Dissecting the Single Biggest Obstacle to Improving Teaching Quality in Liberian Schools
By The Mwalimu-Mkoh
Author, Education Engineer, & Reform Advocate
Simply Thinking Thoughts
In my thinking thoughts I pondered the achievements of the recent 2018 National Education Summit held in Margibi county and how a professional memoire chronicling the event has yet to be released. Albeit, my personal diary of the summit revealed that much was left to be accomplished considering lapses such as the rather borderline performance of the panel on “Teaching Quality and Professionalization”
In addition to the moderator’s lackluster handling of the panel, I have a hunch panelists were not afforded much time to expound the major questions posed. For example, the question, “…What would you prioritize as the single biggest obstacle to improving teaching quality in Liberian schools?”, was not adequately addressed.
In my response I asserted, “While my fellow panelists have chosen to address the question as education administrators, I would rather address it from an Education Engineering perspective, for there are 10,000 reasons available as the biggest obstacle to teaching quality”
Illegal Establishment of Sub-standard Schools
I posit that the illegal establishment of substandard schools is the most potent generator of poor teaching quality. The more substandard schools that get established, the more unqualified teachers are generated.
Each year, huge number of schools in Liberia are founded illegally by government officials, communities and religious institutions. These sub-standard schools usually unleash into the classrooms three kinds of teachers: Unqualified, Relatively Qualified and Qualified. It is this colossal task that continues to overwhelm the Ministry of Education (MOE) in its pursuit of quality teaching in our schools.
Substandard Schools Established by Churches and Communities
Fellow Compatriots, any school which allows a single individual who does not possess the minimum of a ‘C’ certificate to teach, is in violation of the 2011 Education Law and that school automatically qualifies as substandard. In current day Liberia, all and sundry including mainline and end-time churches which are supposed to be the conscience of society and morality are violating the constitution by illegally establishing substandard schools.
As a tradition, schools are attached to almost every mainline religious institution such as SDA, Methodist and Catholic parishes. If a pedagogical credentials mining were taken, one would find a huge number of unqualified parishioners, church and community members maliciously imposing as teachers and dishing out deadly poison to our children. To put oil in hot fire, there are also hundreds of End-Time churches which are attaching small poorly ventilated rooms to their churches and fences calling them “schools”
Here is the trick. When Sunday School attendance of a church increases, the members suddenly perceive they can establish a school. The Sunday School teacher becomes the unqualified Principal, the Pastor who knows nothing about education management becomes the board chairman, his wife the registrar to keep the money, and the deacon becomes the Vice Principal. Some members who have been praying and fasting suddenly receive miracles by getting jobs as teachers. This whole bunch of imposters fall in the unqualified teachers’ category and have no right to be in any classroom.
In some communities, abandoned and delipidated structures are partitioned and used as schools. The community leader or structure owner recruits underachievers and hustlers as teachers. The community for its part, enrolls en masse, their children without asking if the so-called teachers possess the necessary pedagogical savvy to teach.
Substandard Schools Established by MOE and Government Officials
Churches and communities are not the only culprits that establish substandard schools. There are MOE and government officials who are also guilty of this criminal act towards the education sector. It is hard to believe there are employees of the MOE including senior staff who own several substandard schools swarming with unqualified teachers. The schools of senior staff hardly get checked because their name alone threatens Education Officers who are supposed to walk in there and close down the doggone school. Now if the very MOE officials who are supposed to fix this ugly education situation are members of the criminal cartel, how do we expect education or teaching to improve?
Legislators’ Own Sub-Standard Schools
There are also Legislators who are killing the sector; unfortunately, there are scores of senators and legislators who own substandard schools all over the place as future campaign points. As members of the criminal cartel, they will never be genuine in what they preach about “quality education” for they are all fake advocates who are destroying the future of our children by owning schools with unqualified, inept teachers.
Relatively qualified and qualified teachers
While the Unqualified Teacher does not possess any pedagogical training, a relatively qualified teacher is equally dangerous. The relatively qualified teacher is somebody who possesses a degree in another discipline but lacks the minimum of a legal ‘C’ teaching certificate. He is qualified by virtue of his degree but not qualified to teach; hence relatively qualified on the one hand. On the other hand, the qualified teacher is somebody who possesses the minim of a ‘C’ certificate with all rights and privileges appertaining.
It was to those ends that I submitted as a panelist at the 2018 Education Summit that the biggest obstacle to quality teaching is the establishment of substandard schools that deploy untrained teachers, especially by MOE and Government officials who are the troublemakers instead of being the troubleshooters.
The only way to purge this ugly system of fake teachers and improve teaching quality is to establish a technical separate semi-autonomous entity; the education and teaching regulatory authority -EDUCATRAL, or else our pursuit will be a plunge down an abyss of frustration and desperation.
I am simply thinking thoughts!
About the author
The Rivercess man, Moses Blonkanjay Jackson holds a Master of Education (Ed.M.) degree from Harvard University and a Master of Education with Secondary Mathematics (MsEd) concentration from Saint Joseph’s University. He is a Yale Mathematics Curriculum Fellow, and a University of Pennsylvania Physics Curriculum Fellow. The Rivercess scholar served the Government of Liberia for four years as Consultant and Assistant Minister and returned to private practice as consultant and researcher. The Rivercess man can be reached at 0886 681 315 / 0770 206 645, [email protected]