Liberia: Ministry of Education Reintroduces Civics Education after over 30 Years

L-r: Mr. Gbessi Kema, Member, CSI Board; Dr. Ansu Sonii, Education Minister, Mr. Alexander Duopu, Deputy Education for Instruction; and Mr. Otis S. Bundor, CSI Country Director

Monrovia – It has been more than three decades since Civics was officially taught in Liberian schools in an organized approach across the country. However, in the next academic year 2022/2023, according to the Ministry of Education, Civics will be re-introduced into all the schools across Liberia.

The return of this vital subject that is aimed at enlightening Liberian students on their rights, responsibilities, and others for 7-12, was done under the auspices of the Civics and Service International (CSI), formerly Child Steps International.

The Civics textbook that is expected to be taught in the junior and senior is the “LAW+YOU – Rights and Responsibilities of the Liberian Citizen.”

“Civics is one of the leading fields in building a nation’s democracy. According to the LAW+YOU Civic textbook- Rights and Responsibilities of Liberian Citizens, Civics is considered as the study of the rights of citizens and their responsibilities to each other and their government. This also entails love for their country and a passion to develop a wholesome functional society,” according to CSI.   

The release of the book is the culmination of more than seven years of work, developing and testing the curriculum, writing the textbook content, piloting the program in schools, as well as training school administrators and teachers in partnership with the Liberian Ministry. The curriculum was initially developed and piloted. CSI also worked directly with the Ministry of Education to train more than 100 school administrators and teachers.

The Civics book, which is tailored at every grade level — from junior high to high school — was written by 20 accomplished authors, including Americans and Liberians.

According to a formal source at the Ministry of Education, Civics was stopped from being taught in schools in the 1980s. Since then, it has been over 30 years since schools have operated without a curriculum for Civics.

In 2013, Civics and Service International (CSI) conducted an assessment with communities, civil servants, and schools and realized that most Liberians do not understand what it takes to be a citizen- responsibilities and rights. For example, it was common to hear citizens asserting that the country should be sold, and the money distributed among them. According to CSI, “This shows a lack of patriotism, and the frustration citizens face in the governance process.”

CSI said the main essence of civic education is to provide sustainable constitutional democracy- human rights, conflict prevention and resolution, the role of citizens, vibrant self-esteem, etc. Liberia as Africa’s oldest independent nation, a country from a brutal civil war with many people still traumatized and school-going kids growing up without knowing their rights and responsibilities, CSI saw the need to write civic textbooks considering Liberia’s cultural context. 

During the launch of the new Civics book by Vice President J. Howard-Taylor, she said, “When we talked about Civics and voter education, it’s an important training. Reforming our minds and not just learning; what are our responsibilities? What are our roles? What is expected of all of us whether you are an elderly person in our society? What role should we be playing? Building a system, it’s not just an individual. The President is just a vision bearer; there are sustainers, there are enablers that have to make the system works.”

According to the VP, Liberians lost their way since the 15-year war. “Many people don’t know what their function is and how government functions. You hear many people on the radio talking lots of things then you understand many of us don’t understand the processes by which a country can grow, become educated and excel. But I think civic education will also help us to begin to love Liberia again. We lost that. When you visit Ghana, you visit Sierra Leone, you visit Guinea, you visit other places in our sub-region, you can’t talk to anyone about their country; the people’s countries come first. Unfortunately for us, all our young people want to leave Liberia. Nobody believes that this country will grow, will develop, and will go beyond our expectation. But civic education will help them to understand what we have, [and] where are we going.”

She thanked everyone for the effort into the project, including the CSI, the Ministry of Education, and others for bringing Civics back into the curriculum.

When interviewed, Mr. Otis S. Bundor, Country Director of CSI said he sees the project as a lifetime fulfillment for not only him but the team at CSI. “Today’s launching exercise of the LAW+YOU – Rights and Responsibilities of Liberian Citizens shows that with collective efforts, Liberians can do better. This has been a dream for many of us especially the President and Founder of Civics and Service International – Madam Tenneh Johnson Kemah. The vision of CSI is to realize a Liberia where children are empowered with the knowledge to grow up having a higher self-esteem and be able to engage in respectful debate, advocacy, and action, holding their government accountable while maintaining a love for their nation,” he enthused.

He further appreciated other partners and the effective role CSI has played in the education sector. “The release of the LAW+YOU textbooks would not have happened without strong and enduring partnerships,” said Bundor. He thanked Vice President Jewel H. Taylor, OSIWA, under the leadership of Madam Massah Crayton, the Ministry of Education, as well as the Governance Commission.

Bundor disclosed that CSI has been able to train over 100 school administrators and teachers – County and District and County Education Officers, Civics, Social Studies and History teachers. “During these trainings, participants were provided new skills and knowledge – interactive teaching techniques. We want students to get more involved in class activities, and also apply what they learned to their communities.”

Also, Assistant Education Minister Felecia D. Somah stated that the Ministry of Education entered into a partnership with CSI to develop the books for grade 7-12 and called it, “LAW+YOU”. “Now the way CSI did the books, 7-12 was all into one book. They brought the book and we reviewed it. We told them that we wanted one book per grade. We have crossed that bridge now; they wrote one book per grade and it’s currently finalized.”

About CSI

CSI is a registered non-governmental organization in the Republic of Liberia, established in 2012. CSI is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with offices in Washington, D.C. CSI launched the LAW+YOU Civics Curriculum as a pilot in Liberian schools in 2013. In May 2016, the LAW+YOU curriculum was launched as an interactive, low/no literacy community program. In 2016, the LAW+YOU Radio Show brought the civics curriculum to listeners across Liberia. In 2020, CSI’s LAW+YOU became part of a national civics initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Liberia and OSIWA.