“Greedy Souls Destroying Liberia, Not Educated People” -Kofi Woods Provides Caveats to Solve Education Quagmire

Longtime Liberian human rights advocate, Cllr. Samuel Kofi Woods, says investment in education and health have been placed on the backburner in favor of security and unsavory investments by the Liberian government. He averred that the low investment in education by the Liberian state will not seed excellence in education and advance the development of the country.

“This must change if we must seed excellence in education. Educated People did not destroy Liberia. Greedy, egoistic and unpatriotic souls destroyed and continue to destroy our country. Men and women of vain and naked ambition continue to destroy our country. Evidence now shows how incompetent, uneducated and unsophisticated people can destroy a nation,” Cllr. Woods remarked.

The percentage of Liberia’s education spending against the country’s Gross Domestic Product, Cllr. Woods cautioned, cannot remain at about 8%, which is unsustainable in a country emerging from war and battling high rates of ignorance. “It has to increase to at least 20 percent or more to demonstrate that we are serious about educating our young people and promoting excellence,” Cllr. Woods remarked on May 28, 2022 at the 27th Homecoming of the St. Patrick’s and St. Theresa Convent Alumni Association (Saint Friskies Alumni Association) in Houston, Texas, USA.

Speaking on the theme: “Seeding Excellence in Education” at the program organized to raise funds to reconstruct the St. Patrick’s High School and support the St. Theresa Convent High School in Liberia, Cllr. Kofi Woods said while there are good things happening in Liberia and various private initiatives like the St. Friskies Alumni Association are being applauded, the key responsibility as delegated by the Liberian Constitution is conferred on the state.

“We are rebuilding St. Patrick’s and strengthening Convent in a nation where there’s a tyranny of the majority who, after being abused on the battlefield of war, have become new pawns on the political and social battlefront. The majority and our political leadership are undoubtedly contemptuous of education. Our political, social and cultural values have become so debased.

“From the deadly slogans of ‘you killed my ma, you killed my pa, I will vote for you’ and ‘you know book, you not know book I will vote for you’, and now ‘educated and book people destroyed the country’; these slogans define our political psyche,” Cllr. Wood lamented.

The avowed human rights lawyer who once served as Public Works Minister under the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration said, while democracy represents the will of the majority, if the majority is ill-informed and subject to manipulations then the society is in peril.

“Liberia is in peril. The state is sick and needs resuscitation. There’s a leadership deficit and lawlessness of all sought, with scathing impunity. Growing up we knew about consequences. A nation with no consequences for bad behavior is bound to implode. Lack of consequences and impunity have become the twin norms of the day.

“Our nation’s capital is one of the dirtiest in the world but worse is the case of the academic filth taking over the educational institutions. Mediocrity is taking over intellectual discourse. We must help clean the academic filth by supporting quality education, encouraging scholarship over mediocrity, merit over patronage, law and order over lawlessness and violence,” an apparently frustrated Cllr. Woods remarked about the sordid state of Liberia’s education system.

    Referencing one of the country’s past renowned educationalists, Cllr. Woods said Wilmot R. Blyden in expressing his frustration over the state of affairs in Liberia remarked that ‘as a people we have been in too much haste to be rich…the desire to be rich, or appear to be rich, pervades all classes. The love of money…..has grown upon us to such a degree that all other avenues of distinction seem but trifling in comparison to those which lead to the acquisition of money’.

“To be rich seems with many ‘the chief end of man’. Hence no talents, no endowment of the mind, no skill or knowledge, no amount of education, is appreciated only so far as it will pay…This reality has not changed since 1857. In this age, Blyden’s words remain profound.  More than a century today, this remains true. We adore and honor criminals and frown on integrity,” Cllr Woods further lamented.

Reminding his USA audience about what he considered the true reality of what is obtaining in the Motherland, Cllr. Woods was quick to equally admit that Liberia from whence he came is itself entangled in a different kind of mayhem so inhumane and tragic: a dishonorable legislature, politically subservient and corrupt judiciary and an executive without a compass to lead and a national leadership deficit. Mysterious deaths remain unanswered, disappearances, drug addiction and lack of accountability, lawlessness have all pervaded us.

“We, too, have our share of problems and wrong anywhere is wrong everywhere. In all this, we have good people taking initiatives to improve life and engender hope. One such initiative brings us to this Reunion in Texas,” Cllr. Woods enjoined.

Reminiscing on the current Friskies’ mission that called for interventions and investments, Cllr. Woods extolled the rich history of the Catholic Church’s contributions towards education in Liberia.

