Did The System Fail Weah, Or Did He Make A Choice?


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 4, 2005


When campaign rhetoric deviates from the truth, it becomes hard to bear.
The system failed Weah.” That is what Winston Tubman alleges in defense of Weah’s limited education. Tubman does not elaborate on this flowery phrase, so we will just chalk that off as a mere attempt to be philosophical without the attendant support for the claim. Let’s assume that by system” Tubman is making reference to the Liberian Education System. What else could be inferred from such a phrase? So let’s find out why all the young Liberian professionals of today made it, but Weah didn’t.

The Liberian regimes under which Weah was born and raised had numerous faults, but these eras spanning the W.V.S Tubman and William R. Tolbert terms had programs in place to educate the masses. Almost every village, town, and city had schools; there were day, afternoon, and even evening schools for adults. The national education system was buttressed by several Parochial School Systems throughout the country. – Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Baptist. The whole national landscape was painted with school uniforms of any color imaginable! Teachers were being paid.

Born in 1966, Weah was about fourteen years old by the end of the Tolbert era. At that age, most pupils were well entrenched in their studies, looking forward to graduating from High School, in three to four years. The ten-year Samuel Doe regime that followed, the regime under which Weah should have graduated, not withstanding its stagnant nature and other shortcomings, did not close down schools. Or did it, Mr. Tubman? You worked in that administration. The question then is: Did Weah have the opportunity to graduate from High School? Of course; thousands of his peers did. The main problem of the times for these graduates was the unavailability of jobs. Now we can correctly plug in here, “system failure.” The complaints from the young folks were never about lack of access to education; they were about finding jobs!

When the most cherished piece of outfit, and for most pupils, one of very few pieces of clothing in an entire wardrobe, was a school uniform, just how much value did Weah place on his? When almost all his peers would proudly adorn these uniforms, many of them without shoes, what was Weah thinking? Did Weah think it well enough to join the barefoot marches to education? Weah heard the drumbeat alright, but he voluntarily chose not to be in step with his fellow schoolmates; he stepped in a different direction; he stepped to the beat of a distant drum; he chose to excel in playing football. Weah chose a successful short-cut to riches; we all love him for that. I never missed any of his AC Milan matches; I was up every Saturday morning watching and cheering for him on TV. Just don’t tell me that Liberia did not afford him the opportunity to finish High School, because that is a blatant lie, Mr. Tubman.

Why did Weah himself not level this indictment on our school system? There is one, and only one reason why. He knows it is NOT TRUE! Weah remains mute on this phrase - that the system failed him - and rightfully so; SILENCE is his main campaign weapon. After all, why would one refuse a piece of “salt pork” to go with a bowl of “dry rice”?

Employing faulty premises and drawing illogical conclusions in campaign pitches is harmful to the common good; it is simply an attempt to ‘win at all costs’. It is a crafty design to influence a baseless, so-called “protest vote”. It is an unfortunate tactic that preys on the lesser informed. We have heard the old “Book People have failed us in the past” and its twin illogical conclusion that “Any Book Person will fail us tomorrow”. Now we are hearing from a “leaned man”, Sir. Winston Tubman, that “The System failed Weah”.

What message is this track of thought sending to the populace in general, and the mothers of our country in particular? Is that what we honestly want to tell a mother who labors in the hot sun or torrential rain, day or night, at Waterside, Red Light District, on the sidewalks, and even through the streets, with whatever little working capital she can muster to set up a little ‘market’, just to put her kids through school? Where is the encouragement to the little boys and girls aspiring ‘to know book’?

Downplaying education to win elections at all costs is a blatant assault on the intelligence of all parents who place so high a premium on getting their children educated. It is also naïve to attempt to cover up Candidate Weah’s self inflicted education deficiency by insinuating that education as a Presidential Qualification is not necessary at this time, or anytime for that matter. Is Mr. Weah promising to improve education? Yes. Why feed us this paradox then?

Weah is not the only athlete to skip school to earn a living in professional sports. But how have some of the others with aspirations beyond sports handled this chosen way of life? We have seen, for example, some who want to become businessmen go back to school to earn degrees in Business Administration in preparation for the times after the final curtain call. This route was available to Weah also.

A professional athlete’s work calendar is overloaded with down-time; he is the envy of all workers around the world; he works only a few months out of a year! Of course, he still gets paid a full salary. How many have heard of Night School? How about Summer School? How many years did Mr. Weah play professional soccer? Answer: Enough years to have used the off season time to earn the title, “Gbe Wolloh”! (Dr. Gbe Wolloh was a Liberian Scholar from Grand Cess.)

Weah made a choice; he is the first to know that. STOP lying for him.