To begin with, let it be crystal clear that the essence of this article is not in any way intended to condemn the visionary effort of the Ministry of Education to rescue or transform our school system from mess to best. For parents that fully comprehend the values of education critical to Liberia post conflict reconstruction especially in Country where education is among the causes associated with the civil conflict, it is safe to generalize that the vision of the Ministry of Education is welcoming and encouraging.
Recently, the Ministry of Education addressed the weekly or regular Thursday press briefing of the Ministry of information, Culture and Tourism during which time the Minister of Education articulated and catalogued the mess that engulfed our school system. As part of the key focuses of the briefing, he identified what could be inferred from his disclosure as unqualified or incompetent classroom teachers mainly high school graduates teaching in Private Schools considered as the torch bearer for quality education in Liberia.
As one of the concerned parents that agreed with the Ministry of Education on number of issues such aspoverty, theft or corruption when text book don’t reach school or young girls getting pregnant by teachers, low salaries and incentives, lack of science laboratory etc. besetting our educational or school system, it gives me the impression that the all of the key issues identified by the Ministry of Education that requires holistic overhaul overwhelmed the changing of the school calendar.
It makes sense to agree that settingthe school year to the original cycle so as tofully preparedstudents in grades 9 and 12for the WEAC Exams shows how much the Ministry of Education is concerned for the plight of our future leaders to compete with their West African colleagues. However, given the volume or gravity of the problems identified and the time frame or duration to resume the original school cycle, too much skepticism continue to dribble in my mind about the positives outcomes from the policy pronouncement by the Ministry of Education
The first skepticism has to with restoring the original school cycle that is believed will fully prepared our children for WEAC Exams. To me, all of the problems or challenges doubtfully relate to changing the school calendar. For example, tell me through feedback the link between the restoration of the original school cycle and unqualified teachers as asserted by the Ministry of Education? In other words, the problems that continues to beset our school system especially for poor performance as evidenced by the WEAC Exams results is about the reflection of those (teachers) that stand in front of the class to deliver lessons. Arguably, if even the calendar is among the factors, in my candid opinion, it is the least factor that educators will not refute.
The second skepticismis the link between the restoration of the original school cycle andyoung girls getting pregnant by teachers or illicit sexual contact between teachers and students for grades? In other words, how does restoring the original cycle of the school year stem the tides of this kind of immoral practice that continues to engulf our school system? I think the missing link that we all must realize is the difference between character and competent. Arguably, a teacher can be competent or qualified but has character problem.
That is why in one of my articles published, I explained the mathematical expression that knowledge plus competent minus character equals to collapse. So the question is how does changing the school calendar to its original cycle rescue our young girls from teachers with character problem? Tell us. In my candid opinion, we need to introduce a system or policy that will employ teachers on the basis of license that will be annulled or cancelled if proven guilty for sexual relation or exploitation in schools. Such policy much prescribed serious penalty (ies) for any school that employ teachers without valid license. The restoration of the original school cycle that will be commencing by September 2015 may not tackle this problem.
The third skepticism is the link between the restoration of the original school cycle lack of science laboratory that also explain one of the reasons for our students poor performance in Chemistry, Physics and Biology in public school and worst of it the interior or rural parts of Liberia. As one of the concerned parents that understand the operation of science lab that doubtlessly requires trained teachers and given the number students preparing for WEAC Exams, what time do we have to equip all of schools with science lab and trained teachers and lab technicians? To me, this skepticism for this preparation deserves serious attention. In other words, what significant impact will the restoration of the original school cycle make in absence of science lab crucial to the WEAC Exams?
The fourth skepticism has to do with the link between the restoration of the original school cycle and low salaries and incentives that has the implications for corruption in our school systems. This assertion elicits or provokes the question; what has the restoration of the original school cycle has to with low salaries and incentives that breed buying grades in schools? In other words, what significant difference will the restoration of the original school make make for the performance of students if salaries and incentives cannot commensurate with the prevailing Liberia Economy? As one of the concerned parents, the changing of the school calendar to its original cycle appears not to be the best remedy for stemming the tides of corruption in schools or curtailing money for grades caused by low salaries and incentives. Objectively, the government increments in salaries for public school teachers by virtue of their qualifications deserve commendation. However, the restoration of the original school cycle could make a difference if it will take cognizance of subsidies for private schools teachers.
The fifth skepticism has to do with the link between the restoration of the original school cycle and poverty as mentioned by the Ministry of Education as one of the factors responsible for the mess that continues to engulf or beset our school systems. Again, it elicits the question; what has changing the school calendar to do with poverty which has been old age social problem in Liberia? Let’s remember that poverty existed prior to the collapse of our educational system during which time our system was vibrant to some extent.
As evidenced of the effect of the Ministry of Education policy pronouncement, it took no or little time to restore the original school cycle. But assuaging poverty as one of the factors that contributes to the mess requires copious of time that the restoration of the original school cycle cannot tackle. In other words, what significant differences will the changing the school calendar makes when poverty associated with the mess still exists especially in rural areas? Tell us.
The sixth or final skepticism elicit another question about how much time do we have to replace the bunch of high school teachers described by the Ministry of Educations as unqualified? Don’t tell me that five days or one week worship will qualify them. To me, it is about long term capacity building investment adventure especially in the areas of sciences and even primary education that like other countries end up with teachers’ license. Although identified by the Ministry of Education is part of the mess mainly in private schools and especially in rural areas, it is skeptical that the restoration of the original school cycle will for now tackle this chronic problem.
In summation, the idea or vision of the Ministry of Education for our school systems to move from the mess to the best deserve a resounding applaud because of Liberia’s future leaders. With the daunting challenges seen as the crux of the problems catalogued by the Ministry of Education, elicits lots of skepticisms about the impact of restoring the original school cycle will have on the performance for prospective candidates for WAEC Exams and the overall educational or school systems. The Ministry of Education needs to allay the skepticisms raised in this article.