My curious and restless attention is drawn, by the Inquirer Newspaper, Volume 29,
No. 88, Wednesday, June 10, 2020, edition, Page 5 in particular, with the bold
caption: “MINISTRY OF EDUCATION OUTLINES DECISION ON
RETENTION AND PROMOTION STATEMENTS AS WELL AS PLANS TO
REOPEN SCHOOL AHEAD OF WASSCE.”
The Author: Bishop Dr. Leo Simpson
My meticulous reading and observation of the Hon. Minister of Education purported outlined DECISION did not reveal anything new: it is the same more same. Consider the following vague examples, as are imbedded in the Minister’s press release, as listed below:
- “Though several engagements with education stakeholders and health experts, the Ministry of Education has concluded key policy decisions that guide the next steps of school administrators, school systems, partners, students and parents, towards reopening.”
Who are the alleged stakeholders that, the Hon. Minister and his senior staff had ample engagements with, at the Education Ministry? The Minister of Education for reason(s) best known to himself and his team, at the Ministry of Education have by design excluded the National Association of Liberia School Principals from all of the supposed deliberations. Not until the President of Liberia mandated the Minister to reopen school only for the 12th grade students, did the Hon. Minister hurriedly summoned the executive members of NALSP to an impromptu meeting: the very first of its kind since schools were ordered closed few months ago. This was a belated meeting. The Minister’s alleged ‘several engagements’ have not been with the movers of education, most specifically the private schools. We the private school administrators and principals have been affectively and purposely sidelined or kept out of the loop.
- The Hon. Education Minister expressed his aspiration for “an immediate shift in the academic calendar leading to the increased instructional days per week to include Saturday or Sunday
I can assuredly state that, for most, if not all private schools and their administrators, principals and instructors, this aspiration of our Education Minister is a nonstarter and a no go zone. This aspirational suggestion was dead upon arrival.
It beats our professional imagination that, the Minister and his senior staff can discuss among themselves, without inviting NALSP, to form part of all such deliberations. Having school on Saturday and/or Sunday cannot be imposed on private school administrators, principals, teachers, support staff, students, parents and/or guardians.
The uncontested fact of the case at bar, is that, during the horrendous EBOLA pestilence, schools throughout Liberia had just successfully concluded the 1st Semester’s work. The schools could not be reopened, consequently, the “situational decision” was made, by the government to promote all students, grades K — 12. Was this a perfect decision? Not by a long shot! The decision to promote all students based on only the 18t Semester’s work, was by all considerations an imperfect one, but such was the time and such were the compelling prevailing conditions.
Some of us vehemently opposed the decision of the Liberian Government to “social promote” students on all grade levels, to the next classes. We acquiesced and the rest is history, but the world, as we know it, did not crash to an immediate end and that is why you are reading this article.
Unlike the despicable and pathetic EBOLA school year, the unbelievable COVIDI 9 school year is very near completion. I will hasten to say, that, most if not all private schools in Liberia were in the middle of their 5th Marking Period of the current school year. It is an academic open secret that, schools do not administer 6th Marking Period test, rather students are evaluated based upon quizzes, class projects and home assignments, among others.
it is my professional considered view that, most of the schools can wrap up the remaining portion of the 5th and the entire 6th Marking Periods, within thirty (30) instructional days, without the imposed extra classes on Saturdays and Sundays, which will impose extra operational budgets on private schools, that have been deserted, by the Ministry of Education, to the unavoidable perils of their administrators, principals, teachers and support staff. What is urgently needed is not the quantity of instructional days, but the quality.
It is unarguable that, these are not normal times, these are extraordinary times, which emphatically demands extra-ordinary measures. To conclude the school year within the range of thirty (30) instructional days, maybe considered by many as an extra ordinary measure, for such an extra-ordinary moment in our history.
Students, K — 12 grades can be credibly assessed and promoted, by the completion of the thirty (30) days of compacted/active/progressive instruction.
- It is beyond reasonable that, the Hon. Education Minister and his senior staff are obsessed with the epitomized lesson study notes and questions, which he and his team holistically embraced and approved.
No sooner had some of the private schools spent appreciable sum of money, to produce and to have same distributed to their students, the Minister summersaulted and cancelled the said worthwhile project, predicated on untested allegation that, students were hugging/embracing and congregating on their respective un-named school campuses, in contravention of the COVID19 health protocols. The Minister is very keyed in on this epitomized lesson study notes and questions program not seeing the brilliance of any day, to the disadvantage of our valued students.
- On the other hand, the Hon. Education Minister has with tenacity and
consistency promoted on every available social media and print media the
academic efficacy of “teaching by radio program” for students in grades K —
Think if you can, but for a moment, a kindergartener sitting still, by a radio to learn from an invisible teacher with a peculiar voice. This is highly impossible, no matter who the dressed up invisible lesson presenter may be.
The Hon. Minister of Education has yet to inform the waiting general public, as to how much money is been thrown at this Ministry of Education celebrated project. The amount been used is shrouded and buried in the grave of secrecy.
Mr. Minister, majority of Liberian students are not confined at home, glued to their radios, with the assumed supervision of their caregivers. Students, contrary to what we may think or do are not staying close to home, they are out and going wherever their restless feet can lead them and their caregivers are preoccupied with making ends meet, at this acute financial time.
There will be no final assessment or evaluation of this learning by radio project, with reference to its success, at the end of the said program. The fact of the matter is no one but the Education Minister and his senior staff know, as to whether the said program will ever end or not: Don’t hold your precious breath.
