The Deputy Minister for Planning and Research at the Ministry of Education was blunt the other day while on a live talk show hosted by a local radio station in Monrovia when he disclosed the ministry has no money to employ qualified teachers. Since 2009, the Ministry of Education has maintained several thousand teachers in public schools across the country on supplementary payroll.
Deputy Minister Alton V. Kesselly confirmed this during the talk show and assured that the ministry is exploring all means to see how those teachers concerned could be placed on the official payroll. This is no new promise. Previous officials at the Ministry of Education had said this before.
Teachers on supplementary payroll are being seriously underpaid from year to year without any tangible effort by government to regularize their status. Yet, they are the ones the education authorities rely on especially, in the public schools to prepare our children for public exams such as the West African Senior School Certificate Examination or WASSCE.
Notwithstanding, government says it needs 6,000 teachers in public schools to boost the education sector.This is truly regrettable for the Liberian education system. Government is paying mere lip service to education in Liberia. And this is not unique to the administration of President George Manneh Weah, but all previous Liberian administrations, including the regimes of former Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charles Ghankay Taylor, among others.
Following the release of official results of the 2018 WASSCE administered across Liberia by the West African Examination Council Monrovia Office, which shows a 33.85 percent students pass ratio, the current Minister of Education Ansu Dao Sonii publicly screamed, promising to seriously act to improve the Education Sector, beginning with Financing, Learning Environment, Teachers Education & Professionalization and Monitoring Supervision & Assessment.
But with serious shortage of teachers for the Sciences particularly Mathematics and Physics, Chemistry and Biology, coupled with lack of science laboratories and public libraries, we wonder how far the ministry could go in ensuring adequate preparation for students that should sit for the WASSCE.
Already, the Ministry has released the official calendar for academic 2018/2019 with schools set to open on September 3, 2018. Meanwhile, as we can see, absolutely nothing substantive has been done in terms of improvement in academic programs and personnel to improve this coming WASSCE results from last year’s performance among students.
Instead, we are going into the academic period ill-prepared and underfunded! Yet, when the dismal results come in, education authorities are quick to rain condemnations on the poorly prepared students. We wonder; how better could they have performed with no equipped laboratories in schools, least to speak of qualified staff, including underpaid teachers that lack sufficient knowledge of subject matters coupled with absence of proper textbooks? How could they?
Years after years, these same problems stare us in the face. But we seem to ignore them and rather, pay lip service, making wide promises that never see daylight. We need to be realistic with ourselves as a nation or else, education in Liberia would remain a mere talking shop it has been.