Stop Playing Politics with Our Children’s Education

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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!

Authors

5 COMMENTS

  1. What’s wrong with a poor parent begging a third party (CDC) to pay his or her child’s exam fee (WASSCE), if the government decides to stop paying it?? Shouldn’t the taxpayers be happy that someone else, and not them, is paying it?? Either way, nothing is free– someone has to pay those fees. Ultimately, it’s the PARENTS, not the government’s responsibility, to pay them.

    If a parent finds someone (even if that someone is a political party) to pay his child’s fees, that’s fine. Aren’t we a nation of beggars??

  2. Why should the Ministry of Education and the President transfer the WAEC Exam fees to CDC, so that Weah can pay it for the students? This is fraudulent and must be stopped. The Liberian Embassy in UK has been doing the same with Charles Taylor for the CDC (money laundering) and two people have been caught and told to leave. Taylor has millions hidden in foreign banks and he has laundered it through (CDC) Liberian diplomats to support CDC in the second round. Where is Weah getting all this money from? Allan White will arrest all of them.

  3. Also, who do YOU think is “PLAYING POLITICS WITH OUR CHILDREN’s EDUCATION!”?? The people (government) who asked parents to pay their children’s exam fees? Or the parents who asked a POLITICAL party (CDC) to pay their children’s exam fees?? I await your response with pregnant anticipation!

  4. Liberia’s post-war Educational Reconstruction should not be taken for granted!!!!

    Exam fees (WASSCE) should not be used as baits in exchange for political loyalty. This patronage system on our vulnerable public school students sets a dangerous precedence in the “pay-to-play” political gamesmanship. This is synonymous to corrupt Liberian school teachers who sell “grades-in-exchange-for-sex”.

    Our Minister of Education and those responsible for formulating Liberia’s secondary education policies should bear in mind the purpose of tax funded public education is to give educational opportunity to the general population who are unable to afford the high cost of attending private institutions as well as creating productive and well educated citizens to manage the affairs of the state.

    If our students in public schools are not given the requisite training and financial support to take these Standardized Exams (WASSCE), how will our nation ever increase its literacy rate?

    What type of educational policies and training the Ministry of Education are implementing to help transform our backward educational system to meet present day reality where students are expected do analytic reasoning, complex problem solving and work well in different group dynamics?

    As Liberia goes through its post-war reconstruction, the Ministry of Education should divulge itself from party politics and focus on revamping our weak educational system in Liberia by giving these poor students, many of whom are casualties of our civil war, the necessary material and financial support to move ahead in furthering their education.

    Educating our youths today is indeed an added value in maintaining Liberia’s peace and economic stability for tomorrow. Many staunch economists have said education changes the quality of labor; it increases productivity and economic growth, as well as, it increases the rate of return on investment.

    Therefore, cutting off the Exam subsidy for these poor Liberian students, who are already attending poorly equipped public school, is definitely a diminishing return on future economic development of Liberia.

    Take party politics out of our secondary schools for God Sake!!!!!

  5. Wage stabilization of the zillion paid to legislators, supreme court justices, upper echelons of the executive branch and state corporations would leave savings for WASSCE fees, three well – stocked public libraries, two teachers’ training colleges and much more. Don’t blame Minister Warner, hold the Legislature accountable.

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