Measures disclosed by Minister of Education, Professor Ansu Sonii, and his team in order to improve Liberia’s messy education system sound pleasant to the ears.
The measures include licensing teachers to identify them and guarantee their statuses, administering an aptitude test to manifest how qualified and competent a teacher is, reintroduction of Civics in schools, and drafting of a bill for passage by the National Legislature to establish an academic crimes court.
According to our Education Columnist, Cewhy Kwanue, the MoE authorities say that these measures will be implemented some time this year because the ministry has realized that many high school graduates are in the classroom teaching only what they know instead of what is required in the curriculum for a certain grade level.
As a direct interpretation of the local parable, “a bitter sore needs bitter medicine,” so will these measures help, if implemented, minimize malpractices that have engulfed the education system.
However, Prof. Sonii and team should realize that the need for qualified, competent and disciplined teachers is not the only major problem facing our education system.
The measure, in fact, should start with officials at the Ministry of Education, stretching downward to the County Education Officers (CEOs) and the District Education Officers (DEOs) who are habitually engaged in seizing salaries of qualified teachers and, in some instances, diverting school materials to their privately owned schools.
Thorough research has unveiled that MoE officials, CEOs and DEOs recruit teachers not on the basis of their qualification, but relationship. Many teachers have cried over the years that CEOs and DEOs have skipped over them for the wives, children, girlfriends and other relatives of these MoE officials. There are some qualified and competent teachers who have taught for years, but are yet to receive a salary from the Government of Liberia only because CEOs and DEOs are impediments to their entry on payroll.
Another concern to address is the lack of public libraries in Monrovia and across the entire country. When former US President, George W. Bush visited here during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration, he promised to donate 1 million books to the country.
This sounded as an insult to some Liberians who thought he was going to give money instead. But in a given situation as Liberia’s at the time, such a donation was necessary for recovery from the education brain drain that is currently affecting the country.
Those books were reported to have been sent to this country, but Liberian students are yet to identify one. Instead, MoE officials who are operating their own private schools are said to have them in their school’s reading rooms.
Liberian students are mocked every time for being unable to read and write standard English, but where are the libraries to spend time reading materials of interest to a better education?
As a result of the lack of public libraries to create a culture of reading and researching, young people and adults alike spend their time on the Facebook writing rubbish, or in the video clubs watching European football.
Will your ministry care to erect at least 10 public libraries across the country and trace those books donated to the country, Prof. Sonii?
The other issue affecting both public and private schools in Liberia is low salary for teachers.
We recalled years back that there was a mass exodus of teachers from the profession to other occupations, especially in the medical and non-governmental sectors because of low salaries.
Most schools, especially private schools, charge prodigious (huge, very great) amounts of money for tuition and other fees, but teachers are offered low salaries that compel them to moonlight from school to school here.
It can be recalled that a few years ago, teachers in the Catholic School System had a go-slow because of this treatment. Are there policies to institute that will also compel schools to offer better salaries for teachers in accordance with their qualifications and competence, Mr. Minister?
The creation of an “Academic Crimes Court,” we believe, will address issues relating to infiltration by parents to use cash violence to get their children promoted to other classes without the academic backing.
It is also certain that even students, especially females, will use this court to challenge teachers or instructors who sexually exploit them for grades.
It is our hope that some of our legislators with a professional background in Education will sponsor such a bill to have laws that will prohibit those malpractices.
Nevertheless, Mr. Minister, if the measures disclosed will be taken seriously, you can begin the process with your officials in line with the teaching of the great Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”