Some of our smart national leaders or citizens that are remarkably contributing to national progress in their own ways did not acquire their academic foundations overseas or anywhere beyond the Liberian borders like the privileged few did.
Some of them may not have even been fortunate to sit under a foreign teacher. They were educated by Liberian teachers. But their excellent outputs and contributions to society speak of the quality of instructors they had here at the time.
And so the increasing backlash following President George Weah’s request for some 6000 Nigerian teachers to be dispatched here is quite understandable.
Though the “Pro – Poor” government has begun making some clarifications with respect to news of 6000 teachers to Liberia as part of a Technical Assistance agreement between the two nations, there are still fears that the thoughts of such move attempt to undermine the government’s own agenda to empower Liberians.
Thus the more we turn away our attention from the “made in Liberia” and “made by Liberian” in the name of seeking experts from other countries, the more we fail to empower the very poor people we claim to represent with our resources.
This article is intended to reinforce the spirit of the “pro – poor”, that the government will rethink some of its decision on the taste of foreign experts especially when its main agenda is to build the capacity of the Liberian people regardless of the sectors.
The teachers, and to add a few, (police officers, nurses, army personnel, civil servants and you name the rest), are some of those whose conditions need to be addressed, and trust me among them are very committed people that deserve better.
But more often than not, these patriots are told that their professions are sacrificial and that it is their way of contributing to the peace, and security of our nation, while those in political positions exploit our resources.
This is why it has become unthinkable that the importation of some 6000 Nigerian teachers into our country and providing them lodging, salaries and other benefits that could have been used to improve the conditions and standards of our teachers is being condemned so loudly.
There currently exist several teachers’ training colleges in the country. The problem has been the welfare of our teachers. So, say, why if we give these housing units that we would give these 6000 Nigerians plus salaries and allowances to our teachers as a way of motivating them and improving their living conditions.
Our problem here is not that we lack quality or qualified teachers. It is the condition of service that turns the qualified ones away from the profession, leaving same in the hands of the unqualified. As the saying goes, in the absence of the qualified, the unqualified becomes the qualified.
Yes, Mr. President we understand your desire to find quick fix solutions to the country’s education system which has been described as a mess. But in your endeavor to seek early remedy let it not be at the neglect of those who have sacrifice over the years and are only hoping that an improve condition can spark up their performance skills.
So, yes we want good teachers, but how do we find them. They are all over the place here looking for better live at least to be like some of their classmates from high schools or colleges, or even some of their students, who due to their political alignments, were given political jobs and have become so rich overnight.
It is our system of governance that has too many people, some of them professionals, being distracted from pursuing their careers to seek greener pastures in government where it all seems better. We pay too much money to certain people, some of whom contributions to society is full of controversies than we pay those who do the real work.
It’s a very cheap and wicked practice that a “pro – poor” government would soon realize and quickly strategize in changing to put smiles on the faces of the “poor people.”
We have better teachers here too, but we have too often failed to make them to see themselves as being gainfully employed and make them to want to stay in the classrooms to teach, just as we have doctors and nurses wanting or taking up elected or appointed jobs.
We give too little to teachers, yet we expect so much more from them. Why can’t we make pay for teachers (and nurses, doctors, officers at state security institutions and those in civil service) attractive and see if we won’t have the Liberian made professionals staying in the classrooms rather than importing teachers.
I think it is time that we start making policies that will benefit the poor people and change a practice that got our teachers making leaders, and then in return the leaders they make come back to destroy their hopes for better living.
We have no serious justification as a government, a country and a people for paying cabinet ministers, representatives, senators or head of public entities a monthly salary that a teacher will work a whole year and cannot cover. SO why do we consider the position of a teacher as sacrificial when his or her role is so critical in modeling the minds of our future leaders.
All I see here is that we are telling the professional teachers to abandon the classrooms and seek either elected or appointed jobs. For those who may not have political connections, they are still driven into different sectors and leaving the classes with the available to teach.
But I sincerely think that we can redirect their thoughts to the teaching profession if we make some significant difference by taking serious steps with regards to their pay, teaching environment and giving them the necessary support.
Trust me, if foreigners come to help for six years and leave, if things are not put in place, the professionals will not remain in the classrooms. So let’s put things in place now to give our teachers better living conditions, because they too, deserve better like others in government.
About the Author:
Mr. Winston W. Parley is a Liberian journalist, Editor at the NewDawn newspaper, a graduate of the state – run University of Liberia and has worked in the Liberian media for a number of years.