By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
During my days as a student in Sinoe County or Monrovia decades ago in the Liberian school system, it is not uncommon to see struggling students go home to the village during school breaks to get supplies such as rice, palm oil or whatever they can get their hands on to upkeep them.
In order to eat, buy school supplies or pay whatever rent a student had to pay that month, returning home to one’s village was always necessary to survive in Liberia’s tough economic and education climate.
In most cases, jobs were scarce or non-existent, but the male member of the family – the head of household, the only breadwinner in the family provided every available support from farming and hunting to see his child finish school.
Since most Liberian women were unemployed or couldn’t work because of the unavailability of jobs or age-old cultural taboos, those strong and loving mothers provided the emotional and maternal support any mother could provide her child to see them through.
The proudest moment of this long struggle for education is graduation – the grand old moment when tears of joy streams from those eyes; and laughter and pure joy brightens the day, often reminding parents and students of the long and rugged journey that finally took the students to the end of the road.
The Liberian education system of which I am a proud product was never a perfect one, but it got us through during our days – raining and dry season, thanks to our parents and guardians who stood by us when we needed them.
As imperfect as the Liberian education system was at the time, it remained in the proud, corrupt and draconian hands of the principals, the school system, and also in the hands of Liberia’s corrupt government officials.
With all the distractions of abject poverty that affected students, parents and Liberians in general, the Liberian education system held its ground and was never privatized and outsourced out of naked greed to multinational companies.
This nonsense that is ‘Partnership Schools for Liberia’ with its ‘partner in crime,’ Bridge International Academies, is a joke that sprouted at a time when the Sirleaf administration cannot even upkeep or account for the funds from the nation’s oil company, NOCAL and the Maritime funds.
At a time when most Liberians thought NOCAL was here to stay to provide some needed financial relief to families and students, and the Maritime funds could also be a financial relief to families, our dreams sadly, were only dreams.
From the hands of her son, Robert Sirleaf’s, into the hands of her political cronies and classic hustlers, NOCAL went bankrupt and is supposedly ‘restructuring.”
The same can be said about the nation’s Maritime funds.
The president’s political cronies and the cronies and seasoned hustlers of previous presidents, benefited or are still benefiting from the Maritime funds.
Can it be said that if the money from NOCAL, and those from Maritime were managed properly, accounted for and appropriated for education, don’t you think the Liberian government would have enough money to fund public schools in Liberia today?
How can the Liberian people trust this lady – this imperial president with this outsourcing agreement with a multinational company to take over our education system when NOCAL is no more, and the Maritime funds are not accounted for; and those that killed those institutions are not in prison, and their stolen wealth not confiscated?
So for Madame Sirleaf and the Sirleaf administration, which has never been a credible partner in anything, to cajole the Liberian people at this last hour of her failed administration with this ‘Partnership Schools for Liberia’ nonsense is a joke, a million-dollar gimmick that should be undermined and rejected at all cost.
That’s because the Sirleaf administration is not a credible partner to do business with to contract our schools to private international companies, at a time when the administration failed to come clean with the Liberian people on anything.
As bad as it is in Liberia in the Sirleaf administration with corruption running wild like wildfires, accountability and legislative oversight are not part and parcel of Madame Sirleaf’s governance style.
Like my opening story affirmed, Liberian students suffered a whole lot under previous administrations, and are still suffering today under the Sirleaf administration.
As it is now, there is no evidence that an outsourcing contract with Bridge International and a painfully corrupt and unaccountable Sirleaf administration will make any difference.
The Sirleaf administration, especially Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is a frequent (worldwide) traveler. The lady hardly sits in Monrovia to do the people’s business, let alone focus on education.
What Madame Sirleaf should now do is to account for NOCAL and the Maritime funds. Put in place good and honest managers and financial experts and others to keep them afloat.
With some creative and visionary education policy put in place, the funds from those institutions can be applied to educating Liberian students, and also help struggling Liberian parents.
‘Partnership Schools for Liberia’ is bad for Liberia and Liberian students.
Get rid of it now!