There are a few little, but important things that President Weah could begin with, to address our “messy education” system, as outlined below:
First, he could take a tour around the country to thank this supporters and even those who did not support him.
During this nationwide tour, he could “jokingly” take some of his campaign messages back particularly about education.
For example, he could rephrase/paraphrase his message that “education is actually important and our young people must take advantage of it!” in a hope to balance the harm that the CDC’s election slogan: “you know book, you nah know book, I will vote for you” have caused to the young people of Liberia and future generations to come.
This small, but important gesture could help create awareness and turn things around for a whole generation of young people. Messaging is key.
And if we all still hold the belief that the young people of Liberia are truly our “future leaders”, and then we have to give them the right messages even at our own cost!
The reality about young people is that one good message can change everything in their lives and vice versa.
His change of message could also avoid Liberia losing a whole generation of young people who have been made to believe that “education is a failure!” particularly during the CDC’s campaign in 2017.
If this perception is not changed or even challenged, there are huge social implications now and in the near future especially for young people from poor backgrounds.
The majority of poor people children will be unable to gain social mobility in life without any meaningful education or trade.
There is a litany of literature on the nexus between education and social mobility which we can’t afford to ignore or risk an entire generation of young people to poverty.
Second, and in addition to his new message about education, he could propose and make a genuine commitment to pay teachers a little more. Salary is still a key motivating factor for workers!
In addition to increasing teachers’ salaries, he could jokingly apologise to them for all of the past wrongs and his own government’s “Academic Crimes Court” proposal, and renew a commitment to empower teachers across the country rather than criminalise them!
Generally, it’s always good to tap on one’s own strengths / resources before asking others for help. So he could tap on his most valuable resource in the education sector (Liberian teachers), and consider any “quick fixes” such as “begging to borrow 6000 Nigerian teachers” and “criminalising education”, as last resorts!.
By this action, he could then speak to the young people directly that “I’m paying your teachers a bit more because I believe that education is important for you and our nation”, and share his own story with them that he had to go back to school in 2006. And since he took that bold step, the rest is history! They will listen to him.
Third, he could start up a program that I’m calling “Teach For Liberia” ( if the name has not already been taken), to encourage Liberians residing out of the country to return home and “Teach For Liberia” even for short periods.
In addition to asking Liberians in our diaspora communities to champion this program, young Liberians in Ghana, Nigeria and other parts of the sub-region could be used to jumpstart this program. This is an idea worth thinking about.
Fourth, he could encourage universities and vocational schools to run what is known around the world as “intensive courses”.
Here, semester long courses are taught in short periods ( two weeks or over weekends) by “fly in, fly out” teachers or in country professionals.
Through this program, Liberia will have skilled people that governments do not need to waste resources on building their capacity.
Due to the skill shortages in academia and vocational training, many universities and technical colleges are tapping on intensive teaching periods by flying teachers/trainers in from around the globe to teach, give assignments and mark papers or support students from a distance.
This system has been tried, tested and approved in academia and vocational training so it’s nothing new except for Liberia!
Our universities and vocational training institutions should look into it.
Most importantly, Liberians in academia and trades outside the country are willing to contribute through this program during their short visits back home.
On average, Liberians visiting home actually stay for two weeks or more so they can teach an entire semester long course / training during this period and mark papers or support students from a distance.
This is possible with the new technologies available to us.
Lastly, Liberians do not lack ideas. We are smart people! Many of us have excelled in other societies and even in places where English is not the official language so our governments must always remember to tap on our own strengths/ resources before looking elsewhere for help.
This has not been the case but the CDC led government can change it!
As my great friend PLO Lumumba brilliantly puts it, “The problem with Africa is that, those who have ideas don’t have power and those who have power, don’t have ideas”!
Samuel Sakam, Australia