“Driven by their religious beliefs, their vows, their passion and conviction and selfless sacrifices, the Religious Order of the Franciscan Missionaries (FMM), the Society of African Missions (SMA) and the Brothers of the Holy Cross embarked on an evangelizing mission to educate and promote quality education in Liberia in the early 1930s.  I am a proud beneficiary of the work scholarship that allowed me to earn my high school education.

“They set the stage for what we are doing today. This reunion and its undertakings are the contemporary parallel to their mission. The values and philosophy that offered the education we have must inspire us to invest not only money and resources but the human commitment and values to change our country. We must give back. This is our sacred thrust!” Cllr. Woods intimated.

Speaking further on how the academic excellence that St. Patricks’ and Convent provided can be replicated today, Cllr. Woods said the education provided by St. Patrick’s and St. Theresa’s Convent was built on the Catholic philosophy of Education- integrated Holistic Education- erected on the three pillars of training the Mind, the Body, and the Soul.

“Father D’Souza argues that central to accomplishing this three-headed mission of education is the question of the one and the many, of universality and particularity, and of commitment and openness.  It is about reading and writing, and doing algebra and physics and chemistry, but it was equally, if not more so, about creating an expansive understanding of what it means to be human, about cultivating a lifelong commitment to learning, it is about building a strong faith rooted in truth and social Justice, and it is about the desire to be of service to all, particularly the downtrodden in our midst.

“It is about building a curriculum that is structured to provide these critical ingredients of human formation. And it is also about cultivating, providing, and managing the resources necessary to provide those services. Not only did the Religious build schools and teach, they provided scholarships to those of us who wanted to learn but didn’t have the means. I am a proud beneficiary of a work scholarship opportunity offered to me from the 8th grade. They did so against great challenges and odds.

“But against all that, they set the stage and offered us a firm education foundation.  Like our forefathers and like the early missionaries, we must now envision our own mission to reform and rebuild in the face of our own challenges, adversities and opportunities. Much like the religious who established and managed our two schools, we face very serious challenges today. But, with the vision that you have set for our alumni association we must follow their footsteps, learn from their commitments, and from their exceeding charity and selfless service,” Cllr. Woods remarked.

In closing, Cllr. Woods called on families and communities, the state and the educational institutions to play a lead role in ensuring excellence in education.

“The family unit and our communities have disintegrated since the war and sadly, no real intervention has been put in place to restore the family as ‘the basic unit of society’.  Hence our communities are plagued with and being overrun by what I refer to as the twin evils of drug addiction and sexual abuse, rape and various forms of lawlessness.

“How can they grow up into whole parents who would take their children to school, attend and participate in PTA meetings, show good examples and teach their kids at home?

“The St. Patrick’s we knew is being rebuilt. The Convent we knew is still in existence but the family today is different in character than the family we knew then. Our new school must increase possibilities for strategic education that will enable our youth to imbibe values of self-respect and respect for others, sacrifice rather than exploitation and the vain accumulation of wealth, conviction and passion entrenched in values of integrity and the desire for merit rather than patronage, love for country and a strong sense of patriotism. We must teach basic skills that prepare them for community work and development.

“I therefore recommend community based programs that consider skills building in addition to the usual formal education. Programs in psychological counseling must be integral imperatives within our new education pedagogy.

“In rebuilding St. Patrick’s and promoting excellence in education, the rebuilding of our nation state is critical. Politics is an important aspects of how we succeed. Many of us think that we should shy away because politics and its outcome in many cases have scared us. We cannot succumb to the dictatorship of the ignorant and incompetent. The purpose of our education is not only for self-enrichment and fulfilment but to help others. We cannot survive as an island in a sea of trouble and instability. Investment in education has diminished. Religious and faith-based institutions that were the backbones of our nation have now suffered challenges since the war and have never recovered,” Cllr. Woods stated emphatically.

He said investment in education have diminished in favor of security and unsavory investments, and that nation continues to ignore the values of education.

“This attitude and the low investment in education by the Liberian state will not seed excellence in education and advance the development of our country.  The percentage of our education spending against our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) cannot remain at about 8%; that is unsustainable in a country emerging from war and battling high rates of ignorance. It has to increase to at least 20 percent or more to demonstrate that we are serious about educating our young people and promoting excellence,” Cllr. Woods said.

The human rights lawyer made a personal contribution of US$1,000 to the worthy cause of rebuilding St. Patrick’s High and supporting St. Theresa Convent’s ongoing academic program.

“As we leave here today, I offer a personal donation of 1,000 USD collected from some of my friends to support our cause. My children have also offered to support with 500.00 USD. I personally offer 100 USD every month until the end of the year to support the National Volunteer Fund. The Class of ‘81 will also make an initial contribution,” Mr. Woods affirmed.

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