"Farina and Sugar" For Teachers?

By: Tolo Bonah Corfah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 29, 2010


I graduated from high school in 1975, and enrolled at the post-secondary teacher training program at the Kakata Rural Teachers’ Training Institute (KRTTI) in Magibi County the following year, at that time trainees received a stipend of $10.00/month to take care of such things like laundry, tooth paste and other incidentals; as most of the students at the institution came from the interior parts of Liberia. Sometimes it took strike action for the students to receive their stipends as the authorities at the ministry did not show any kind of concern for those attending the institution, but we did receive solid education combine with the fundamentals of teaching.

Then came the 1980s, and the overthrow of the Tolbert regime by M/Sgt. Samuel K. Doe and company, who mismanaged Liberia for ten years. When Ma Ellen and the “progressives” formed the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), we thought that this would be the answer for our oppressive problems, and after more than 14 years of civil war, Ma Ellen is at the head of government in Liberia; but the question is, what and where is the priority of this government?

Ma Ellen, the Harvard graduate, who once referred to M/Sgt. Samuel Doe and company as “a bunch of heathens” is at the head of government in Liberia, and teacher trainees are fed with “Farina and Sugar”. Can Sirleaf’s Unity party government tell the Liberian people what and where the priority is?

One would think that a country coming from a civil war in which all of the country’s infrastructure were destroyed, and where there was severe brain drain would place emphasis on education, especially primary education, but after more than 4 years, we see the educational sector of the country facing some of the worst situations it has ever faced.

First, after more than 4 years, the former minister of education told a shocked nation that he did not know how many public schools the government operates, nor did he know the number of public school teachers on the ministry’s payroll. No wonder why the ministry of education payroll is always padded

How come that the Liberian governments, past and present do not know how to manage anything substantive? When UNESCO managed the two teacher training institutions, (KRTTI & ZRTTI) everything went smoothly, but when UNESCO’s contract ran out and they left the institutions in Liberian hands everything chakla. That is when we saw the students’ stipend being delayed for up to four or five months, that is when we saw teachers’ at the institutions run a credit scheme where students were credited monies and charged a quarter on the dollar in interest at payback time. That was then, this is now. I would say that living and getting an education from KRTTI and ZRTTI at that time was much better, because we were not fed farina by our senators of that era.

This commentary was prompted by a story on FrontPage Africa titled “Teacher Trainees In Hell At KRTTI” senator says he “give Farina and sugar”. Would the “kind senator” gave those students farina and sugars were any of his own children at that institution? In fact, would the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government treat education policy were any of their children attending school in Liberia? Hell no, the fact is that most government officials’ children do not go to school in Liberia, their children go to schools abroad, and they leave the country for medical treatment for the slightest headache, or Mosquito bite. If their children even went to school in Liberia, they would attend private institutions.

Isn’t Senator Nelson a little shamed to say that he gave the students farina and sugar? Does he know or care how those teacher trainees wash their clothes? Has he ever considered trying to inquire as to why central government has failed to feed future teachers of our country in training? If teachers in training are neglected, how are they going to be treated after they start teaching? In fact, are they getting adequate training? It is also interesting to note that the same way that the teacher trainees are treated is the same ways the ministry of education treats teachers who take up assignments in the leeward counties. I can still remember how my monthly pay checks went missing after teaching at Belle Public school in then Lower Lofa County for four months in 1979, when I finally went to Monrovia for my pay I could only get three months of pay. Public school teachers in rural Liberia are not only the last civil servants on government payroll paid, if paid at all; but they are constrained at most times to provide their own instructional materials, like chalks, lesson plan booklets, etc.

The question of education in the 21st century must be the # one priority on the development agenda of any serious government, especially one coming from a brutal civil war. How can we believe the Unity party led government when it claims that it is fighting poverty, when public school teacher trainees are fed “farina and sugar? The monies spend to send the minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, the Director of the Civil Service Agency and delegation could gone a long way in addressing the food needs at KRTTI and ZRTTI, but that is not a priority in Ma Ellen’s government.

From my point of view, Ma Ellen and the corrupt legislature have miserably failed the Liberian people, and should not be given a second mandate.

To Senator Blamo Nelson, would it have hurt to buy at least two or three bags of rice with other provisions for our future teachers? You will be asking those same future teachers tomorrow to vote for you

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