In a country as Liberia where opportunities are lacking; poverty, disease and hunger are scourging the lives of people, but children particularly students still persevere to attend school, whether there is rainfall or sunshine.
Today, we must not forget that there are hundreds of thousands of children in Liberia who are faced with many challenges and unacceptable situations. We must not forget that sexual violence including rape, child labor, teenage pregnancy and prostitution, etc, are societal viruses that are impeding the survival, growth and development of children (students).
Today, we live in a country where the plights of children are ignored; we live in a country where opportunities are only accessible to the ‘haves’, not the ‘have-nots’; we live in a country today where rape is the commonest crime; from January to September 2015, there were 5,088 sexual violence cases, mostly rape, that were recorded according to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection 2015 statistics. We live in a country where women and girls are sexually abused and boys exploited. The tragedy is we barely talk about these issues. Today’s adults have forgotten to protect and train tomorrow’s leaders (the children).
For too long, children have lived in agony; they are languishing in the corners and fabrics of the Liberian society. They continue to dream the Liberian dream. When one asks a child, rich or poor, about who he/she wants to become in the future; the reply most of the times is, I want to be president, vice president, minister, doctor, engineer, banker, etc. But the truth of the matter is, the dreams of a Liberian child will not be realized when sexual violence continues to increase; not when child labor is practiced in our homes and concession areas (Firestone Rubber Plantation, Sime Darby concession area in Sinoe County, Arcelor Mittal mining area in Nimba County, etc). Children dream of a Liberia where laws and policies protecting them are enforced; a Liberia that provides opportunities for every child irrespective of being poor or rich, a girl or a boy, tribe or origin, and religion or creed.
Every now and then I ask myself, why should girls be raped and boys sexually molested/exploited when there are existing laws and legal instruments that protect them? I ask, when will the children of Liberia live, to some extent, comfortable lives as that of children in Europe and America? Where are the smiles that were promised us years back in 2006? Where are the educational opportunities to motivate us when we top our classes and do phenomenal things? When will children wake up from bed on an early morning and see a Liberia that embraces their dreams; protects their rights and safes their future.
For decades, children have been yearning for change. For decades, they have hoped for a Liberia where their rights are respected and protected. We must know and recognize now that the Liberia, which is at risk, is the one children will inherit.
On the postponement of the West African Examinations Council (Liberia High Schools Certificate Exams)
My ears blustered, my eyes filled with tears and my heart bled sorrow upon hearing that the long-awaited 2016 Liberia High Schools Certificate Examination (also known as WAEC) has been postponed to late June. I thought it was just a mere joke and falsehood, which certain individuals were whooping around with the aim to distract students from studying and remaining focused, since in fact many Liberians were already beginning to say that there will be many Division I (one) students and many more students will pass this year's WAEC exams.
Sadly, this turned out to be different. The speculations that WAEC has been postponed turned to be truthful and, listening to radio stations during the afternoon hours of Sunday (May 22, 2016), media reports confirmed it as well. What a penitential news?
But the tragedy and the unclear issue, which continues to hurly-burly my intellect and that of many students as well as many Liberians is the news about some individuals, who stole some of the question booklets few hours prior to the commencement of the WAEC exams.
It is an open secret that WAEC question booklets are always watched and guarded by security officers, including the Liberian National Police. Holding this constant, how did some people enter the school’s building in Konola to make away with question booklets? Who were the security officers on hired to keep eyes on the booklets? Did WAEC/Ministry of Education had people there, who were as well aiding in the watchful keeping of the booklets? Is it that the security officers conspired with the thieves to steal some booklets or is it a conspiracy by some WAEC/MOE employees to make relatives and friends pass the WAEC exams? Isn’t it possible that teachers were also involved, since in fact it is on records that teachers are normally found during whatsoever they desire to acquire money during WAEC exams week? Lastly, could it be that WAEC examiner(s) or plotters in Margibi County must have revealed the where-about of the booklets the individual (s) who stole the questionnaires? These are uncomfortable questions, but we must ask them.
Now, let me conclude by stating that, “the 2016 WAEC exams should not have been postponed to a later date. The examinations could have continued had the Ministry of Education/WAEC authority banned Margibi County from writing the test with other counties until proper investigation is done. This could have been a wise decision”. Measures could have also been taken, including using internet providers, to detect the transfer of the stolen questions to students. We are in the age of technology and modernization; therefore we must think and act differently. There were already thousands of young people, the quote unquote Ebola-seniors, thirstily waiting to write this year’s WAEC exams, to enable them enroll at various universities/colleges after sitting for several months. But Sunday became one of the days of disappointment in their lives, having heard the news. Regrettably also, the current 12th graders are also victimized. They all must now wait for June 27 to write the WAEC exams.
In April 2016, some WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate Examination) questionnaires got leaked in Ghana, but the West African Examinations Council did not cancel the exams. The leaked papers included the Paper 2 of English language, Religious and Moral Education, Integrated Science, Mathematics and Social Studies.
May God bless us and save our country from the hands of destruction and may peace continue to reign in our hearts and minds!
Abraham M. Keita VI
2015 International Children's Peace Prize winner
Founder, Giving Hope To Children Foundation - Liberia