One Teacher To One Hundred Pupils: In Bong County, Liberia, one Village Laments
Garyea, Yellequelleh District, Bong County – They dress up and go to school every morning. They recite poems and rhymes and dance happily in the morning.
They don’t like the sun much as they huddle up in one corner of their classroom where there is shade. A part of the roof is blown off.
This is the plight of pupils at the Garyea Public School in Yellequelleh district, Bong County.
Pupils here have to sometimes turn their backs to their blackboard in order to stay in the little shade that is left inside their classrooms.
The school is a brown mud structure with only four classrooms with weak walls. There are several cracks on them.
When it is passed mid-day, pupils in primary 1, 2 and 3 classes do all they can to avoid getting scorched by the sun rays penetrating through the open roof into their classrooms.
The teacher of the school, Samuel Fineboy, told FrontPage Africa the situation seriously affects learning.
Fineboy said, “The children sit round and we use the shadows (of the walls) as our sitting points. The roof is blown off so when the sun reflects here, what do we do? We have to shift the children to where the shade is”.
He added that “at a point, the shade will come to this side and when they move there, they turn their backs to the blackboard so whatever you (the teacher) is doing, they just go along but you don’t get the results expected”.
There are at least 100 pupils in the school even though many of them frequently absent themselves from school.
In primary 1, there are about 25 pupils. A few of them sit on an old bench and the rest, on the bare ground. The classroom floors are not cemented.
Of the four classrooms at the school, only class 4 has its entire roof intact. It is also the only classroom with some desks.
There is no office for the teacher of the school. He keeps some of his books on a table in a corner of class 2.
“I keep my important documents like the attendance registers in a nearby house so that they don’t get destroyed”, he told FrontPage Africa.
The School has only one teacher – Mr. Fineboy. To cater for the deficit, some of the brilliant pupils in class 4 sometimes guide their juniors in the lower classes through lessons.
Doris McGill, 9, a class 4 pupil who was guiding her juniors in class 3 through a reading lesson at the time of our visit told FrontPage Africa, “We don’t have textbooks, we don’t have teachers and we don’t have a school block. We want the government to help us”.
The nearest schools to the community are too far away so the children cannot get there since they have to commute on foot.
Decay in Bong Public Schools
It is no news that public education in Liberia faces several crises. Some of these include leaking roofs, flooded school premises, overcrowded classroom, unsafe and unhealthy school environment, decaying infrastructures and a curriculum largely aimed at making students acquire skills that will at best in future make them an army of unskilled laborers.
But this is not all. There is also the problem of a poorly-motivated and overburdened teaching force with a monthly wage that practically amount to peanuts considering rising inflation and the high cost of living in Lagos.
What then can be news is the fact that the hammer is already being wielded to finally nail the coffin of public education. This is happening by way of the massive shortage of teachers in nearly all subject areas in public schools in Bong County.
Selma Lomax, [email protected]