Liberia is one such country that depends mostly on foreigners for expertise in many fields of study. Foreign credentials are even preferred to Liberian credentials.
Can we not afford quality education by our own actions? The answer is we can.
But with a 47.6 percent literacy rate, we still have more to do with education and the standard of living. To get us to where we want to be as a nation, the best avenue is quality education.
Everyone knows that our students are performing below average when compared to their counterparts in other countries. This is noticed across schools, whether private or public, and after public exams. These students continue with the underperformance into college and gradually into offices as national leaders. This cycle must be broken methodically.
A local NGO named Hope Alliance Liberia has identified key problems that the educational system in Liberia faces: bribery and sex for grades. In our current awareness on high school campuses in Monrovia, we dialogue with students on the causes and effects of these harmful acts and encourage them to pursue academic excellence for a better future.
The act of sex for grades and bribery to get undeserved grades is getting rampant in schools. Both actions are caused by a weak academic foundation.
Many of our students begin their education in poor environments without quality schools or proper parental guidance. Makeshift schools cater to the educational needs of beginners from poor families. These schools become attractive to poor parents because quality education is not affordable. The students obtain weak foundation and climb the educational ladder with them, making them susceptible to these malpractices to obtain undeserved grades from teachers and school administrators.
There are several damaging effects of bribery and sex for grades in our schools. After assurances that they will obtain the desired grades, students will make no effort to study hard. They will show no respect for the teachers. Students may steal money from their already struggling parents to bribe for grades, bringing extra financial stress on parents.
Even though the grades of students involved in these practices do not reflect actual performance, these grades take them to a higher class along with credible students.
A damaging effect of bribery is that students will become corrupt people in the future since they are already being introduced to the culture of corruption early in life. Bribery in schools is also a violation of the law in Liberia. The payer and receiver are both wrongdoers. The act of bribery tarnishes the reputation of schools and the entire educational system.
As for sex for grades, the effects are even greater and disproportionately impacts female students. They may get unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections that may derail their schooling. Students may also carry on dangerous and illegal abortions that may lead to deaths.
If a female student is molested or harassed by a teacher or school administrator, it may lead the student to drop from school, thereby decreasing the already small female enrollment in schools.
While these two acts have serious consequences, they can be minimized by reducing the demand by ensuring students are better prepared to learn. Students should be encouraged to plan their study time to ensure better performance. Students need to attach more importance to academic activities than to social activities that add no significant values to them.
Reporting these acts to school and Ministry of Education officials would help bring exposure and more transparency in schools.
Additionally, parents should avoid changing schools for students when they flunk in their lessons. School authorities should also check the academic records of new students before enrolling them.
It is therefore our firm conviction that we should not allow our school system to degenerate because our future will also degenerate. Hope Alliance stands ready to team up persons or institutions who feel the same passion for quality education in Liberia.
Our current campaign on various high school campuses is attracting the attention of schools in Paynesville. We have several staff visiting schools and sensitizing students in grades 4-11 on the effects of bribery and sex for grades. The activity is always climaxed with encouragements in the pursuit of academic excellence.
We see this as an honorable duty to society especially when listening to students expressing their experiences with these moral hazards. The results we are getting in this short time is encouraging, our team will not give up in helping to transform our dear future as a nation. Education is important and Hope Alliance Liberia will always make it a priority to help clean our school system.
Featured photo courtesy of Laura Elizabeth Pohl