Representative Johnson Gwaikolo of Nimba County District #9, having observed mass failure in public examinations including the West African Senior Secondary Examination (WASSE), is suggesting the licensing of classroom teachers as a way to remedy the academic disaster facing the country.
Representative Gwaikolo, who prior to taking seat as a Representative served as President of the United Methodist University, is pushing the suggestion in his wisdom to enforce the new Education Reform Act of 2011.
The Daily Observer’s Legislative reporter, Leroy M. Sonpon, III, reported on August 13 that Representative Gwaikolo said licensing teachers will “raise the standard of education, bringing about the much talked-about commitment to the teaching profession and also curtail the ineffectiveness of teachers in classroom management.”
Let us, first, agree that having qualified teachers in the classroom is an essential component of the education system because, minus that, the students coming to seek knowledge will be grossly misguided. We have observed that, as schools are proliferated, so are teachers, especially as any church that is established nowadays will attach school as a business component and members who have no qualification to teach are employed.
Yes, licensing teachers will minimize such a problem, but is that the only means of dealing with the multiple of problems affecting the education system of our country? We also stand to say it is just a bit in the ocean.
An experienced and proficient Liberian teacher and academician, J. Bunadin Kula, in a presentation at a teacher training program, identified causes of problems in the Liberian school system as “Student-caused problem; teacher-caused problem, administration-caused problem; parents-caused problem, and government-caused problem.”
Some students, according to Mr. Kula, are normally indolent (lazy) and want to bypass tests by using money and sex to acquire free grades from the teachers, thus bringing in the teacher-caused problem of soliciting money and sex from female students without observing ethical standards.
Administration-caused problems, on the other hand, are concerned about how much money to take in annually to pay teachers, other staffs and purchase materials, and what remains as profit at the end of the year. Since the need for money is cardinal to the survivability of the school, the administration sides with students and parents and renege on rendering ethical decisions that will enhance integrity. In this case, the administration is harsh on teachers, especially when it comes to grading. “No student fails in the school” becomes the rule of the day.
Parents, too, feel the pinch of the huge registration and tuition fees paid and therefore do not want their children to fail or be demoted in the school. As such, they always liaise with the teachers and then end up with the administration to create means that will get their underperforming children promoted to the next level.
We do recall a recent revelation by a school administrator who emphatically said parents are interfering too much with the Catholic school that he is a part of. According to him, parents are more involved in advocating for students’ promotion to another class even if some do not deserve, and the threat that comes with refusing to do is “withdrawing” their children from the school.
The government, on the other hand, plays a big role in how our education system is shaped today. It has consistently been reported that the Ministry of Education’s payroll is inundated with ghost names. Names of Families and loved ones — even some deceased — are said to be on the payroll, while teachers, who should receive salaries, continue to render voluntary services.
Reports have long emerged that District Education Officers seize teachers’ checks especially in the rural areas, thus denying the teachers of salaries earned.
The government itself has not lifted a finger to build even two public libraries anywhere in this country to get students involved in reading. Also, one of the main causes of mass failure in public examination is that many Liberian students do not read or write English well, the language in which they learn all the courses. Besides the literacy handicap, how can they pass when they only rely on what is given them in the classroom without further research other learning materials (science and computer laboratories, etc) to enhance their knowledge with practice and futher study?
Yes, technology has made research easier, but how are the teachers engaging the students to make better use of technology other than using the social media, mainly Facebook, to write rubbish and waste precious time that could have been used more productively? We believe the MOE can work with teachers to put in place some mechanisms to divert students’ attention from misuse of social media.
The suggestion to license teachers has some advantages, one of which is that it will help to know who is in the classroom and how they can be held accountable for unethical acts. While this paper agrees with Representative Gwaikolo, it also shares the view that there are more problems affecting the system that need solutions.
We, therefore, add that the lawmaker, who chairs the committee on Education, works with the Ministry of Education to ensure that teachers receive their salaries and that ghost names are deleted. Let the Ministry of Education strategize to promote reading and train more teachers who have passion for the profession. We also hope the Legislature can work with the MOE to put strong measures in place to stop malfeasance being introduced by parents.