Lawlessness and lawless behavior as a way of extracting demands was most pronounced during the Liberian civil war. Warring factions, in order to gain relevance, had access to the negotiating table where the division of spoils would be sure to follow. Such violent prone tendencies continue to play out in our communities daily, particularly amongst the youth. But the roots go deeper, back to the days of military rule, where officials openly touted a “We will spoil it, then we will fix it” mentality. And this persisted throughout the period of the civil war.
Mob action (mob justice) appears to be on the increase and the recent violent encounter between community people and zogoes as well as the recent spate of political violence attest to the severity of the problem. As it appears, people have lost trust in national institutions, particularly those involved in the administration of justice (the courts), law enforcement and penal systems.
A case in point is that involving students in Grand Gedeh County who have not only challenged the integrity of the West African Secondary School Certificate Exams (WASSCE) results but have also threatened to disrupt academic activities in the county next semester if the concerns are not addressed, according to a story carried in the August 8, 2019 edition of the Daily Observer, headlined, “Grand Gedeh Students Challenge WASSCE results”.
According to the story, student Mark Gborkeh Kah of the Zwedru Multilateral High School on Wednesday, August 7, 2019, at a press conference, read a statement challenging the WASSCE results. “We challenge the WASSCE results recently released from Grand Gedeh County School System, because it is not credible and transparent”, were his words.
But according to accounts provided by the WAEC in July 2019, 651 students of 46 high schools accounting for 65% of 12th graders who sat the WASSCE exams failed all nine subjects and, out of this number, 12th graders from seven high schools in Grand Gedeh failed all nine required subjects. Statistics show Grand Gedeh County has a total of 15 public and private high schools with a total of 742 students registered in the 12th grade. Out of this number, only 74 students passed with the highest just passing three out of nine subjects.
And in apparent support of the students, school principals have signaled their intention to stand by their students. Declared Augustine Gaysue, Principal of the Suah Memorial Institute in Zwedru. “It is not possible that all of my students that I sent for the exam failed all nine subjects; something is wrong somewhere, but not with my students”, the Principal declared, clearly suggesting a lack of trust in the country’s educational institutions.
But the question that comes to mind is what the general state of affairs of schools is, especially, public high schools in Grand Gedeh, where the acute shortage or lack of adequate instructional materials and supporting facilities, such as libraries and science laboratories, are manifest. Compounding the situation is the acute shortage or lack of qualified instructors and even wooden school furniture, in a county that is heavily forested, would draw into question the veracity of claims by school principals who insist that their students did not fail the exams as disclosed by the WAEC.
In the opinion of this newspaper, threats to disrupt academic activities if the students do not have their way, is but a clear reflection of the growing sense of false entitlement particularly amongst the nation’s youth. Many young people today appear to have a deep craving for instant success by any means necessary. They appear fully immersed in a false reality where unscrupulous and cutthroat behavior is seen as legitimate means to the attainment of success.
Whether such behavior and mentality is induced by decades of marginalization of large sections of the population, most of who are caught in poverty traps that provide no means of escape, and the 14-year civil war, is unclear and remains a subject worthy of study. The threat, therefore, by the Grand Gedeh students to disrupt academic activities if their complaints are not looked into, should not be treated with benign concern.
Authorities of the Ministry of Education ought to engage the students and all stakeholders concerned, with the view to addressing issues of integrity or the lack of it in the administration and conduct of the exams. Claims of fraudulent behavior on the part of school administrators and exam proctors, should receive immediate attention.
From all indications, threats by students to use violence to address felt concerns do not augur well for sustained peace and stability in this nation and, moreover, they serve to reinforce the impression anybody can do anything to anybody and get away with it. The fact that after a prolonged and bloody 14-year civil war, in which the sanctity of human life was as trifling as a can of sardines and no one has been called to account (impunity), suggests that impunity is alive and well in Liberia.
Those That Have Ears to Hear, Let Them Hear!