They came forward with a gloomy but familiar report on the woeful lack of basic facilities in southeastern Liberia’s schools. This was followed by an urgent appeal to Education Minister George Werner to take immediate measures to redress the situation. They urged him to do this in keeping with the 2011 Education Act adopted by the Legislature and signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The Southeast Women’s Development Association (SEWODA) undertook field observations from June to July this year. They found out that 88 southeastern public elementary schools are substandard. They lack books, libraries, laboratories and even chairs. Far more alarming, there are on average only six teachers per school! Yet there are, from nursery to kindergarten to sixth grade to junior high school, eight classes. And for schools which reach as far as eighth grade, there are 10 classes in which case we can see that there is a definite TEACHER DEFICIT in these schools.
The question for Education Minister George Werner, himself, we understand, a southeasterner, is: WHO WILL TEACH OUR CHILDREN IN THAT IMPORTANT PART OF THE COUNTRY? President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself hails partially from the southeast. Her mother was born there, and so was her unlettered grandmother.
Let us also not forget the southeast, which commences from Grand Gedeh and continues to River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland, Sinoe and River Cess counties, has historically been among the most neglected parts of the country.
Dr. William V. S. Tubman (1944-71), the first President to hail from the southeast, tried to fix Maryland, but his efforts were primarily concentrated in Harper, the Maryland capital, where he was born.
Admittedly, he also built roads and some schools in the southeast.
President William R. Tolbert, Jr., a son of Montserrado County, from which the majority of Liberian presidents hailed, tried to bring development to Grand Gedeh. He built the multilateral high school and the College of Correction in Zwedru, where hardened criminals could obtain vocational training. Also, as president of the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention (LBMEC), President Tolbert convened in Zwedru, the Grand Gedeh capital, the last LBMEC convention before his death. Yet, that was not enough to erase from the minds of southeasterners the perennial neglect that their sub-region had suffered from the founding of the republic.
We can, therefore, never forget that it was from the southeast that the major political upheaval came in 1980, overthrowing the True Whig Party-led government of Liberia. This party had dominated Liberian politics for over a century from President Hilary
Richard Wright Johnson in 1878 to President Tolbert. Liberians recall that many, if not most, of the coup makers hailed from the southeast. Its leader, Master Sergeant Samuel Kanyon Doe, was born in Tuzon, Grande Gedeh County.
Minister Werner must have been a very young fellow when the 1980 coup took place. But being a highly educated Liberian, he knows the history.
Let every Liberian official, from President Sirleaf to Vice President Boakai to Foreign Minister Ngafuan, to Finance Minister Konneh to Defense Minister Samukai to Internal Affairs Minister Dukuly to Education Minister Werner to Health Minister Dahn and all the other GOL officials remember this history.
Let them, too, do everything in their power to bring development to southeastern Liberia, remembering in particular the cry of the southeastern women.
Let these government officials, and the National Legislature and the Judiciary too, forget self and do all in their power to bring development to all parts of Liberia, most especially to rural Liberia and end the long night of neglect.