Rewards of Education – When Former Education Minister Meets Former Teacher

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On my pestering, at the official opening of the fourth branch of the Family Nursery Center and Kindergarten School System in the Old Road community, Monrovia, on Friday, March 2, 2018, they—former teacher (born in 1919) and former student—posed for a photo-snap by me.

“Please move closer to each other again, skins in contact,” I commanded the two persons. Only the former student moved. The two persons moved. “Good!” I said when each person’s body connected with the other.

“My mehn, you don’t think that camera has developed a problem?” the student said to me about twenty seconds later when I couldn’t change my shooting posture (buttocks pushed behind and both hands with camera stretched forward).

In almost one minute, the camera couldn’t capture the image of the two persons standing like statues before me, waiting for ‘click’ or ‘clack’ of the camera, the sound signifying the capture of the images.

“Oh!” I exclaimed after discovering the cause of the photographic hold-up. “The camera’s memory is full, can’t take in another image,” I explained.

“Did you come with back-up batteries?” the student asked.

“I came with a pair of new batteries, bought less than two hours ago, but they are not working in the camera,” I responded, and felt a bitter feeling surged in me against the shop owner in the Lakpazee Community, Sinkor, who sold the ‘dead batteries’ to me for the school opening program.

“Wow! What do you want us do now?” the former student asked me.

I read a ‘we are tired of standing here’ in the former student’s question. The sun was blazing.

“Please wait, let me delete a photo for the one of you and your former teacher. I can’t miss this opportunity of having you both in my photo diary,” I pleaded. I rushed with the deletion of one of the photos taken at the school opening program, and then returned to my photo-snap posture. But the camera went off. Another embarrassment!

“What’s the problem, again?” the former student demanded.

“The only working batteries are weak, camera off,” I replied.

“Wow!” the former student returned.

The former teacher kept mute throughout my ordeals.

I hurriedly pulled out the batteries for solar light—as I often do to any batteries that have failed me on my mission of photographing—held the batteries in my palm for few seconds, and inserted them into the camera. “Ay, God, If you can intervene for me to get only this photo,” I prayed.

God intervened and I got the photo (used for this article)

These two persons are Mrs. Jessie Wah King and Mrs. (Dr.) Dwabayea E. S. Kandakai, former Minister of Education in the Government of Charles McArthur Taylor, and current Chairperson of the West African Examiniation Council (WAEC). The former taught the later in the Music and ‘Life Skills’ in the 7th grade class at the College of West Africa (CWA) in the 1970s.

That relationship—at the grade school level—has produced several economic and academic benefits for each person several years after both persons left the walls of CWA.

The benefits are too many to mention in this article, especially at a time most Liberian newspapers restrict a Liberia-made article to at most “800 words” (for a full page) even though they would offer three or more pages for internet-based information from other countries’ writers (This partiality inspired my article, “Liberia: The Foreignization of the Liberian Newspapers.

Can’t We Write?”, which was published by a handful of newspapers out of the of dozens of newspapers in Liberia)

The biggest of these benefits is the former teacher’s offer of an empty space (classroom-size) in her compound to  the former student to open another branch (#4) of her family’s educational legacy early child development (ECD) institution called  Family Nursery Center and Kindergarten School System.

In appreciation, the former student painted the entire space (blue and white), designed the walls with drawings, and offered her former teacher some monetary token which would enable her (teacher) settle some biting economic problems. This amount would not have been released—perhaps—if the space had not been given.

“In the group of my former students at CWA, Evelyn (Kandakai) always extends a helping hand to me, next to Ellen (Johnson),” the nonagenarian (Mrs. Jessie Wah King) had disclosed to me in an exclusive interview for my education newspaper (Edu-Diary), four months before Dr. Kandakai met her on the space. Under Mrs. King’s tutelage at CWA, she bore “White” as her surname. The ‘Ellen’ is Liberia’s immediate former Head of State, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

These two people are my role models in education and I’ve been emotionally attached to each person since providence united us four years and one year ago, respectively.

I met Dr. Kandakai—to feature her in my education newspaper—when she was Vice President for Academic Affairs of the United Methodist University (UMU) in Monrovia. Since that time, she has contributed to the production of each of my academic or intellectual works—from the second edition of Edu-Diary in 2014 to the publication of GRADE SIN (a novel about education problems in Liberia with solution methods including how students can use the mobile phone to expose free grades-related crimes).

On her part, Madam Jessie Wah King made spiritual contribution (prayer) for the success of any project I’ve undertaken since we met in August, 2016. Sometime she shares her little cash or food with me. Through her, I tasted cooked food from the home of the Head of State, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, two times in 2017.

And these two people graced my induction ceremony as president of the Liberia Association of Writers (LAW).

What a divine favor from being a former student of a passionate and empathetic teacher and what a financially rewarding time from being a former teacher of a now-prominent citizen: Former Minister of Education and current Chairperson of the West African Examination Council (WAEC)!

I, who the Good Lord has brought in the way of each of these prominent Liberians, am bathing in the aura of each person’s natural or acquired gifts.  

When will Liberia have a national annual teacher’s appreciation award called ‘Exemplary Teaching Award’? President George Manneh Weah has taken note of my implied suggestion.

Samuel G. Dweh, Contributing Writer

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