Some key stakeholders in the education sector have expressed total disagreement with the recommendation put forward by former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai for the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education, Technical and Vocational Training as a panacea to addressing the challenges affecting higher education and employment opportunities of graduates coming out of universities and colleges annually.
“Therefore, I want to provide one solution for identifying opportunities and solving most of the challenges faced by higher education in Liberia today. I wish to recommend to our Government that it should establish a Ministry of Higher Education, Technical and Vocational Training”, Mr. Boakai recommended when he address Cutting University’s 56th convocation program in Suakoko, Bong County.
The former VP said such ministry if establish could gather under one umbrella the diverse entities and programs scattered around the country, dealing with separate and uncoordinated aspects of higher education and TVET in Liberia.
But speaking yesterday to our reporters who were following up the recommendation made by the former VP to solicit views from some major stakeholders to give their take, the Principal of one of the government owned Technical and Vocational Institutes in the country who chose not to reveal his identity to the press said he was not too sure if the former Vice President actually made the recommendation because according to him, Mr. Boakai has been in public service for a long time, and should be in the right position to know where our problem lies.
“I want to read the speech and know from what context Mr. Boakai was speaking from. As a man who has spent so many years in public service, especially becoming the Vice President of this country, he should be able to know the source of the decline in the standard in our higher institution. We don’t have the right support for the sector and it cannot be solved with the establishment of a Ministry of Higher Education,” the seasoned educator said.
Mr. Desmond Swen, a former classroom teacher who recently worked with a UNESCO project aimed at supporting the educator sector said that he cannot hold Mr. Boakai liable for making such recommendation, which according to him, will not solve our problem.
Swen said the primary cause of the decline and failure of the education sector in Liberia is the historical neglect, with multi-faceted factors, by the Liberian leadership – both past and present, to consider education as a top national development priority.
He said the former Vice President, being a politician, is part and parcel of past leaderships that have not placed high premium on education and therefore will not really know the actual problem facing the education sector including higher institutions in the land.
Mr. Swen was then rhetorically when he said, “Are you kidding me? Is he going to also establish the Ministry of Lower Education too? I thought he would have discussed funding and the availability of qualified teachers and facilities to enhance teaching and learning as solutions rather than bringing another moribund structure in place”.
An expatriate who preferred to simply be called Sue said for three years she has been working with government institutions to address the problems facing the sector but with little results. She further said the education sector in Liberia faces a complex set of challenges related to rebuilding, constrained national finances, and poor infrastructure which go on to affect the quality of graduates coming out of the system annually.
She continued that these challenges include poor learning outcomes, overage enrollment, and huge number of out-of-school children, wasted government’s resources because of ‘ghost’, unskilled and many unqualified teachers.
“On a systemic level, there are no national school quality standards, capacity and resourcing at county and district levels that require improvement. The education sector also faces serious equity challenges including important geographic differences in access to quality education”, the expatriate added.
When asked whether it was really necessary for the establishment of a Ministry for Higher Education, Mrs. Theresa Nah-Wilson, a former social worker in the State of Florida, USA, who is in the country to assess the possibility of establishing a Nursing College in Monrovia, said whoever that is mooting the idea has nothing to offer the education sector – especially at the higher education level.
She said the Act that created the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) 2013, took into account considerable thoughts on strengthening the higher institutions with emphases placed on standards to be provided by educational centers offering courses at the higher education level, so there was no need of another Ministry of Higher Education.
The education sector, especially at the higher level, has come under serious criticism over the years with various shades of opinion of to highlight the challenges facing it, especially seeing a lot of graduates coming out poorly prepared for the job market.
Why some are blaming the government for failing to allot more fund in the annual budgets over the years; others also blame the respective higher institutions for compromising standards in admitting students in exchange for money.