One of the painful tragedies of the Liberian civil war is the broken education system.
The civil war did not only fatally destroyed lives and uprooted families to nearby and faraway places, it also destroyed the education system.
No joke about it! The current Liberian education system is in shambles, and needs a total and complete overhaul to meet modern and international standards.
The sad reality is, Liberian kids are walking around unable to read, write, speak proper and coherent English and do arithmetic, which makes it painfully clear that things are not the same in today’s Liberia compare to the time I was growing up and going to school there.
So where’s the national political leadership in all of this? Any leadership at all from the Executive Mansion?
Just recently, nearly 25,000 students who sat for the University of Liberia’s entrance examination and did not pass the written tests, were declared ineligible to enroll for the school year.
As usual in Liberia’s historically imperial, autocratic, centralized and quasi-democratic system, the President of Liberia holds the key to this embarrassing game of whom and which kid should be allowed to enroll in school to realize their lifelong dream of attending college.
Unsurprisingly, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – President of Liberia (not an independent and elected school board comprised of seasoned and respected educators), quickly and unilaterally ruled that 1,800 of the 25,000 students should be admitted. Easy way out for Madam Sirleaf, isn’t it?
The piercing question now is, what happens next year when new groups of high school graduates and prospective college students, cannot pass the required college entrance tests necessary to be admitted to college?
Do we need another presidential pardon and intervention for college admission, and not the smarts and intellects of the prospective college students?
Matter of fact is, the end of the civil war has reduced the Liberian education system to a heartless moneymaking operation, where just about anybody can start a school to make money without ever consulting the Ministry of Education for guidance.
The Ministry of Education, on the other hand, has given new meaning to bureaucratic incompetence, malaise and paralysis accelerated by incessant interference from the executive branch, the obvious lack of apathy and accountability, and the lack of an aggressive and meaningful education plan that produces results in a failed school system.
From what I know, however, the public school system does not stand a chance of surviving in some parts of Liberia, simply because it has been demonized as not equipped with better teachers, inadequate or low pay, lack of incentives and poor curriculums to handle the needs of students and teachers.
The result of all of this is the introduction into the Liberian education system potpourri of mismatched, unregulated and unaccredited bands of private schools popping up across the country, masquarading as well-intentioned academic centers.
With hustlers and wannabe educators at the helm of these poorly maintained moneymaking warehouses their owners called private schools, the only choice poor and vulnerable parents who want their kids to go to school, have is to accept the only choice of education in their particular area.
That often means poor people succumbing their children to these unaccredited, unsupervised and sub-standard private schools like Nimely Brothers school in New Kru Town, and others sprouting all across Liberia like wildflowers.
As these poorly staffed, poorly maintained and unaccredited private schools sprout across all of Liberia, quite often, public schools, which are often bad-mouthed as unworthy of attending, becomes the victim.
More so, the poor kids and their unemployed poor parents who already don’t have the money are left with the burden of finding money to send their kids to private schools that proves inefficient.
Even elected member of the House of Representatives, Edward Forh, who supposedly represents the Borough of New Kru Town, and who also suppose to enact legislation to either help improve the school system, or stop the vast saturation of these fly by night private schools, himself owns a school he operates in that incredibly poverty-stricken area.
Is it not conflict of interest when a sitting member of the House of Representatives own and operate a school he profits from, even at the detriment of his poverty-stricken constituents?
Where is accountability, and where does the Ministry of Education and he Executive Mansion stand in the face of this national education tragedy?
No wonder 25,000 high school graduates failed the recent University of Liberia entrance exam.