered.

Minister Werner must first find high-tech professionals who can immediately scout all classrooms throughout the country and propose how they can be remodeled to accommodate high-tech instruction.   

The Education Ministry would then have to liaise with the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO), the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA) and the GOL as a whole toward equipping the schools for this revolutionary new methodology.           

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