Yesterday, December 10, was Human Rights Day, celebrated throughout the world to highlight the importance of this phenomenon in the lives of people everywhere.
There are many aspects to human rights. The first is the right to live. That, remember, was God’s first gift to human beings: God’s breath into Adam made him “a living soul.”
Remember also that in the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson mentioned life as the first of the three sacred elements all human beings require: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The next human right is food, without which no one can survive. God freely provided food to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But when they disobeyed his edict and ate “the forbidden fruit,” he expelled them from there and told Adam, “From the sweat of thou brow shall thou eat bread.” God knew that they and their children needed food, including water. This divine truth still governs today every living creature.
Third on the list of essentials for human existence is education. Remember King Solomon’s immortal advice: “In all thy getting, get understanding.” Understanding is first given from one’s mother’s knees, then from both parents, and later from the school, college and university.
Next is the right to work. The “sweat” in God’s command to Adam meant work. Many governments have fallen because they failed to find work for their people. Unemployment is a very serious political issue. The current Liberian government is blessed because despite massive unemployment, the government is still there.
The fourth right is the right to freedom. Remember God gave to Adam and Eve free will. The Maker also centuries later delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt by sending Moses to Pharaoh.
When in 1815 and 1885, respectively, the Europeans met in Berlin to carve up Africa for themselves, they thought they would be here forever, but they forgot what Jesus said in Luke Chapter Four, verse 18: That God sent Jesus to heal the broken-hearted, free the captives, cure the blind and liberate those in bondage. The fulfilment of this prophesy was the task of the African Liberation Movements, whose final battle was won by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) when they delivered the death blow to South African apartheid.
Even the century-old Liberian oligarchy was not spared. It came to an abrupt and brutal end in 1980. Unfortunately, those who were chosen to do the task soon forgot that God is a God of justice and no respecter of persons. Do what is right and He is forever with you. Commit the sin of injustice and you are doomed.
One of the cardinal sins of injustice is the denial of a people’s right to education—the subject of this editorial.
How is this happening under the first Liberian mother to be elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also happens to be, to date, the most learned African leader? Yes, President Edwin J. Barclay was Liberia’s most intellectually and artistically gifted President, but he held only a degree from Liberia College (1903) and studied law as an apprentice. Yet many consider him our greatest President. He was, however, in terms of exposure and educational achievement, no match to Ellen, who is today the darling even of Harvard University.
So how is it possible that Liberian education under her watch has tumultuously plummeted? Yet education is a most critical of all human rights. It affects not just the life of its citizens, but the nation itself.
One of the problems, declared Moses Blonkanjay Jackson in his recent Commencement Address at Teachers College, University of Liberia, is that the education system is now in the hands of those who have not been specifically trained in Education. True or not, the system seems to be in continuing disarray. Mr. Jackson, the product—in Mathematics and Science—of three top American universities, was recently summarily removed, along with several other educators, from the Education Ministry.
The nation is waiting with bated breath to see what the current education leaders will do to restore Liberian education. But they and the President must never forget one thing—Education is one of the most critical of all human rights, the violation of which may result in very serious consequences. The idle minds of thousands of youth loitering around shops, on sidewalks and everywhere one turns, are fertile grounds for mischief or even chaos in the absence of education, job skills, jobs, medical care and anybody to care about them.
The cogent and urgent questions in this regard are: How are the nation’s financial resources being expended? Are they going into the pockets of a chosen few at the expense of education, health, agriculture and freedom from poverty, for the peace, wellbeing and advancement of our people?