We find it highly significant that within the first five months of his administration, President George Manneh Weah has launched a 10-Year Strategic National Education Plan.
The President unveiled the plan at the National Education Conference convened Monday on the campus of the Booker Washington Institute (BWI).
The aim, he said, is to harness a collective effort and provide quality education for Liberia’s young people, who comprise the major part of the population. He announced that the Ministry of Education (MOE), in order to implement the plan, has carved out four focal points: curricular development, teacher development, school management and equipped infrastructure.
The President underscored the importance of education when he told the Conference in a succinct (brief, precise) sentence, “Our [children] deserve the best and we must provide them that.”
Let us first focus on which children the President was thinking of. We hope he was not just talking of Liberian children who are already in school but are being inadequately trained due to the lack of facilities, including benches to sit, desks to write on and libraries and labs to study and work in. We earnestly hope the President is also thinking of the hundreds of children he passed en route to Kakata on Monday on the Rehab and Paynesville Red Light Roads and on through Careysburg and Kingsville, who are selling on the streets and highways when they actually should be in school.
Education Minister Ansu Sonii must make it a serious part of his agenda to reach out to these children selling on the streets not just in greater Monrovia but throughout the country.
There is one other group that Minister Sonii should be deeply concerned about—the tens of thousands of able-bodied young men and women who are also selling on the streets everywhere, when they should be enrolled in a vocational school learning a trade, or continuing their secondary or college education.
Grown men and women selling chewing gum, bread and water on the streets — here is a total waste of precious human resources. They are included among the young people President Weah is talking about. Yesterday he, too, was in almost the same situation—and he mentioned it in his Address opening the conference. But he was most fortunate — he took seriously what he was engaged in on the streets of Clara Town and elsewhere in Monrovia—FOOTBALL — and thanks to this seriousness and commitment to something he passionately loved, he went on to become a football superstar!
But not every disadvantaged youngster is that fortunate. So we — all of us in this Republic — and most especially the government, in particular the Ministry of Education, should do all we can to engage them and harness their boundless energies through our educational opportunities.
We note that the first of the focal points in the strategic National Education Plan is curriculum development. Here, we wish to call Minister Sonii’s attention to four curricular areas: first, Civics. Sometime in the 1970s this vital subject, which taught all of us vital lessons about our country, our government and those who serve it, was taken out of the education system. This was most inadvisable, even terribly unfortunate. Why? Because it was civics that taught us to know our country and its governors, love and appreciate our country. But for reasons no one can really explain, Civics was extracted from the curriculum, and today and for a long time now, we have bitterly complained that Liberians are not patriotic. How can we be patriotic when we know so little about our country and its government and leaders?
Minister Sonii, please restore Civics to the national curriculum as a compulsory subject.
Secondly, we need to strengthen our Math and Science programs. In this Information Age in which we now live, which has gripped every fabric of the society, Math and Science are crucial and must be strengthened at all levels of education.
Third, Technology should be seriously taught throughout the school system. We see that our children, many before they turn eight, are using the cell phone. And so many of our children, even in elementary school, are using the cell phone to do their homework and assignments. Technology is, therefore, now a vital part of all of our lives. Instruction in Technology would push our students further ahead in their educational sojourn and help them become better students.
And last, but by no means least, our children should be taught to become ENTREPRENEURS. We see how business in our country is dominated by foreigners—and this is one of the primary reasons why we are poor. The people who control our money are the business people, most of whom are foreigners. Let us begin NOW to teach our children—from elementary through high school and college—how to do business and run businesses. This is done in many advanced nations, including the United States, Germany and Japan. We are sure they are doing this in Ghana and Nigeria, too. Minister Sonii, please take this, too, seriously.
The last point in this Editorial is addressed directly to President George Weah: Thank you for your Education Message to the nation. We wish here to advise that nothing can happen without MONEY. Please ensure that Minister Sonii and his Ministry are fully supported financially, so that they may perform their tasks with utmost efficiency and effectiveness.
Please also ensure that ALL Government scholarships are faithfully paid. Please note, Mr. President, that this is one of the problems underlying the recent crisis at Cuttington University. The government owes that university over US$750,000 in scholarship money, which has not been paid over many years.
Please do something about it, Mr. President, and relieve this vital part of our education system of some of its burning problems.