The Liberian educational system, as witness thereof beginning from the decades of the 1960s, has indeed been characterized by challenges, most of which have come to bordered on preferences by parents and sponsors on where, why and how should their wards earn education, since whether earning a sound or just knowledge, in the words of a younger brother and teacher, Mr. James K. Stevens, Jr.: ‘flashing water upon them and calling them fish’ especially when they want to become ‘big fishes’ in recent decades remain the preoccupation of many.
How can a dug learn to swim upon waters without feather? How can a child learn to walk without first learning how to sit and crawl before seeking help to stand?
Against these proverbial premises and questioning is evolving outbursts of dissension amongst parents and guardians of wards attending particularly private schools, howbeit the continuing process by government in providing that which are within its limited means in public schools.
Quite fortunate to have had this columnist to have earned at least his primary, junior and senior high school education under few cabinet ministers thereat, including Dr. Augustus F. Caine and Hon. Jackson Fiah Doe, preparatory work to withstanding future challenges in meaningfully contributing to the socio-economic and political growth and development of the nation remains on what is referred to as the ‘hard drive’.
Whilst the historicity of the establishment of private schools throughout the country would remain replete without mentioning the total involvement of missionaries, as attested by the many mission schools established throughout the country, involving the Baptists, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodists, Episcopal, Catholic, Pentecostal and so forth, they have continued to remain references over the decades in the escalating trend in the setting up of private schools throughout the country.
Indisputable as it had been between the periods of the 1940s through the late ‘70s that public schools established by government were in serious educational competition with the private, particularly the boarding, time has since changed in view of the level of quality instructional materials provided to all and their staffing that became quiet efficient and proficient at their lesson plans and presentations, with strict discipline enforced amongst students.
Granted that parents, guardians and sponsors that had expressed interests in having their wards study at private institutions did so based upon their incomes, or been exposed to procedures in acquiring scholarships for them on the basis of brilliancy, tuitions thereat however became reasonable in view of salaries paid to employees during the period.
Laughable, though, it may be that some parents had earned as low as between US$17 to US$33 per month, but could allow them to at least purchase a bag of rice, pay registration fees, buy uniforms and books, paying even US$60-70 for studies at the University of Liberia appeared huge amount but indeed inexpensive through arrangements administrations to pay in installments.
The above been just top of the educational iceberg of yester-years and without delving into the middle period of the 1980s thru the ‘90s, moreso having been visited by a debilitating civil crisis, current decades continue to experience continuing hike in tuitions at most private educational institutions amidst government’s continuing strides to provide and promote quality education at even public schools.
Indeed a herculean task, howbeit experiences of past decades that cannot be restored overnight, private schools have since gradually restoring their institutions to appreciable academic level, yet with the burden of improving their environment by reconstructing or refurbishing buildings and employing qualified staff that must be paid in commensurate with their learning.
Undeniable that private/mission schools had, during the pre-bellum years, seriously partnered with other like-institutions abroad for support in buttressing the national efforts, amidst the granting of subsidies to them by the Ministry of Education, times have since changed evolving from existing conditions.
Since the restoration of peace, stability and democracy to the Liberian nation, private educational institutions, most of which greatly suffered from destruction as a consequence of the past debacle continue to look here, there and yonder for assistance in bringing their schools to pre-war levels.
Against the backdrop of global events, however, with financial draw-downs witnessed in the global economy, adjustments have had to be made in coping with callings seeking the perpetuity of existing institutions.
Thus, whilst it appears unintentional for private schools to continuously hike tuitions, making it unaffordable for many parents to send their wards thereto, resulting to high enrollment in public school that may not momentarily have the requisite trained personnel thereat and unprepared to pay the qualified in commensurate with their acquirements, the educational sector remains vulnerable.
Significantly improved as the current leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai has in the last six years striven to prioritize education, with appropriate allocations made in the national budget, increment in tuitions ought not to now become the case against the backdrop of past systems employed at the Ministry of Education in keeping the learning process on even-course at both public and private institutions.
With gradual increment in the salaries of public servants, something that the private should instead be ahead but has been held down for various and unknown reasons, poor parents whose desire to see their wards acquiring sound education to save them in the future cannot continuously fall prey to the seeming developments that may not be impacting the lives of all.
Gradual increment in the salaries of public sector employees, as well as rental payments and the provision of other immunities do not necessarily mean that all is well to have the private sector demanding equal equilibrium, moreso when some in the latter are simply existing for its sake with no self-efforts made to buttress the national efforts.
The hike in tuitions now continuously decried in many parts of the country, howbeit frantic attempts by the leadership at finding alternative solutions through consultations with its partners, cannot go unattended since to do so would invite another national problem that those in particularly destructive political circle may want to use in willfully unacknowledging the formidable progress being made by the democratic leadership of Dr. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The hustling must come from all sides, in spite the preparedness by government to improve conditions, but not at the expense of suffering parents, guardians and sponsors of wards.