They cut pathetic figures milling aimlessly in droves each day over the past two weeks about the compound of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), smartly dressed in their school uniforms.
To the casual observer, it would appear as though it is some official program being held for students. But to the contrary, these hundreds of students, mainly from public schools, have been thrown to this distinctly political camp by their own government, in search of money to pay their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees. Their parents cannot afford to pay these fees, and their own Government of Liberia (GOL) has publicly declared it is not going to pay.
From all indications, our children have been thrown to the politicians, in a calculated, cold-hearted, reckless and wicked attempt to play politics with our children’s education.
This dangerously corrupt and evil manipulation of Liberian children’s education HAS TO STOP.
According to some students, their school authorities are directing them to the CDC party headquarters with assurances that Presidential candidate George Weah is going to settle their WASSCE fees. CDC youth wing chairman Jefferson Koijee, in a clear attempt to acquire political mileage on this score, reinforced this impression with public declarations that candidate Weah has already made some WASSCE payments and will continue to do so. Just where is George Weah getting this money from? We recall his declared inability to pay child support in the United States; yet, he appears now to be dishing out tidy sums, in what appears analogous to and indistinguishable from acts of false benevolence.
But we ask, why has the Government of Liberia (GOL), at this eleventh hour, shockingly made such a volte face (about face), declaring its inability to pay WAEC the requisite approximately US$2.5 million? Is this what Education Minister George Werner meant by his remark “da book we will eat”? His Ministry’s shocking announcement calling on parents to shoulder the responsibility instead leaves the public wondering whether indeed there is some truth to allegations that the Ministry’s decision has underlying political tones. Why? Because the Minister has on social media declared open support for George Weah’s Presidential bid.
This is indeed a sad and stinking indictment not just of the Ministry of Education under Werner’s leadership; but also of GOL under of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. That Zimbabwe which at independence in 1980 could boast of only five (5) university graduates but now, thirty-seven (37) years later, has the highest adult literacy rate in Africa (92% 2010) easily attests that Zimbabwe invested heavily in education unlike Liberia, with a mere 35 percent adult literacy rate nearly two-hundred (200) years after independence.
We consider this a very serious indictment of President Sirleaf, a mother—indeed the mother of all Liberians—that the nation’s education, which she admitted three years ago was “in a mess” has sunk to such low depths, just as she ends her 12-year tenure as Liberia’s President.
There is also the example of Ghana, which is now moving towards free and compulsory secondary education for all in 2018, least to mention a poor, resource-strapped country like Cuba, whose achievements in health and education rank highest in North, South and Central America.
Liberia can and should do better given the enormous resources with which we are blessed. Why, for example, do public schools throughout the length and breadth of Liberia face a critical lack of wooden desks, benches, etc. when timber is abundant and round log export is on the rise? Is this how President Sirleaf believes attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) will be achieved?
Those students trooping daily to CDC party headquarters are mostly from public schools which are generally poorly equipped, staffed and supported. Moreover, the vast majority of these students are from families that subsist on less than two dollars a day.
In a few days President Sirleaf will be flying to Arkansas, USA to receive yet more honors at a very crucial time when her country’s fledgling democracy hangs by a thread due to circumstances of her own creation. And she will be receiving those honors while poor families back home are hopelessly left to face the harsh reality of the imminent collapse of their children’s dreams staring them in the face.
We are, therefore, constrained to let Education Minister Werner know that our children deserve better, so we call on him to STOP PLAYING POLITICS WITH OUR CHILDREN’s EDUCATION!