Education Minister: Education System at Critical Point

MONROVIA, Montserrado – In the wake of the poor results from the recent West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations, with 65 percent of students failing, Ansu Sonii, Liberia’s education minister, says the country education system is at a critical point.

Sonii made the statement on Friday, July 6 in Monrovia. In order for the problem to be fixed, the education minister wants Liberians to go the extra mile by donating a fraction of their monthly salaries towards education.

“If Liberians donate a fraction of their monthly salaries over the next five years, there will be a massive difference in the education system,” he said.

Sonii indicated that the results of this year’s WASSCE clearly demonstrate the problems of the country’s education system.

The West African Examinations Council, which administers the test, said only 35 percent of candidates who took the WASSCE made a successful pass in individual subjects.

“Majority of the students coming out of various high schools nowadays are not even up to the task for college education,” the education minister emphasized.

Sonii suggested that many school administrators bend the rules to accommodate otherwise unprepared students: “If the various high schools and universities insist on doing the right thing all the time, universities will not have students to teach.”

In 2013, former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the country’s education system as “a mess,” which she said required a complete overhaul.

Sirleaf’s statement came days after all 25,000 high school graduates taking the University of Liberia entrance exams failed.

University authorities said not a single university applicant had achieved the minimum grade for admission, highlighting one of the many problems facing the country 10 years after the end of a devastating civil war.

“The students’ failure did not come from the university, but rather from the schools that prepared them. The result is alarming,” Sirleaf said. “It tells me that the educational system is a mess.”

Many Liberians disagreed with the former president’s statement at the time, including Moses Blonkanjay Jackson, former assistant minister of teacher education, who said Sirleaf’s statement was meant to “shame students and their teachers.”

“When something becomes a mess, it means it is dirty or in a condition that is disorganized, but this is not the case with the country’s education system,” he argued. “I beg to differ that the country’s education system is a mess.”

Jackson said Sirleaf’s assertion was not based on research.

“Those making such a claim have no clue about a single challenge that comes with standing before a group of pupils for at least 45 minutes, keeping focused and engaged to transform content into knowledge,” he said.

But is seems that after several years, Sirleaf’s statement remains true. Only 32 of the 600 senior high schools that participated in the test recorded a 100 percent pass rate for their students.

Featured photo by Zeze Balah  

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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