A seasoned Liberian educator, Augustine Akoi, has underscored the need for adequate supervision and monitoring of schools in Liberia by the Ministry of Education (MoE), which is the State’s regulatory agency for learning.
“The MoE needs to be accountable for schools that are operating in the country and the quality of knowledge being imparted to Liberian students,” said Akoi, who is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the famous New Hope Academy (NHA) on Peace Island in Jacob’s Town, Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
“The operations of schools in Liberia should not be left with just anybody or group. Other countries guide their education sector because it is like the human body just how food is important for the body is how knowledge is also food for the body,” Mr. Akoi told THE IMAGES magazine in a recent interview in Monrovia.
According to the NHA’s CEO, Liberia’s educational system is failing and not working effectively as it should be because there are too many broad-day compromises in the education sector.
“When former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, after her own assessment, bluntly stated that Liberia’s educational system was a ‘MESS,’ many people including me had lots of problems with the ex-president’s assertion upon hearing that. However, the beginning of solving a problem is to admit to the problem,” he further told THE IMAGES.
Akoi, who is also Founder of the Better Future Foundation (BFF) and Youth Without Barriers (YWB), observed that with the acknowledgment made by ex-president Sirleaf if she had matched that with sanctimonious actions aimed at addressing the nation’s educational glitches or anomalies through the MoE and other relevant stakeholders, Liberia’s educational system would not have experienced the gloomy /or miserable situation that it currently faces.
He recalled that in yesteryears when Liberia’s educational system was at its zenith, people from afar and near used the country as an ideal place to find the best opportunities, including quality education, sanctuary, among others, and to have access to other countries in Europe, Americas and elsewhere for greener pastures.
“But what has caused this to stop is the failure of our educational system in recent years, especially during the country’s civil war that spanned over a decade,” he stressed.
“Today, in Liberia,” Mr. Akoi believes, “most students are just going to school to spend the required time and not to do the academic workloads required of them. Some teachers go to school and teach, but when they are evaluating, they pass all the students because when the students are underperforming, it also reflects on the teachers. So those teachers who feel that way do not properly evaluate the outcome of their students while some of them are direct beneficiaries,” Akoi said.
He maintains that the compromised education sector is hurting the country but emphasized the need for collective actions as one person or the government only cannot fix it.
According to him, when a student fails in one school, he or she leaves and goes to another school and is promoted to the next class. Most schools are only after receiving payment of tuition and other required fees from students. They do not care to ask for letters of recommendation and a transcript from the previous school a student attended before enrollment into the new school.
“Those days letter of recommendation and transcript were the first requirement for any student to get enrollment in school, but now many schools are not insisting on these requirements. As a result, they are rapidly creating a society that has functionally illiterate people,” he declared.
The NHA CEO articulated that the situation is being further manifested in the Liberian nation with many educational and social deviants. “These things can only be corrected if the education sector is stabilized by making sure that a student leaving from 3rd grade to 4th grade or from junior to senior high meets up with the requisite academic courses. But, if we keep promoting and graduating people from primary, elementary, junior, and senior high schools and they go to the level of college or university, and they cannot read, write and comprehend, the future of the Liberian nation would be at a serious a risk,” he observes.
Mr. Akoi lamented that other people without any professional training background in education or its related disciplines open schools in Liberia and run them anyway to get more students, collect money, and issue promotion statements at the end of the academic year.
He cautioned that currently, the world had become a global village wherein acts of terrorism and fundamentalism are on the increase. As such, the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the MoE, needs to know what is being taught in Liberian schools, considering its security implications.
“Based on the knowledge people acquire nowadays in school, that is how they will behave, but disappointingly, our schools are not being monitored and supervised; people run schools anyhow they want, and that is troubling and worrisome,” the BFF Founder emphasized.
He used the occasion to express disdain and scorn over the skyrocketed cost of operational permits for school, which the current Liberia ruling establishment has increased from L$8,000 to a whopping L$60,000.
Mr. Akoi further expressed disappointment that Liberia does not have its educational program. As such, the country is currently experimenting with education at all strata.
He underscored the need for Liberia to establish a model school system “so that when somebody wants to establish a school, he/she can follow the best standard and in line with international best practices.”
The BFF Founder also decried the outsourcing of public schools to various private providers for profit by the Liberian government through the Ministry of Education.
“The GOL is neglecting to shoulder her educational responsibility by outsourcing education to private providers. Akoi, civil society and pro-democracy campaigner, described such a move by the government as a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Liberia is a signatory.
The BFF Founder further indicated the “outsourcing of public schools” is inimical to provisions of the Liberia Education Act, which gives such responsibility to the government to carry out.
“Unfortunately, the government is not doing it; as such, most of the public schools are in the hands of private providers, and they are running them (public schools) in ways that are not satisfactory,” he stressed.
The Liberian educator proposed that 20% of the National Budget be allotted to the nation’s education system for its revitalization by the government through the National Legislature.
He said such budgetary allotment would be in line with calls by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) which provides more funding support to countries that allot at least 20% of their national budgets to education.
The Global Partnership for Education is a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries to increase the number of children in school and learning dramatically.
After the interview with Mr. Akoi, members of THE IMAGES’ editorial team, headed by Publisher and Ace Photojournalist, Sando Moore, were taken on a guided tour of the academic and recreational facilities of the New Hope Academy (NHA), including an up-to-date Library, science laboratory, computer lab, a large auditorium, cafeteria, basketball court among others.
The students, administrative staff, and teachers wholeheartedly welcomed THE IMAGES Team, which had also gone to the NHA Peace Island campus to familiarize itself with the students’ learning process, including its gains and challenges.