Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(A Case Study of Liberia)

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

Achieving universal primary education is goal number two of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This goal’s target is to ensure that by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. It also seeks to reduce, if not eliminate illiteracy in the world. It is believed that after completing primary education, a child will be able to read, write and communicate to others properly. Therefore, if this target is met there will be a considerable level of understanding amongst the people of the world.

Illiteracy has been defined simply as the absence of knowledge. Additionally, it is also been referred to as a disease that keeps both the society and the individual backward. Reducing or eliminating illiteracy through universal primary education will be a giant step for the world in the pursuit of peace and justice. In a soberly literate world, men will replace violence by dialogue; there will be mutual coexistence, reduction in the spread of diseases, and reduction in the cost of living. To ensure this, there is a need to build a literate society with a solid foundation at the primary level for every child.

Primary education for every child should be seen as a global challenge in this twenty first century when the world is gradually becoming a single community. The growth of the digital world and the information technology systems can not be utilized in an illiterate society. Information dissemination institutions like the mass media, both print and electronic can not also meet there objectives in a society where the majority of the people are illiterate, or can not read and write. These developments among others in this century, and the ones to come, emphasize the needs for at least a primary education for every child in the world.

The challenges of meeting this goal are enormous, but significant progress has been made in some countries. In Liberia, the government is currently enforcing a free and compulsory primary education policy aimed at ending illiteracy by requesting parents to send their children to public schools free of charge. In Sierra Leone, many children in the rural areas are benefiting from free education schemes provided by the government and some non governmental organizations. Statistics have shown that Sub-Sahara Africa has made significant progress over the last few years, but it still trails behind other regions with about 30 per cent of its children of primary school age out of school. One of the resounding prospects of this goal of achieving universal primary education is that the societies are becoming conscious and refined, demands are getting higher and there is a rapid growth in the number schools every year in the world. Parents are also taking advantage of these opportunities to educate their children and get them prepare for the challenges ahead.

While the prospects are encouraging, the task of achieving this goal is daunting. There are no equal opportunities for education in some regions of the world. Girls are still excluded from education more often than boys. This happens mostly in Western and Southern Asia and in some African communities. Children from poorer families are most often to drop from schools at tender ages and become street sellers or manual laborers. Moreover, children in rural communities have limited access to schools as compared to those in urban communities.

Liberia is an empirical example with unequal access to educational opportunities and facilities. The disparities range from locality, gender, financial, and social status. There are more schools in urban communities with equipped facilities than the rural areas. The dichotomy of getting quality education in the urban settlements is shown by the social status. Children whose parents have worked in governments or are in government, the breeding ground for riches in Liberia as proven by our experiences, have more access to schools and resources than those whose parents have not had any access to the state resources. But very few Liberians engaged in luxurious businesses can afford same.

In the rural communities, the gender disparity is widened. More girls are out of schools than boys. Traditionally, people have limited the capacities of women to housewifery, cooking, and family upkeep. For this reason their education has been limited to the bush schools and experiences they gain from their mothers and guardians.

With the change in time, and the growing wave of developments around the world, the stage has been set for all to come on board and participate in the corporate developments of our communities and nations. The challenges are such that everyone has realized that illiteracy is dangerous and capable of ruining a whole system of life and an entire society. Liberians should now realize that it is important to forcefully combat illiteracy and to also achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particular Goal Two. In this effort I recommend the following to the National Government for consideration in the fight against illiteracy if there is any:

The Government must assume the responsibility of educating every Liberian Child at primary level. This can be done by passing into law an act to make primary education free in the country. After this has become a law, the government must build primary schools in every district in the country and sustain them with regular subsidies.
The government must pass legislation against illiteracy that will indict families with children of ages between 15 and 16 that have not completed Grade Six.
The government must set attractive salaries and benefits for public schools teachers in the country. This will drive more professional to the public schools, and will also improve the quality of lessons in the schools.
The government must regulate the activities of private schools and monitor them against exploitations. The government must also subsidize the private schools in order to make its regulations more effective.
Government must establish more teacher training facilities around the country to train more teachers that will benefit both the government schools systems and the private schools.
The government must enforce its licensing of teachers if there is any such system of licensing.
The Government must establish county schools consolidated systems like the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System in every county to be run by the County Education Officer. Each county will have its own education office to manage its own funds and affairs. Under such a system, public senior high schools will pay tuitions to support the annual subsidies provided by the government. The County Education Officer will be responsible to register schools (both private and public) and supervise all educational activities in the county in regular consultations with the Ministry of Education.

In my sense, I believe that if a robust and effective system for education is put in place considering these recommendations and the need for Liberia to have a reputable position amongst the civilized nations of the world, illiteracy will be drastically reduced.

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