Private School Blank Checks: Dark Day Resulted from a Liberia Education Deputy Minister’s Foibles

Latim DaThong, Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Education.

In my thinking thoughts, I reflected on the grotesque situations which the education sector of Liberia continues to deal with in its quest to eliminate illiteracy and cultivate a literate illuminated population in Liberia. 

The grotesqueness cascades from unrealistic unpatriotic low budgetary support, poor quality of educational managers, and the defective perceptions that permeate education management. This is the root of the Dark Days the sector continues to navigate its way through.

A case in point is the faulty, far-fetched declaration touted recently by the Deputy Minister of Education Latim Da-Thong that there is no law in Liberia that the MOE should regulate fees and tuition charged by private schools. Hence, he insinuated that every private school possesses a blank check whereby they can charge any amount at any grade level at any time. Without equivocation, I declare that this statement is faulty, flawed, and can never be uttered by a professional educator who has a passion for the sector.

Da -Thong’s statement also exposes his inadequacy in education administration whereby since his appointment as Deputy Chief Administrator of Education, he has never taken time off to read the education law or schooled himself since he is not a professional but rather a presidential appointee based on political will and pleasure. Since we professional educators cannot question President Weah’s wisdom for appointing the likes of Da-Thong et al., we have been watching meticulously, but not because we are not passionate about the profession for which we were trained and burnt several midnight candles.

Blank Check for Private Schools

For the sake of the layman, a blank check bears all of the legitimate signatures, the available funding in the bank, but with no specific amount to withdraw, written in it by the person who issues it. The recipient, therefore, has the prerogative and opportunity to write any amount; due to the legitimate signatures, the bank disburses.

The only way a blank check is not honored is when the amount written on it is not in the bank account. This is the kind of check Da -Thong gave to private schools when he declared no law exists to regulate tuition and fees in private schools. Many educators, poor market women, unemployed parents, and struggling students wept bitterly because of the darkness that engulfed the face of the education sector on the Dark Day that Dathong made those far-fetched statements.

Foibles of the Deputy Minister

Foibles in layman’s terms are shortcomings, imperfections, faults, and weaknesses. The statement which Deputy Minister Latim Da -Thong made about private school tuition and fees is a personal shortcoming that unfortunately comes from the highest decision-making spectrum of our ailing education sector.

This tells us that there could be many other Da-Thongs who are sitting at the MOE who have no clue regarding the tasks they were appointed by President Weah to perform. For a whole Deputy Minister of Education to declare that there is no such law that compels the MOE to regulate private school fees and tuition extraction from poor families simply shows the damage done when carpenters are entrusted with a hospital emergency room.

New Education Reform Act of 2011, Title 10, Liberian Code of Laws Revised

For the sake of the reading public, there does exist an education law that clearly mandates the MOE to regulate all public and private education institutions including financial matters and profiteering to the detriment of the population. 

Firstly, the following provision of the 2011 New Education Reform Act spells out the scope of the MOE; hence for Minister Latim Da-Thong to say that the MOE does not have the regulatory authority or power show he is not conversant with the law:

CHAPTER-1: GENERAL PROVISIONS (page 3 of 42)

  1. Enactment of a New Education Reform Act:

There is hereby enacted a new Education Law, to be known and titled The Education Reform Act of 2011, and constituting Title 10 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised.

1.4 Scope and Application of the Act

1.4.1 This act shall apply to and cover the establishment, management, and supervision of all schools within the Republic of Liberia. Without any prejudice to the broadness of the scope and application of the Act, stated herein, the Act shall specifically apply to:

  1. All public schools;
  2. All private schools;
  3.  All faith-based schools;
  4. All boarding schools;
  5. All partners involved in the field of education;
  6. All vocational institutions;
  7. Teacher training colleges and institutions, except where specifically excluded by this act;
  8. All universities and colleges;
  9. Maritime and Forestry institutions

Does the MOE even know that they have supervisory roles over the Maritime and Forestry institutions? They do not even refer to most of them probably due to the lapses and weaknesses in their knowledge of the Education Law.

Secondly, on the MOE’s function, Chapter 2 section 2.1.2, Functions and Powers of the Ministry reads that The Ministry shall have the following functions:

  1. Provide and ensure the provision of quality education to all citizens and residents without discrimination;
  2. Develop and sustain an education system that allows all students to realize their talents and capabilities irrespective of gender, race, religion, SOCIAL and ECONOMIC STATUS, or BACKGROUND.

f) Coordinate the education programs administered by the Government, the private sector, and faith-based educational institutions to ensure uniformity and affordable access and opportunities to education. 

Thirdly, on Education Financing, Chapter Nine, sections (f) and (g) clearly state the following regulatory power of the MOE on private and public school finance.

9.1 (f) Tuition and fees charged for the operation of Government schools shall be determined by the County School Boards in consultation with the Minister of Education;

9.1 (g) Tuition and fees charged by PRIVATE AND FAITH-BASED SCHOOLS shall be in accordance with the guidelines established by the Ministry.

Dark Day of Education

Minister Da-Thong’s remarks ushered a Dark Day in Liberia. Fellow Liberians, don’t the sections above give Minister Da-Thong the power to be innovative and professional enough to regulate school fees? Don’t those lines empower Da-Thong to develop guidelines on tuition and fees that private schools should charge? Instead of setting out to address the angsts and excruciating pains parents are bearing in a bid to educate their children, Da-Thong’s statement created a Dark Day in the history of the Liberia education sector.

It is a dark day because for a presidential appointee to demonstrate sheer ignorance of the entity he is entrusted with is genocide to hundreds of children whose parents are living below the poverty level in Liberia.

Albeit, while veteran educators are pondering the logic that drove Da-thong’s statement, and as parents are languishing in a state of confusion and frustration, Da-Thong’s followers have taken to social media to defend his flawed assertion apparently in a bid to ingratiate themselves with their boss, therefore, enhancing the Dark Day scenario. 

The Benediction

To those ends, as Minister Da- Thong has audaciously ushered the Dark Day in Liberia’s Education history, I, therefore, challenge all educators who have a passion for education to reminisce on Dathong’s utterances and rise up. We need to take control of our profession. I declare that all professional educators assume perfunctory roles to speak up, and desist from being timid and cowardly. Fellow educators note that education management is not for people who are “just inside it” because of extrinsic motivations; it is a noble profession based on intrinsic motivation.

O God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast of misunderstanding and mismanagement of education issues, and our defense as poor teachers is s