A little over a fortnight ago this newspaper in its October 16, editorial asked a very important question. That question, which headlined the editorial, was “What Happened to the Teaching of Civics in our Schools? This newspaper posed the question in view of the recent student unrest as well as other instances of social unrest in and around the country which, in the opinion of the Daily Observer, could be mitigated through a well-designed civic education program to be introduced and taught in all schools in the Republic.
Moreover, the Daily Observer’s editorial pointed out that virtually all national policy documents on national healing and reconciliation and the fostering of national cohesion, have stressed the importance of reintroducing the teaching of civics in all Liberian schools. This idea is also included and stressed in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development
Every national policy document on reconciliation and healing and on building national cohesion—including the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development– has stressed the importance of introducing the teaching of civics in the Liberian school system. Indications however suggest that the matter, for unspecified reasons, has been placed on ice by authorities of the Ministry of Education.
It can be recalled that, at the inception of the George Weah administration, the Ministry of Education announced with much fanfare that the reintroduction of civics/citizenship education would have commenced within a year. Nearly two years later, the proposition remains in limbo and the public needs to know why. This is against the backdrop of the weak and faltering educational system which former President Sirleaf once described as a “mess”.
Recently the Ministry of Education was reveling in the fact that significant progress has been made in the performance of Liberian students on the West African Exams. This newspaper was however quick to point out that such progress does not automatically confer the values and attributes of good citizenship on students who obtain passing grades in the West African Exams.
The Daily Observer was careful to point out that Liberian students need to know about and appreciate their diversity as well as the richness of their respective cultures. They must learn about their local communities, become deeply instilled with values of trust and accountability, love and respect for each other and for the country.
Moreover, they should be taught that, as “right bearers”, they also have duties and responsibilities to themselves, their community and the nation to make it better for all. Above all, they must have knowledge of their government and the importance of participation in matters of national governance such as elections etc.
The Daily Observer, recognizing the looming danger posed to the nation by the filling of our airways with hate speech being spewed out by both government officials and private individuals, have stressed the need for both government and ordinary citizens to develop a sense of civic duty which would allow mutual and constructive engagement — a chance to agree or disagree without necessarily cussing “ma and pa” cuss or engaging in violence.
This is because the development of Liberia is the responsibility of all Liberians, including government which leads the national development process. Therefore, it imposes on all Liberians the duty to hold each other accountable and hold our government accountable. But this such can only be successfully done by an enlightened citizenry and this is why the teaching and reintroduction of civics or citizen education in all our schools should be considered a national priority.
The Daily Observer notes that discussions on dual citizenship have taken centerstage amongst the host of recommendations expected to be approved by the Legislature for a referendum. Interestingly, the Liberian people are being called out to vote on dual citizenship, the granting of citizenship rights to people of non-negro descent, when most voters do not even know what the rights, duties and responsibilities of citizenship are.
This newspaper, in its quest to find out just what progress has been made by the Ministry of Education since 2018, when it publicly announced plans to reintroduce the teaching of civics in Liberian schools. Towards this end, the Daily Observer paid two visits to the offices of the Deputy and Assistant Ministers of Education Felicia Doe Somah and Alexander Duopu, respectively. On both occasions, the Daily Observer was told both individuals were out. Text messages sent to both individuals have since gone unanswered.
This is a matter which, in the opinion of this newspaper, can rightly be considered a national exigency. The Ministry of Education, having failed to make good on its pronouncements, should come out with some explanations to the public why the reintroduction of civics in Liberian schools is yet to be implemented. Perhaps Education Minister Ansu Sonii needs to be informed of these developments.
Officials of the Ministry should not wrap enwrap themselves in cloaks of secrecy and refuse to disclose to the public the current state of affairs surrounding the reintroduction of civics in Liberian schools. The country is dying for want of patriotism. Our youths, many of who have been inculcated in a culture of violence, have the urgent need to learn tolerance and respect for the law, which implies respect for the Constitution. Yet, they hardly understand their own Constitution, their guarantor of rights.
This is the discomfiting reality which stares us in the face which, if not addressed, could pose long-term consequences for the nation. There should be absolutely no excuses why the Ministry of Education is unable to come up with an acceptable syllabus for the teaching of civics in our schools as of yet. If it is the lack of resources to do so, then this newspaper calls on the Government of Liberia to consider this matter exigent and provide the required resources to actualize the idea.
This newspaper therefore places the Ministry of Education that it shall continue to flag this issue as long as it remains a subject of official benign neglect. Shine your eyes Mr. Education Minister!