Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Silent Wake of Education In Liberian Schools

Ibrahim Al-bakri Nyei

The worst of all human societies is not just the illiterate one, but also the one in which people are seen to be lettered, but are not truly lettered. A society of such can only pose dangers and threats to neighbors and blockade to development. During the emergence of the civil rights struggle in America, John Brown Russworm, who later came to Liberia, told his fellow blacks that the best way out for the negro race is to educate their brethrens and get them prepare for the challenges of the world; and that which is already before them-the challenge of integration with the white race. The specter of what haunted Liberia in the 1980s and burst up into civil war did not only kill citizens and loot or destroy properties, it also chewed up the fabrics of the cultural lives of the Liberian people, broke down the systems of control in government, civil society and even the religious communities. Most of these seem to be recovering from the debris of the war, but the educational system continues to sink as it still faces post war casualties when the riffles and grenades are no longer shedding. This sector that must be highly equipped to prepare minds and men that will restore the dignity of the other sectors in the society have been polarized by corruption. It is today the sewage for disposing of all the remnants of those who do not fit in other sectors of life. This is however due to the lack of control. Most of what occur today in the schools has been blamed on the unseriousness of students who are just the final product of the system. Let us establish that the product of a poorly managed system can never perform properly. The level of corruption that has taken over the schools has made the system to loss its focus of education, and has concentrated more on money gathering from students. It is unthinkable to note that students pay for examination malpractices to their schools’ administrators before leaving the schools to assemble for the National Exam. This crime-fee is usually dubbed as ‘flexibility fee’. And no one would like to pay for a good or service that he or she will not get. As a result of this advance payment made towards the crime, students no longer read. In fact, they enter the examination halls with the hopes that the ground will be flexible for cheating and all other academic malfeasances that will give them a passing mark. When I was firstly informed about this new market in the Liberian schools, I began to apply some economic theories concerning market, circular flow and consumer behavior. The next thought that reached my memory was that if the students are the buyer of the crime, the schools’ administrators the retailers, then there must be a wholesaler or a supplier that supplies schools’ administrators. When I witness the crime market and many other irregularities, like the parent-child relationship that has been transmogrified to husband-wife relationships by some teachers in the schools, and the humiliation of some teachers that have turned to students beer-table mates, I mourn the scenario as a cold blood murder of the most esteemed segment of the society that is expected to produce the nobles, the honorable, the clergies, the professors and the doctors. And regrettably, we all witness it silently in tears for the future like a traditional funeral ceremony where the drums are silent. The tragedy of this demise of education is that, if the system is not resurrected, Liberia will be faced with the problem of having people bearing professional papers, and cannot fully perform according to the professions. I remember in 2001 when Madam Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States of America, said to a crowd that “the most important gift we can give to the children of the world is the gift that is most likely to lead to world perfect peace and prosperity, and that is the gift of good education”. If this nation and people will emerge from hatred and mere envy, and be a part of the global network and economy, the education of the Liberian children must be of priority, and not be treated as a mere agenda.

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