Teach To Know How To Fish

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During this Commencement Season, I have served as Commencement Speaker at some High and Elementary Schools. The Principals, Administrators, Teachers and Students at these schools were expecting me to give them some money. They were there not interested in  thought but they were interested in money. I told them that I accepted their invitations because they were opportunities for me to teach them how to fish rather than give them fish. By learning to know how to fish they would not be sycophants, following the money giver to the wrong places because they want money. They would not be saying “wlee morhn ga”, meaning “money be man” in the Bassa language. It turned out that many of the graduates were Bassa speaking.


By Togba-Nah Tipoteh


In the midst of longstanding and widespread poverty in Liberia, it is most important to teach people how to fish because to do so is to place people into the position to learn to solve societal problems. In showing them how to fish, how to solve problems, they would be using their thoughts to get money but they were interested in getting money on the spot. As the powers that be remain committed to the “wlee morhn ga” approach, the poverty problem remains unsolved. The powers that be look up to the Americanized way of seeing money as the most important resource rather than the human resource and so they continue to be money-driven, as the poverty beat goes on and on.

Not a single school at which I spoke has extended thanks to me for what I said. They have not extended thanks to me because they were expecting me to give them money on the spot. They were expecting me to give them fish but I showed them how to fish instead. These schools continue to face immense problems, as in the basis of their education, the type of administrators and teachers and the type of students with their moral and financial problems. But they continue to want money rather than the solution to their problems. What a shame! This is the Mess that Liberia continues to be in. How can Liberia move from Mess to Best? Our elders who are educated, despite the fact that they do not have formal schooling, have the answer: To move from Mess to Best, you have to know your culture; to move from Mess to Best, you have to sit on the old mat to know how to plat the new mat.

The powers that be are not interested in the wisdom of our elders. as they continue their search for money. As it is commonly said, the powers that be are looking for food rather than thought. It is this sad and wrong search that has Liberia in this longstanding and widespread poverty. This poverty is the main problem in Liberia because it leads to violence, which at times, takes on the forms of coup d’etat and civil war.

The Coup D’etat of 1981 in Liberia took the lives of at least 200 people and injured thousands of people. The Civil War of 1989 to 2003 in Liberia took the lives of at least 300,000 people, injured many more, damaged billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and left unrecovered the economy of Liberia at its pre-war level. It is if from their experience with the Coup D’etat and the Civil War in Liberia that the people of Liberia have concluded that they prefer Peace to War, as heard in their chant: We Want Peace! No More War!.

How can Peace take place when the powers that be continue to think wrongly that Peace is  the absence of War? Peace is the presence of Justice!! It is through the continuation of the awareness raising activities of people who love Liberia in ways that have the people to work together non-violently within the Rule of Law to transform the UNFAIR electoral system into the FAIR electoral system that persons with good records can get elected. When persons with good records get elected, then they will act to bring Justice, the only sustainable ingredient for Peace and progress in Liberia.

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