Development- A Process, Not An Event
By Tiawan S. Gongloe
- A presentation at a Panel Discussion
At an acquaintance Ceremony organized by the
Nehemiah Association Initiatives Net-work International in Wood Camp, Paynesville - on Saturday, January 24, 2015
I want to first thank the organizers of this forum for inviting me to be a part of it and to speak to you on the topic: Development- A Process, not an event. The topic chosen by organizers of this event already says what the nature of development is. Clearly, development is not an event, like this occasion. It is not something that happens immediately or by chance. It happens over a period of time.
Although, most often, events or incidents are described as development, such as when something happens and people refer to it as development. However, when it comes to the transformation of a community, country or changing how people live in a community, development refers to a process of changing the conditions under which people live.
While development is not an event, it is a product of series of events or actions, carefully planned and implemented with the view of changing things in a positive direction. So often you hear the expression, “negative development” or positive development”. Also, sometimes you hear some actions or events being described as having a negative or positive impact on the development of a community, region or country. It is worth noting that various critical commentators on Liberia have described the politics of the True Whig Party, a party that led Liberia for over a century, between the years 1869 and 1980, as having a negative impact on the development of Liberia. Others have said that the 1980 military coup had a negative impact on the development of Liberia. More recently, the fourteen years of violent civil conflict in Liberia has been pointed out as the reason why Liberia is not developed.
Currently, it is being said that the Ebola virus disease has a negative impact on the development of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. However, it should be noted that there are always debates about what is negative or positive when it comes to the issue of development. An event or action that one person considers negative could be viewed by another as positive.
In any case, what must be underscored is that development is a process, which is a result of many events or actions that are carefully planned. Therefore, the first and most important step towards attaining development is to plan. And in order to plan, there must first be planners.
Planners are thinkers who organize and write their thoughts systematically, stating timeline for meeting targets in those plans. In order for a community or country to have developed minds that think and plan, its people must be educated. Therefore, any community or country that seeks development must first emphasize education of its children. Such educational attainment is easily attained when it is at the expense of the community or the country.
In some countries, the state fully pays for the education of all children from primary level through high school, in order to afford every child the opportunity to attain education. This is simply because the people who run those countries are aware that education of their children is in the best interest of the collective good and advancement of those countries. In some countries, loans are provided for students who want to attain technical and vocational training or university education in order to have the opportunities to further develop their minds. Some countries even provide stipend for students. A few years ago, university students of Guinea went on strike for the failure of their government to pay their stipends when it was due.
It is not sufficient to declare that education is free in a country like Liberia, where most families find it difficult to find food for their children, without the government developing a plan on how that declaration of free access to education would be available to every child. A serious free education policy must take into consideration availability, accessibility and affordability of schools. For example, although the population of Montserrado County has increased tremendously, new schools have not been built by government to accommodate the increased population of children in the county.
Bassa Teenage High School, for example, existed in the Bassa Community in Central Monrovia for many decades up to the regime of President Charles Taylor. The school, which was for the education of the children in that community, does not exist anymore. The same can be said about the Monrovia Central High School that existed in Buzzi Quarters, Esther Beacon School in Sinkor, Susan Berry and Ellen Mills Scarborough in Congo Town, amongst many other schools that existed some years back and contributed to the education of many persons in government today, when the population of Monrovia was under a million people.
With the soaring population of Monrovia today, there are fewer public schools in Monrovia and Paynesville, compared to the 1980s. How do we expect children in those communities to have access to education? There are more newly established communities with no public schools available. For those children, the declaration of free education means nothing.
The option for parents in those communities where public schools are not available is to send their children to the private schools in or near those communities, if they can afford it. Some parents also send their children to public schools away from their communities. For children of poor parents, this is a luxury that they cannot afford for their children. In other words, a situation like this alone makes education unavailable to many children.
This perhaps, partially explains why there are so many children in the streets selling cold water, plastic bags, bread, etc. It also could probably explain why so many young females are involved in teen age prostitution and many boys involved in the commission of theft and other crimes.
Countries that have made progress in development and the reduction of poverty, have succeeded in doing so by developing plans for each child to have access to education. The United States and countries on the continent of Europe attained success in their plans to develop and reduce poverty by developing plans on how to educate each child by their governments. Asian countries, such as South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, China, India, Thailand, and Singapore, amongst others, fast-tracked their development by investing in the collective education of their children. In Africa, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, amongst others have made progress because their national governments took on the responsibility of educating the children of those countries, through different approaches, at one time or the other.
No serious government that is committed to developing its country and reducing poverty delegates the responsibility of educating its children to their parents. It just cannot work. I call on our government to chart a new course and take on the full responsibility of educating the children of Liberia. While the President of Liberia has a role to play in carrying this burden, this responsibility, largely falls on our Senators and Representatives. They are the ones that make the laws and appropriations for governing our country.
We must all call upon our Representatives and Senators to make our government to take on the full responsibility of educating all the children of Liberia. Without charting this new course, Liberia will not develop as fast as all Liberians want it to develop. Without education there can be no development and poverty reduction in any country. Without massive investment in the education of the children of Liberia, government’s poverty reduction strategy will not work and its Vision 2030 agenda will remain a mere dream. Education is the only key to national development. Let us act now!
I thank you.