Liberia: Presidential Aspirant Tiawan Gongloe Claims Investment in Education is Low due to Corruption￼
MONROVIA – Presidential aspirant Counselor Tiawan Gongloe has expressed doubt over the willingness and commitment of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah to invest in the education of its citizens in the midst of the current high level of “stealing in government”.
He noted that peace, unity, development and the high rate of ignorance among the citizenry can only be sustained or minimized through investment in education.
He spoke on the topic: Education: the necessary first step for sustained peace, unity and national development in Liberia.
Cllr. Gongloe made these comments when he delivered the keynote address at the fifth graduation convocation of the Cornerstone College of Professional Education and Technology in Brewerville, outside Monrovia over the week end.
“This may be wishful thinking given the current level of stealing in government. With the President and most of his senior government officials investing in building houses owned by them, I doubt that there will be any money left in the coffers of government to commit more money to education. Because, those who control resources in government know that the ruling party will not win the next election, each of them will be stealing more money, thereby leaving no money for education, health and other essential social services”.
“Each of them will say “ let me take my last eating because I know we are not coming back.” In deed with the kind of stealing that is going on they will not come back because they have disappointed the Liberian people. Just as they lost in the by elections everywhere, they will lose the 2023 elections because the Liberian people are looking for Liberians who are willing to serve and not to steal. Liberian people want a government that will obey the 8th commandment that says “Thou shall not steal”.
He stressed the need for government to commit resources towards education in a bid to address the growing wave of ignorance among the citizenry.
“Government should resume committing more resources to education. This is the best way to promote peace, understanding, unity and development. President Tolbert once said that Liberia has three key enemies. He named those enemies as ignorance, poverty and disease. Among the three enemies, he concluded that ignorance was the worst enemy of Liberia. This is true, because when people are ignorant, they sometimes get easily angry for not understanding what is being said or done by their leaders”.
He maintained that ignorant people can also be persuaded to get involved in a civil conflict or to vote without fully understanding their actions, as we have all experienced over the last few decades.
He emphasized that ignorance remains a threat to peace and it is “truly the worst enemy of Liberia”.
Cllr. Gongloe stated that education remains the only mean to get rid of ignorance.
He observed that every nation that is developed in the world today made education of its children a priority on its development agenda.
“Countries such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, China, Singapore, Japan, amongst others became developed by making more investment in education. Even in Africa, most of the countries that are developing faster are the ones that spent more on education. Countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, to name a few, are far better developed than Liberia because of their investment in education. Sierra Leone next door is more peaceful and is making progress in its national development faster than Liberia”.
He continued: “For example in 2020, Sierra Leone spent 34.3 percent of its national budget on education, while Liberia spent just 2.3 percent of its budget on education. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to predict that in the next ten years, Sierra Leone will be more developed than Liberia if it continues its current level of investment in education”.
He urged the CDC led-government to do the same in Liberia.
Cllr. Gongloe noted that Liberia will not develop until the Government makes Education a top Priority.
Cllr. Gongloe used the occasion to remind public officials against engaging into corruption while executing their constitutional and assigned tasks and responsibilities.
“I am here because I want to use every opportunity available to me to spread the message, supported by my track record of public service, that government is a place to serve and not to steal. Government is a place where the president, ministers and all public servants are expected to demonstrate their love of country and show that they have their country at heart by rendering sacrificial services and not getting rich overnight”.
“I am committed to educating the public because I strongly believe that all of the bad experiences that Liberians have had, including the military coup of 1980 and the 14 years of civil conflict, as well as, the increasing level of poverty in Liberia have be due to the high level of ignorance that has existed in this country. For example why on earth would any public servant in Liberia engage in corruption when a government was overthrown and the president and 13 of his cabinet ministers killed due to rampant corruption? Why would anyone engage in corruption when Jenkins K. Z. B. Scott, the once feared Minister of Justice of Liberia, who was at his time in government very wealthy, died at a dumpsite eating garbage?”
He stated that despite these scenarios, corruption continues in government.
“Ignorance creates arrogance and arrogance leads to senselessness”.
He recounted the roles played by past Liberian leaders to support education.
He recalled that former President William V. S. Tubman, for example, established government schools throughout Liberia, even in villages, far away from the main roads throughout Liberia, made government schools free from kindergarten to 12 grade and provided textbooks and libraries for most high schools.
Cllr. Gongloe added that the former Liberian leader also established the Monrovia Consolidated School System(MCSS) not long before his death and also introduced the Peace Corp Program in Liberia for providing more teachers for government schools and government assisted schools and the students were given free food through the CARE food program, while in school.
“Many of Liberians of my age remained in school because of CARE food. For example, I attended J. W. Pearson Public School in Ganta, Mehnla Public School in Mehnla, and Tappita Public School in Nimba County without my parents paying any fee and I was given free textbooks. This is not happening today. Following the example of the American Ambassador, I also want to ask whether the way the current government is treating the education of Liberian children is what President Joseph Jenkins Roberts wanted. My answer is no”.
He added that former President William R. Tolbert improved on President Tubman’s educational policy by reducing tuition at the University of Liberia from US$150 a year to US$75 a year, which meant US$37.50 without any separate fee for credit hours.
“This reduction in tuition made it easier for more students from low income families to enter the University of Liberia. The University of Liberia also had a bookstore where books were purchased at government subsidized price and dormitories with three meals a day. There were scholarships provided by the Ministry of Education and private entities for students who excelled in their studies”.
“Hence, many, if not most of the students who lived on the dormitories at the University of Liberia were supported by scholarships. In those days most of the students whose names appeared on the honor roll lived on the dormitories. Looking back in history it appears that in the past the government of Liberia provided more support to education than the present. For example, in the past there was no graduation fee paid by any student graduating from elementary, high school or even the University of Liberia. Today, the story has change for the worst”.