School Feeding Program Great, But…

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The Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System has a wonderful plan for the re-opening of schools, hopefully next January.

He has pledged to feed the children as a key component for the enhancement of learning.  Reflecting on the truism that "An empty bag cannot stand," MCSS Superintendent Benjamin Jacobs has pledged that the System will do its best to feed all the children, many of whom come to school hungry.  These hungry students, in the middle of the school session or earlier, soon find their way back home in search of food.  Hunger contributes to truancy (absence or non-attendance), and nothing defeats the educational purpose more than that.

Superintendent Jacobs should be commended for acknowledging this particular need which, if fulfilled, would definitely empower the children to be more responsive to the instruction they are receiving and take their lessons more seriously.  And we hope and pray that the Education Ministry and the MCSS will be able to find the food to feed the students.  We are sure that the World Food Program, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and  Save the Children UK and USA would be more that willing to help our malnourished youth by enabling MCSS successfully to execute this plan.  But . . . and again, this is a BIG BUT!

With the children's stomachs full, what kind of instruction will they receive in the classroom?  Who will the teachers be?  How well prepared will they be?  What will be the syllabus? Are their textbooks to back it up?  What will be emphasis on reading in a country where over 60% of the people are illiterate and so many of our school going pupils and students have serious difficulty reading?

If there are textbooks, where are they coming from?  This newspaper has long argued that the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Liberian government as a whole should insist on locally produced texts for our students because such texts help the students learn faster and more retentively.

We have no idea why the MOE has persistently had difficulty finding the resources to recruit and train textbook writers.  This is most certainly one of the key challenges of our new Minister of Education, Dr. Elizabeth Davis Russell who, given her impeccable educational qualifications and professional accomplishments, we are sure will be confirmed by the Liberian Senate.

We wonder what Superintendent Jacobs is thinking about Civics, a vital subject that for reasons few can understand was some years ago expunged (deleted) from the Liberian school curriculum.   The most puzzling thing about this deletion is that this happened in a country whose people have difficulty being patriotic. Civics not only helps students learn more about their country; it helps them understand their history and the functioning of their government.  Without putting forward what we believe is an unnecessary argument for the restoration of Civics in the Liberian educational curriculum, we are straightforwardly calling on the Education Ministry and MCSS to make sure that Civics is taught in ALL elementary and high schools, public and private, throughout the Republic.  In order to do this, it is axiomatic (self evident) that textbooks at various levels will have to be produced and teachers trained to teach Civics.

We hope also that Superintendent Jacobs and his team will ensure that each school has a library and trained Librarians to help students develop the ability and habit of reading. The Ministry should also help MCSS find the money to equip each school with a fully equipped laboratory.  Our students must learn Science at every level, including Nursery.  We all have seen what Ebola has done to us–killed so many of our nurses and doctors.  They need to be replenished and that can be done only when we teach our students Science and Math.

Needless to say, MCSS and the MOE have a lot to do to train and retrain our teachers–the existing ones and the thousands more that need to be recruited to man our educational institutions.

Superintendent Jacobs should be commended also for his plans to keep Ebola at bay by insisting on hand washing, temperature taking and all the other measures in place to fight the virus. It is a great thing, too, to engage Guidance Counselors in all the schools to help keep out students focused, and properly guided and direct through their academic journey the vocational and professional choices they must eventually make.

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