Revered revolutionary, originator, and father of the resilient Turkey Republic, Comrade Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at a stately and grandeur dinner ceremony tendered in honor of Turkish educational leaders, professors and teachers pontificated these inspiring, kind, and insightful words, “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”
I could not agree with him more. Teachers grind their noses to give others a brighter and fulfilling future. What better contribution can one offer society than imparting knowledge to its children? I believe with profound emphasis, teachers are the most significant of all professionals the world over and the teaching career is the most honorable, immaculate, and gracious of all epistemologies or professional fields of studies. There is nothing more glorious, rewarding, accomplishing, worthy, impactful, dignifying, liberating, magnanimous, and gratifying than imparting knowledge and molding the minds of others. Knowledge is life. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is wealth. And knowledge is the greatest asset anyone can acquire in this world. This is not an assumption, it is a FACT! In one of my Magna Opus pieces on the significance of the teaching profession and education Under the caption: Education Is Greater Than Gold”, I hypothesized that if knowledge is wealth then teachers are the creators of wealth because they impart knowledge. The steel of truth in this hypothesis cannot be corroded.
Consequently, notwithstanding, without teachers, there will be no doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, lawyers, economists, mathematicians, engineers, pilots, soldiers, journalists, geologists, scientists, pastors, Imams, politicians, diplomats, agronomists, astronauts, builders, technicians, and all that suffice in the realm of episteme (knowledge). With such unparalleled relevance the pedagogy profession possesses, is it not realistic and fair to argue that teachers are indispensable? And if they are indispensable, why don’t we treat them as such? Why don’t we honor them like other civilizations across the world proudly do and with much emphasis too?
With such unmatched significance the immaculate teaching profession wields in potentially shaping growth and development thereby fostering prosperity in every given society and putting socioeconomic dignity on the lives of people, it marvels me how in my homeland, Liberia, teachers are undignified, demeaned, neglected, and even subjugated to nothingness. It is heartbreaking, inconceivable, disconcerting, hilarious, and condescending how the teaching profession has disgustingly become a near ‘LOST PROFESSION’ in Liberia, yet we claim to be a civilized people. How?
Professors and teachers are cruelly and ridiculously underpaid and even more heartbreaking is the despairing reality that they hardly get paid on time even with the monthly ‘shoestring’ salary they are given. No benefits and incentives are given them and sadly, for the most part, there is absolutely nothing commensurating a teacher or professor with over thirty years in the classroom can show as a tangible fruit for his/her labor. In Liberia, a teacher or professor can hardly survive on a monthly salary. This is the appalling level to which the teaching profession is ludicrously degraded and undercapitalized despite its humongous relevance. How foolhardy and dissonant can a nation be, yet we expect quality education and professional services at our services institutions. Such callous treatment of people who educate our citizens is utterly detestable and reprehensible, and Liberians in their generality should resist such perennial debauchery and malaise with the greatest degree of fury.
By the way, things have degenerated from bad to worse for the educational sector in Liberia with the current batch of greenhorns and neocrats at the helm. In today’s Liberia, under George Weah, a star footballer cum politician, gross incompetence and failure have sadly replaced competence and meritocracy. Education is not respected and/or considered in the governing system of the country thus the reason for the continual dismal and disgusting performances and the bundle of faux pas we see obtaining in government by the day. Nowadays in Liberia, partisanship and social connections can easily guarantee a ministerial position for a person than an academic qualification and wealth of experience. This should illustrate to you the extent to which education is being despicably disregarded by the current ruling gang and political gatecrashers. The homeland is wallowing and dangling in an epoch of moral degeneracy and dishonor.
As an avid fan of the teaching profession, this enrages me with an inordinate degree of consternation and indignation. Previous and current governments of my country have always declared that education is a national priority, but in practicality, this declaration holds no iota of truth and genuineness. Such declaration is simply a mirage if not utter rhetoric as we continue to see the standard of education painfully diminished by the day. It is no secret that comparatively Liberia has the lowest standard of education in the Subregion. For a country, at age 174, this is a national disgrace and a spell of infamy. I don’t want to mention budgetary allocations over the years because there is no impact to show for the millions that have reflected on paper as budgetary allotment to the sector over time. What did they do with the millions allotted to the educational sector then and now? Your guess is as good as mine?
Our curriculum is decrepit, unrealistic, far below the belt, and not on par with other nations in the subregion. Our universities cannot compete with other universities in the subregion. Our professors do not get funded academic sabbatical, hence, they are not researching, refreshing, and writing and publishing in academic journals. Most of our graduates now cannot fiercely compete with others in the subregion. Libraries at various Liberian universities are crammed and stocked with antiquated books and out modeled research materials. Laboratories do not even have chemical contents or reagents used for teaching experiments for science, geology, and engineering students lest to mention modern equipment to sophisticate their labs. These conditions are said to be even worse at the state-run University of Liberia, where professors and lecturers are underpaid and sometimes have to stage protestation in demand of salaries.
This is the detestable and depressing contour of the Liberian educational sector, a chilling and telling narrative about a country where the national resources are meant to enrich the power brokers in officialdom while teachers, nurses, police, and other civil servants who are servicing the country and its people are subjected to impoverishment and squalor-driven livelihood. If this is not barbarity then tell me what Is it, and yet some expect the country to develop and blossom with such parochial, wicked, and selfish mentality.
Despite these grinding and bustling difficulties Liberian teachers and professors have been callously and ludicrously subjected to, they remained devoutly Ioyal to their profession. They continue to find solace in the classroom and continue to teach, mentor and inspire Liberian students. Teaching is a difficult profession. It takes deep passion, brilliance, and regiment to be a good teacher, for only with deep passion can a person be able to surmount the challenges and temptations that come with teaching in a country like Liberia. A teacher or professor must always be ahead of the students, which requires in-depth reading and researching to be anew, afresh, abreast, and inclined to recent theories, models, and contemporary discoveries. All of this requires sitting up for the longest during the whisky hours of the night, to draw out grandiose, substantive, and qualitative lesson plans and prepare for excellent and impactful classroom presentations. An impactful lesson presentation means how effectively and efficiently you tutor your students and how well they understand the lesson taught them.
I tip my heart to teachers. I cannot find the semantics and phrases to express my gratitude to Liberian teachers and professors. They are truly extraordinary and heroes of our land, without whom education would nosedive to rock-bottom in this place we call homeland. I honor them from the depth of my heart and reserve my most respect for them. I am looking forward to going to the classroom soon to lend some support to young Liberian students, for I love teaching and ardently believe that knowledge is the surest pathway to success. I am also looking forward to the day when I will be in the position to put a strong emphasis of relevance on Liberian teachers and put profound dignity on the teaching profession from a policy perspective.
Let me conclude with this acknowledgment, Liberia will return to civilization someday soon where education and meritocracy shall reign and be honored, cherished, and prioritized. To all young people, take education seriously and try to learn very well. Tomorrow will be about the quality of your education and your ability to perform. May the Almighty Deity bless Liberian teachers, lecturers, and professors—and those across the world. Thank you for making the world a much better place through knowledge imparting. I love you all, you are truly the best. I Doff my hat and say Chapeau (Well done)!
Writes Robert Moncio Kpadeh (Sage)
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