Journalist Sengbeh X-rays Liberia’s ‘Messed Up’ Educational System–Throws Blame On Stakeholders

The Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh has joined many Liberians describing the country’s educational system as a messed up one, saying it’s a doom for the country unless the situation is reversed.

Liberian Journalist Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh, writer of Sengbeh’s weblog

The Assistant Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said the messiness of the country’s education sector cannot be attributed to the government alone but all stakeholders including school administrators, teachers, parents and the student populace.

Serving as Guest Speaker Sunday, (July 7) at the Closing and Fund Raising program of the 2nd Providence Baptist School in Monrovia, Sengbeh said all of those responsible to make education better in the country have failed to play their traditional roles, leaving the sector to get messed up.

Speaking on the topic “Messed Up Education System: Who’s Responsible” the PUL official indicated that government which has a crucial role in making the system vibrant has only played lip service and provided little f the much-needed oversight.

“There is no argument that our educational system today is a complete messed up one. It doesn’t require a graduate from Harvard like President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to determine how failing and appalling our learning system has gone—the outcomes are terrible,” the Liberian journalist observed.
He asserted that almost anyone who has acquired some level of quality education in the past can determine how the system is messed up and flawed today.
“Corruption, greed, sex for grade or grade for sex, dishonesty, rudeness, disregard for order and policies, putting out of half-baked graduates, and criminal syndicates are among some of the unwholesome practices that have flooded the system today,” he continued. “It’s troubling and worrisome, and it signifies doom for a country and people who speak of hitting middle income status by 2030. Even 2099 will not take us there with our tattered educational system in this state, getting worse year by year.”
Sengbeh said it is the responsibility of every government to ensure that its people, especially the younger generation, are properly educated in a bid to ensure a nourishing functional society with literate citizens capable of making sound national decisions.
Government does this, among others, by not only drawing up appropriate policies but ensuring that these crafted policies are fittingly implemented with moral and financial support, he noted.
“Is this being done in our country? I say NO to a larger extent. What I have seen is that government has only often announced and pronounced its commitment to education, but has yet to practically put into place measures to back these flowery pronouncements. I know there are policies, sound policies on the shelves that could better up the system, but Government has failed to provide relevant oversight and funding to actualize these plans which I call “political policies good-for-nothing documents”. They are total lip service, charade, and figment of imagination. How will the system not be messed up?”
The Liberian journalist argued that “Our education law states that about 25% of the National Budget should go to education, but in the last eight years, this has never happened (I stand to be correct, but my research didn’t find that). The much publicized free and compulsory primary education is not yielding its desired results as students sit on bare floors and in congested classrooms to take lessons, while teachers often leave the classrooms to protest for salaries. How will the system not be messed up?”
Turning to school administrators and teachers, the PUL ASG stated that they, too, were of even great contributors to the problem. “You are the ones producing those fake graduates, you are the ones preparing them for the future, you are the ones dealing with the students day after day and year in year out, and they are going out with what you teach them. If they perform poorly, it is you; if they perform excellently, it is you. They are your ambassadors, representing your image, your institutions. If they are messed up, you, too, are messed up.”
Sengbeh said in the past people established schools to provide quality education unlike today when schools are being established to make huge profits. “Schools,” Sengbeh went on, “have become business institutions for maximizing profits and not academic institutions for maximizing knowledge. Principals and proprietors are measuring their successes and strength on the quantity of students they take in and not the quality of graduates they put out. Tell me, in the midst of this, how will the system not be messed up?”
He furthered: “Unlike the past, principals of today’s schools do not check the back grounds of students who enter their schools. They careless to know if the new student was demoted in the previous school, or whether he/she was given an NTR. It’s none of their business. All they want is the school and tuition fees. No report card, no transcript, nothing! Just pay your money. I see what the system is messed up.”
Most of the teachers in the schools, he said, are not professional, though some may be qualified. Many of them do not know their purposes in the classrooms. So, they run after little boys and girls for sex in exchange of grades. “Those students who cannot succumb to sex-for-grade have to pay money, and the highest bidders get the highest grades. Are they teachers? Yes, teachers of immoralities. What a doom for a country like ours.”