- Said the Hon. Minister of Education: “…. A week beginning June 8 — June 22,
2020 is required for cleaning and preparation of the physical facilities/school
campuses and buildings to accommodate students,” page 12 of the Inquirer
Newspaper, Wednesday, June 10,2020 edition.
Private schools in Liberia have yet, to be given a Liberian Five Dollars by the current national government through the Education Ministry, during such an intricate financial time. Private schools are financially starved, as the Education Minister with a steel like determination looks the other way.
Private schools that are in the trenches, providing much needed education for some of the Liberian children, have been totally abandoned, by the Government of Liberia. Liberians who are well positioned financially, have not assisted the private schools. The business communities have not lived up to their mandatory social responsibilities: they are yet, to throw out any monetary or in-kind life line, to private schools that are drowning, in a cashless and depthless sea of despair.
Well to do politicians are deaf, mute and blind, to the financial plights of private schools, during such a grave period of our national existence.
Recently, one of our politicians allegedly shared Five Million Liberian Dollars among some marketers, doubtless for political expediency, as marketers and not students are potential voters.
Mr. Education Minister, how do you expect owners, administrators, principals and support staff, to clean up their respective buildings and campuses after few months of inactivity? Mr. Education Minister, where will the owners, administrators, principals and support staff get the money from, to buy the necessary cleaning materials? Mr. Education Minister, are you unmindful of the alarming fact that, you have by design, not trumpeted the just cause of the private schools?
- The Hon. Education Minister is on record as having said the following: “A comprehensive guideline including school health well-being, and safety for schools, is in its final stage for release before June 20, 2020,” on page 12 of the Inquirer Newspaper, June 10, 2020 edition.
When you do not meticulously plan to succeed before time, you will hurriedly plan to fail during or after the fact.
Mr. Minister of Education, during the Ebola mayhem, the Education Ministry in collaboration with WHO and the Health Ministry among others, produced and distributed relevant flyers, Ebola buckets, safety rain boots, rain coats, cleaning materials, testing equipment, among others for the use of all schools throughout Liberia.
In addition, Mr. Minister, prior to the reopening of schools, the Ministry of Education along with WHO and the Health Ministry sent health professionals, to most of the schools nationwide, to educate the owners, administrators, principals, teachers and support staff about the DOS AND THE DON’TS concerning the Ebola pestilence. The seminars were extremely educative, informative and insightful, which helped us a whole lot.
Fast forward to, the insidious COVIDI9 pestilence: you are just informing schools through social media platforms and print media that, your ministry will release the alleged health guidelines on or before June 20, 2020 which happens to be on Saturday. You have mandated that, schools be reopened only for 1 2th graders on June 23, 2020. Are we not, sir, putting the cart before the horse?
It is mind baffling and numbing and to a certain degree highly stressful that, you have waited till the 1 1th hour, before the alleged production and the distribution of the much talked about health guidelines for the safety of the students and school employees. This is a troubling development, to utter the least.
Consider this unarguable fact, as noted in the Inquirer Newspaper, Vol. 29, No. 82, Friday, May 29, 2020 edition, with the bold caption ‘EDUCATION FINALIZING PLAN FOR REOPENING OF SCHOOLS.’ The Minister of Education is quoted on the front page, of the above referenced newspaper as follows: “… in consultation with education and health sector stakeholders, it is finalizing a comprehensive policy aimed at outlining cleared strategies on mitigating several factors and challenges to facilitate the reopening of schools and complete the academic year 2019/2020 in line with the national curriculum.”
The Hon. Education Minister repeated himself, as has been the practice: no date was set for the commencement of classes and that, all schools were to remained closed. In the said publication, the Minister of Education and his Deputy Minister of Education for Administration contradicted each other. The Hon. Minister promoted the much talked about learning by radio, at the expense of the epitomized lesson study notes and questions, which he had previously approved.
Mr. Education Minister, what is impeding the over-promised release of your alleged “comprehensive policy” for the eventual reopening of schools? The administrators, principals, teachers, support staff, students, parents and guardians urgently need hardcopy(s) of your unimpeachable, concise and precise “comprehensive policy” peppered with unarguable specificities for our easy reference, since school is almost commencing for the seniors, on June 23, 2020, at the glaring disadvantage, to students from K —12 grades.
It defies our imagination that, the learned Professor and Education Minister has purposely refused, to raise his authoritative and relevant voice, to sincerely lobby President George M. Weah, the National Legislature, dependable foreign donors, well positioned Liberians and the general business community, on behalf of the private school administrators, principals, teachers and support staff for a much needed financial assistance, during such a bleak economic time. Private school employees have been affectively abandoned, by the Liberian Government, with the support of the Minister of Education. Just as Mr. Minister was extremely busy lobbying foreign partners, to fund his pet program, learning by radio, he should have equally done the same for the private schools, over which he is the indisputable Minister.
During the infamous and insidious Ebola pestilence, the Government of the time, through the Minister of Education, successfully lobbied foreign partners and received some financial donations for private school employees. This was a laudable gesture on the part of the government of former President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Hon. Minister of Education, why is your ministry dishing out an unknown sum of money, to various social platforms for a purported learning by radio, which has very little utilitarian value, at the expense of private school employees, who are in a dire financial need? Is this not a misplaced priority, Hon. Education Minister?
Just before I rest, my justifiable and prudent case under consideration, let me, on behalf of private school owners, administrators, principals, teachers, support staff, students, parents, and guardians of all private schools, within the Republic of Liberia shout out a BIG, BIG THANK YOU, to a farsighted and generous individual, named Mr. S. Dexter Roberts, who recently contributed 50 bags of rice, to the National Association of Liberia School Principals. God bless you, sir, without measure.