Increased Support for Education is the Way Forward and Not the Shutting Down of Schools

2
1421

Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) Superintendent, Benjamin Jacobs in recent days received disdainful and annoyed responses from the student community for his proposal to shut down schools that lack libraries and laboratory facilities. The MCSS Superintendent made the comments during a panel discussion in the rotunda of the Capitol under the theme, “Engaging Citizens on National Budget for Accountable Development.”

The comments by Mr. Jacobs according to our Legislative Correspondent, Leroy M. Sonpon, III, were intended to draw attention to the likelihood of failure for most candidates sitting the 2018 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). According to the MCSS Superintendent, this is because most candidates come from schools that lack libraries and laboratory facilities to assist in adequately preparing the students for the exams.

Although it is still too early to predict the outcome of the examination results, it can be safely opined that Liberian candidates for the WASSCE will perform poorly especially in the sciences. Many of these students rely on unscrupulous exam proctors (overseers) to provide answers to the questions and there have been instances where students as well as proctors have been caught red-handed with exam related materials including Answers key.

Students for their part fear that should the MCSS Superintendent’s proposal gain traction with national policy and decision makers to have schools without libraries and laboratories shut down, thousands of students could find themselves out of school at no fault of their own. The proposal by Superintendent Jacobs can rightly be interpreted as an indictment of the Government of Liberia for its failure to provide such facilities in public schools around the country.

In the face of such unfavorable learning conditions how then can education officials expect optimal performance from our students in the WASSCE? Private schools across the country, as compared to public schools fare much better in terms of the provision of favorable learning conditions for students. However many private schools around the country also lack adequate laboratory and library facilities, although they generate substantial sums from tuition and other fees.

Although many private learning institutions receive government subsidies, they often tend to justify their high tuition requirements with the excuse that they have to pay attractive salaries to teachers. But are private school teachers receiving satisfactory salaries? Well, only the teachers can tell. In recent time, the Ministry of Education has disclosed a number of plans to make the system effective. Part of the plan include a bill seeking the establishment of an Education Crimes Court, licensing of teachers and cleaning of payroll.

In addition to these, the Ministry of Education should introduce a policy making it mandatory for all schools to establish laboratory and library facilities in their respective schools. Admittedly, this is a tall order considering that the Government of Liberia has yet to reach the internationally recognized threshold of twenty percent budgetary allocation to education.

We believe that our students can do well and are willing to do well, but until the appropriate learning conditions including facilities and systems are put in place to enhance learning, we should not expect our students to perform miracles. Shutting down schools because they lack library and laboratory facilities may sound appealing; however it is fraught with potentially adverse consequences simply because of the sheer number of students that may be affected by such measures.

As a start, the Ministry of Education could introduce policies that forbid the granting of charters to schools that do not meet the basic requirement of a laboratory and a library adequately stocked with books and even desks or benches. Most public schools around the country lack not only libraries and laboratories but they also lack instructional materials including text books.

Added to this is the chronic shortage of wooden desks and benches. Yet large quantities of tropical hardwoods are being exported from the country on a daily basis. What can explain this dismal practice or what can account for this anomaly other than official neglect. If the Ministry of Education is serious it should begin to look more closely at these issues.

It can help create jobs by buying school furniture from local producers. But rather than wait for the Ministry of Education, county authorities should also take the initiative to produce wooden furniture for their schools and such could come from the county development funds. Sadly, it shall more likely than not come to pass that public schools especially those in timber endowed areas shall continue to suffer from the crippling lack of basic wooden desks and benches to enhance learning.

Local production of wooden desks. chairs and benches for schools  should be the way to go and it is a good approach to Pro Poor empowerment of the masses to whom President Weah has the responsibility to lift out of poverty.

And lest we forget EDUCATION for all remains by far the most effective means through which a nation can rise out of the depths of poverty. Above all, MCSS Superintendent Jacobs should be reminded that shutting down schools does not cut ice, rather it is INCREASED SUPPORT TO EDUCATION.

Author

2 COMMENTS

  1. Abolishing our US$80 million Ministry of Education completely and giving that money (in scholarship vouchers) to help poor parents who want to take their kids out of our “fece” government schools is the BEST way forward.

    Poor people children are the biggest losers when these clowns (Ministry of Education) are in charge of educating our children:).

  2. With the death of President William R. Tolbert, standard education of Liberia died along with him. President Tolbert on assuming office in the 1970, referred to students as “my precious jewels”; and he proved it not merely as political rhetoric, but by actions. First, he abolished all financial registration and tuition in all government elementary schools. Second, all students with ID cards paid reduced bus fares (to and from school) throughout Monrovia and its environs. And to make it mandatory, all bus and taxi drivers who intentionally refused to take students on board were fined when it was proven that they did so. Thank goodness, at that time there was no such thing as Drivers’ Union. Such an organization was too corrupt for Liberia that time. Third and foremost, all students up to senior high school, were totally exempted from any hospital bill, no matter what sickness, including surgery, they were treated for. Som of the academic high side of these exemptions were as follows: There was no “government grade” such as fifty percent as we began to see it in 1982. Any grade made by a student was recorded in his report card as
    WAS. Teachers were urged to punish any student seen on the streets after 8 o’clock at night. Students found drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco would face very drastic punishments, including expulsion, from the school. Names of Honor Roll and Poor Performance students were placed on the School Bulletin Board at the end of every period test. Relationship between teachers and all students was strictly academic. During my National Exam, I called my own History teacher to read a problem for me. He came over me and just read it verbatim and walked away without looking at me. I never dared call him again that day. Bribery in schools was still waiting for 1985 and now. Few parents attached any importance to private schools as gov’t had the better equipped institutions with Liberian trained teachers, and foreign teachers from Europe and the United States. University of Liberia was feared as one of the most outstanding standard institutions in W/Africa. Huuuu! I can go on and on, but I’m beginning to cry. All you can do is compare and contrast that situation yesterday with Presidents Doe’s, Taylor’s, and Ellen’s system of “free and compulsory” education systems today.
    I’m afraid, this country is coming to an end.

Leave a Reply