FENDELL, Montserrado- The University of Liberia on Tuesday graduated 221 new classroom teachers from its William V.S. Tubman Teachers College, amid the shortage of professional teachers currently in classrooms across the country. Women top the number of new graduates.
Liberia faces a severe shortage of qualified teachers. In fact, besides the need for the 6,000 teachers to fill spaces in classrooms, only half of existing teachers are considered qualified for the grades they teach, which presents a significant hindrance in the learning outcomes of students.
In March this year, President George Weah created a public relations nightmare by requesting 6,000 teachers from the government of Nigeria as part of a technical assistance agreement between the two countries.
Meanwhile, if they are properly placed, the newly graduated teachers would help to narrow the gap of the shortage of qualified teachers which remains a major challenge affecting the country’s education system.
The ceremony marked the second day of the 99th commencement convocation of the university.
Presenting the candidates for the conferring of degrees, the dean of the Teachers College, Cecelia Cassell, disclosed the need to invest more in the education sector, in order to achieve the government’s pro-poor agenda.
Cassell although the Teachers College continues to immensely contribute to filling the gap of teacher deficit in the country, its efforts must be buttressed through adequate budgetary and logistics support.
“Our students need to have hands-on training to practice the pedagogical skills we are impacting in them, so a fully equipped and well functional demonstration school is needed to sustain the effort we are making,” she said.
“It is through teachers’ education that teachers acquire the knowledge and skills needed to help transform the lives of citizens for the better of any nation.”
Montserrado’s first district representative, Lawrence Morris who delivered the keynote address reasoned with the call to increase government’s support to education in the country.
Morris implored his colleagues at the legislature to increase budgetary support for the education sector as evidence to demonstrate their value in education.
Speaking on ‘the importance of teachers’ education to national development’, the lawmaker said the professional challenges faced by Liberia are numerous and enormous, but they are not insurmountable.
“While there is not much that you can do to affect the economy, you can be tough-minded and vocal about what it means to teach, because it emulates from you, how the minds of the young people will be developed in curving and shaping development and how things will improve or deteriorate,” he said.
He noted that teachers play a central role in the development of young people, adding that the graduates are entering the profession at a time when educational authorities are striving to balance their budgets through cuts.
“Teachers are universally praised for finding solutions to educational problems; they are also condemned as the root causes for all of the problems with schools in Liberia,” he also added.
He further acknowledged that there exists an ideological battle to give proper definition to teaching, contending that this rests with those who go through the pedagogical training to teach.
The lawmaker at the same time encouraged the graduates to cherish their calling as teachers. “Teachers are knowledge delivery mechanism whose effectiveness will be determined primarily by how literate and civilized a society is.”
He said educational authorities should encourage young Liberians to take to teaching as an intellectual journey that will transform the country for the better.
He noted that teaching is a profoundly intellectual activity that shapes development in all walks of life, and as such, the need to support teaching in every society including Liberia cannot be overemphasized.
“The good primary teacher knows about child development and how to engage young people across a range of subjects; he or she listens to see who needs help; thinks on his or her feet; knows how to answer wrong questions and provide an art example or comparison to guide towards clearer thinking,” he emphasized.
For her part, UL president, Ophelia Weeks, urged the graduates to see themselves as ambassadors charged with the responsibility to mold the minds of young people into proud citizens.
The 99th commencement was officially launched on Monday with 611 students earning Bachelor of Arts degree in the social sciences, including Mass Communication. The commencement exercises continue with the Science and Agriculture colleges, on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Featured photo by University of Liberia