Patents from all walks of life in Liberia, including market women and farmers, go through a great deal to educate their children because they hold the conviction that education can brighten the future of their children.
In the process, for a 21st-century presidential candidate (Sen. Weah) to tell a nation that education is not essential and cannot build a country is to discredit parents’ efforts and wickedly trade in the ignorance of the hoi polloi for political gains– just as it has always been done.
Parents do understand that not many young people can play soccer to become a Sen. Weah.
However, many children can pursue education to become a President Sirleaf, a Sen. Jewel Howard-Taylor, a Professor Wilson Tarpeh, a Dr. Bernice Dahn, a Boima Kamara (Finance and Development Planning Minister), a teacher in a village, a nurse, or a seamstress who got her skills from a technical/vocational school.
I am also an example of the wonders of education.
My Grannies had no formal education, and my Mom had just high school education.
Still, they told me there was one important gift they could give me - education, and that it would take me to places if I embraced it.
I did embrace education and it continues to take me to places.
1985 was when my Dad was exiled by the then Military Regime. We lost everything and moved to the village.
The years that followed, my Mom never stopped fighting to give us education even in the village.
For the first time in her life, my Mom would burn charcoal and I would tot the bags to Ganta (about an hour’s walk from our village) to sell and earn income for our tuition and notebooks. Then, I had no hope of ever visiting even Monrovia.
Today, a boy from a dusty village in Garr Clan, Nimba – Wonnie’s Village, I attend and work for the #1 university in Canada which is also among the top 25 universities in the world.
I didn't get here by mistake. My Grannies and Mom told me it was possible and I have believed so from when I was a child.
What we tell our children can impact their lives positively or negatively. It is education that has got me interacting with some of the best scientists in Canada and from around the world.
With this profound recognition of where I come from and what education has done for me, I urge all Liberians, regardless of political affiliations, to reject the rhetoric that "book has failed" Liberia or, to paraphrase the Minister of Education - George Werner, da na book we will eat.
In 1997, we heard "you killed my ma, you killed my pa, I will vote for you" and we are living with the consequences today. In 2017, folks are again chanting, "book people failed us.
He knows book, he na know book, we will vote for him."
In this contemporary time when countries are focused on science, technology, research, development, and innovation, nothing can be more embarrassing for Liberia than to dismiss the relevance of education in our society as the world watches.
I tell you, there are no substitutes for education, my fellow compatriots. If there were, we would not be sending for Ghanaians and Nigerians to work on NEC database. We cannot be told to try ignorance because it is perceived that “education has failed Liberia.”
Education is the key to unlocking your world and Sen. Weah and Minister Werner know this irrefutable fact.
Sen. Weah, after he had earned millions of dollars, felt empty in the head academically and went to acquire education in his adult life. It is education that enabled George Werner to become a Minister in Liberia today.
Therefore, my fellow Liberians, do not be misled because all the folks who are telling you that education is a “waste” have quality education and will be the ones to always decide your future if you fail to embrace education.
Believe in education, God bless Liberia!
Kelvin Nyan Suah, Center for Critical Development Studies
University of Toronto, Canada