He said some teachers are preparing students to grow up with the knowledge that in our society people do not get things or get to places by merit, but through dishonesty, bribery, sex and other immoral acts. “No wonder our education system is messed up, leading to a messed up society. No wonder sex for jobs is reportedly on the rise.”
Parents and students, he furthered, are also part of the fray. He said many parents are helping to destroy the system. “What many of you are noted for doing is to ensure that you children get to the next class, whether they are fit or not. That’s why some parents bribe teachers and other school authorities to ensure that their children get promoted.”
“Because your government is preaching lip service, because your teachers are not properly playing their roles, because your parents are misleading you and corrupting the system, you have also become both victims and perpetrators,” he told the students.
He said many of you fail to study their lessons; they know little about their school and classroom activities. “You know little about your country and leaders. You don’t know who the first president is or Flag Day anymore; you can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing the ‘Lone Star Forever’ or recite the national anthem, and many more. How can the system not be messed up when you do not know these simple things you should have at the tip of your fingers as students? How do you expect to pass national exams when question are posed to you on these topics? That’s why many of you fail in public exams.”
Sengbeh said Liberia’s education sector needs a complete overhaul and realignment and that action needs to be taken against corrupt persons. It is in dire need of libration and forward match.
Like the Liberian leader has said, the journalist indicated, unless all stakeholders can redirect their time, energy and resources, Liberia will continue to face problems in providing quality education, and this is unacceptable.
“This is therefore a compound problem that needs to be solved with the government, school authorities and teachers and parents in a single network to clean the mess. Yet, it is the responsibility of the government to take the lead by providing decisive policy directions that decentralizes the governance of the education sector,” he said.
The3 mess, he argued, will not be cleaned when government is not adequately playing its role, not committing required funding to the sector; not providing subsidies to private schools. “No, when government, our lawmakers, are passing useless greedy laws that will give about US$2 million in taxpayers’ moneys to support so called political parties.”
Sengbeh asserted that such amount of money could buy hundreds of thousands of chairs for kids who sit on bare floors to take lesson; it could build latrines and hand pumps for schools; it could expand the number of class rooms and build new schools in areas where there are no schools.
“We cannot clean the mess unless school proprietors see schools as intuitions intended to provide knowledge rather than business entities to generate funds; when teachers do not know their purpose of being in the classrooms, when they spend times asking boys and girls for sex and money for grades. No, the system cannot be cleaned that way!”
The PUL official said the spoiled system cannot be fixed when parents and guardians will not stop conniving with corrupt teachers and school authorities to pollute the system through bribery to ensure the passing of their kids/wards. “It will get better when parents check on their children in schools and work with teachers to make them better. It will not be changed unless students consider themselves as students and as people who want to learn properly to become future leaders. When we consider this, only then will our messed up educational system be cleaned and once more competitive.”


Author: D K Sengbeh

Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh (author of Sengbeh's Weblog) is a respected and renowned Liberian journalist, poet and writer with with journalism experience since 2001, of working both as a mainstream journalist and a communication/media consultant in Liberia. He is Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (elected Dec 2013). He was Assistant Secretary General of the Union Dec 2011 to Dec 2013. He is also Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper—one of Liberia’s credible dailies. Before joining the Informer, Danicius had served as reporter, chief reporter, sub-editor and News Editor at The Independent Newspaper between 2002 and 2006. Before then, he was reporter at the defunct Patriot Newspaper and Kiss FM 2001-2002. Danicius is a UN Media Fellow and Liberia’s first UN Medal Award-winning journalist for his contribution to journalism and for being the second Liberian journalist in 15 years to qualify for and successfully attended the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist Fellowship Program in New York and Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and Sociology from the University of Liberia and a Diploma in Journalism from the International School of Journalism. He holds several awards and recognitions both in and outside of journalism, and carries dozens of certificates in journalism and communication from studies in Ghana, China, United States and Switzerland, among others. He volunteers as Chair of the Information and Communication Committee of his local Bardnersville community. He can be quickly reached via (+231) 886586531/777586531/777464018/

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