Who is Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh? We do not remember ever doing a story on this caring and patriotic parent. But last Thursday our Health Correspondent, Alaskai Johnson, caught him doing a great deed: providing 78 armchairs to students of the John Payne Mitchell Elementary and Junior High School in Marshall, Margibi County. Johnson dutifully covered the event and put Mr. Tarponweh suddenly in the news.
Alaskai’s photos were graphic enough. He showed students sitting on cement blocks, with their second grade teacher looking on with concern, and the new armchairs provided by donor Tarponweh.
There are at least three things that make this story important. The first is the students who, eager to learn, are prepared to make any sacrifice, including sitting on the floor, to attend school. The second is the ineptitude (incompetence, ineffectiveness) of the Ministry of Education, in allowing students, in this day and age, to sit on the classroom floor or on broken concrete blocks. The Ministry has forgotten what President Sirleaf did a few years back when she paid a surprise visit to the William Gabriel Kpoleh School in Bardnersville and found students sitting on the floor: in anger, she suspended Education Minister Joseph Korto and all his deputies!
The third important thing about Alaskai’s story is the neighborhood in which the school exists. Right across the street from it are the imposing mansions of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler—a man who hails from an equally impoverished rural Liberian town—Arthington in Montserrado County.
Why do we have to mention the Speaker? First, because Alaskai did in his story. The inquisitive reporter that he is, he could not help but look across the street and see the Speaker’s imposing mansions, in stark contrast to this deprived and impoverished school training pupils who are just beginning their educational journey into the future, when one of them would one day be a national leader like Speaker Tyler.
But let us quickly digress, for one particular reason: to remind these students—indeed all Liberian students—that we do not want them to grow up dreaming of political leadership only. They must remember that there is a whole lot one can do for his or her country without becoming president, speaker, senator, representative or chief justice. Many of us have been given, and are being given, an education to HELP MOVE LIBERIA FORWARD IN EVERY DIRECTION—in agriculture, architecture, business and finance, cartography (mapping), defense (immigration, police, soldier, etc), education (teaching, research and writing) engineering, geology and mining, health sciences and medicine, history (world, national, local, personal and professional, etc.), journalism, law, languages, political and other social sciences and pure science and technology.
Speaker Tyler may not have known where this school is or what its needs are. Nor may he have known after whom the school was named—John Payne Mitchell—former Education Secretary and the first Liberian to attain the Doctorate degree (PhD).
We surely hope the students of this school will come to know who Dr. Mitchell was, so that some of them, too, may aspire to attain and indeed achieve this coveted academic credential, the PhD.
No, the Speaker may not have known where this school is, for too many of our top officials and privileged people feel very comfortable in their air-conditioned, stained glass- windowed vehicles speeding past the poor, deprived and underprivileged on the dusty, muddy or water-logged streets and in slum neighborhoods.
But that is why—remember? —Jesus walked most places He went—to experience for Himself as the incarnate One (in the flesh—God made man), the multitude of problems besetting suffering humanity—and not only to experience, but to DO something about them!
Remember, too, that Christ took pains to teach the people about GOOD NEIGHBORLINESS, telling them that their neighbor is “everyone, without exception.”
We pray that Speaker Tyler will become a good neighbor to his poor, deprived and underprivileged community—and not him only, but all others who are building mansions in that beautiful Marshall strip, or anywhere else in Liberia.
For that same Bible teaches, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”