(Open Letter to the President)
By Ansumana M.M Konneh
|Education Minister Werner|
Dear Madam President:
Please accept my sentiments of high esteem and humble best wishes.
As you may be aware madam president, our country is in awful times; a time when Liberians from all walks of life are basically concerned about the current of state affairs of their country; a time when our economy is in shambles, our peace questioned, and our education system a total “mess” as you’ve consistently admitted. I must admit, Madam President, that all of these are attributes of your culture; a culture of mere platitudes and empty promises that are designed on the basis of absolute sophism and fretful words. This culture of yours that you introduced to our body politics have always turned out to be a failure and total disaster to the suffering masses of our people.
About a year ago, Madam President, you appointed a fancy education minister whose ability to transform the system was questioned by almost the entire country. His ascendancy as the minister of education was met by public outcries and mass protests by students from all across the country. As envisioned by many students like myself, it has turned out to be of ambiguity and a total decline to our already broken education system we yearn to remedy. Minister Werner who in his aspirations of placing himself at the centerfold of our national history relative to education as a hero of reform introduced what he termed as the “Education Reform Policy”, but many who are conscious of the impediments and devastation it has caused to our country’s education system would choose to call it “education deform policy”, for its truncated nature and the ludicrous effect it has caused to our education system.
We knew at the inception that the promises of Minister Werner and the procedures proposed in achieving them were mere lip-services that weren’t going to be implemented. Because the methodologies explained weren’t specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely structured in light of the government’s unwillingness to subsidize schools. We sensed that Education reform is not by closing schools or disrupting the education of poor students with hoax justifications. It’s not by promoting students who have not completed their school year’s curriculum; it requires time, research, and commitment in tackling and addressing the real problems that have long kept the system in devastation. It takes into consideration revamping and revisiting the curriculum thereby improving on it to meet contemporary lessons plans and topics that are widely considered in the sub-region or developed countries. It goes beyond the paltry vision of your inexpert Education Minister.
It requires taking about 30% or more of your government’s prodigal spending on extraneous travels, dummy award ceremonies and so on, investing it into the education of the future of Liberian children. For the record, I was one of the ten students that represented High School students in a meeting with you at the ministry of foreign affairs doing one of our protests. At then madam president, we demanded that schools should not close for the closure of schools and the untimely promotion of students who had just spent 4 months in school was just another factor of keeping the system is mess. Our position was clear, that’s why we said that in transforming the environment of the people, you must first and foremost take those same people’s views as a key factor in bringing whatever reform you seek. We said that there should have been a week long national education dialogue held in all of the fifteen counties so as to solicit the views of well -meaning Liberians and educators who had vast knowledge on education reform. Wherein representatives of the students and youth communities put forth their own perspective with respect to the reform process. But on the contrary, the ministry of education single-handedly went ahead and closed schools. What is even tragic is that most of those who supported the policy were even bribed to do so; example being the Liberia National Student Union (LINSU) and the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY).
The recent mass failure (65%) in the just ended West African Examination Council (WAEC) test clearly signifies the lip-service of George Werner’s reform policy and decimal performance of your government in addressing the stasis that currently exists within the education system. The frustrating thing about this is in fact the contradiction that comes with respect to the result just released by WAEC in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. There are lot of unanswered questions your minister of education have not answered or speak to. Of recent, WAEC had a press conference announcing to the Liberian people that no student came division one in this year’s national examinations. But on the contrary evidence has proved that assertion is false and far from the truth. It has been proven that a student from the J.J Roberts United Methodist High School by the name of Victor Jalwood obtained division one! This conflicting result is quite embarrassing and something that really needs your attention. In fact it’s a result that must in totality be condemned by the entire country.
Madam President, all of these are but the result of the incompetence of Minister George Werner who spends much of his working hours on Facebook chats. Instead of creating a suitable learning environment in the Liberian society that allows science and creativity to grow, he has reduced himself to every day photos uploading on Facebook. Madam President, I must admit as well that even though the mess has already been created which is hampering our progress as nation, I’m still optimistic that change is certain and that something can still be done to rebrand the system to give you the legacy you want. Sincerely I would say, that instead of spending thousands of dollars on a plot to remove the speaker of the national legislature why can’t you divert those huge sums into the budget of education so as to increase the salary of our teachers, build national libraries and supply schools with standard text books.
In conclusion madam president, for the sake of leaving something in the minds of Liberian students about you and the role you played in their educational growth when they needed you the most, I would recommend the following:
1. Replace George Werner with a competent Liberian educator who possess vast knowledge in the field of education. A Liberian who has passion for transformation, and is willing to do so without negatively affecting the system. Transformation and reform is necessary, but it’s only achievable with the right person behind the wheel.
2. Increase the salary of teachers. As an economist I know you have come across the economic theory that says man is usually moved by incentive than by common reason. To create a value based education system void of corruption and bribery, you have to do increment in the salary of the teachers. In this way no teacher will have to give assignments to be returned with money simply because he wants to buy a bag of rice for his family; no teacher would give grades for money to pay his house rent and so forth.
3. Use thirty percent of the government’s income to build public libraries and provide standard text books for students all across the country. Instead of hosting sham award ceremonies and spending thousands of dollars on unessential travels of government officials, building libraries would be something that will resonate in the minds of Liberians till eternity.
4. Call a for national education stakeholders dialogue that will that solicit views from every aspect of the society; civil society organizations, religious community, traditional community including the students and youth communities as to how the passivity in the education system can be can be addressed and dealt with. At the end of this national dialogue, there must be a document that creates a long term vision of remedying the impediments in the education system contrary to George Werner’s short term ones that has miserably failed.
5. The current curriculum must be critically looked at and revised to reach WAEC standards or developed countries standard. With this we can have an improved and standardized education system that would be admired across the sub-region.
Madam President, you can choose to cast your lot with the people and earn their admiration forever or choose the latter to leave with a questionable legacy.
With high anticipation of change and optimism that you can turn the wheel of history to a positive trajectory, I rest my pen.
Ansumana M.M Konneh
Author's Statement: Ansumana Konneh is a young emerging writer who has passion for transformation and is willing to do anything for the betterment of the Liberian society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0775926845