After a failed attempt to contact the Liberian government, Olympia Jarboe, a concerned and passionate “daughter of Liberia” decided to share her open letter to the government regarding news of their recent decision to privatize public schools in Liberia.
Greetings! My name is Olympia Jarboe and I am a daughter of Liberia residing in the United States of America. I had the privilege and the esteemed honor of visiting Liberia, the country of my heritage, a few years ago. I have heard the stories of Liberia’s former glory and I have seen footage that depicted Liberia’s greatness. This nation once nicknamed the “Little America” of the African continent inspired great joy and pride in my heart; joy and pride that overflowed when I landed on Mama Liberia’s rich soil. However some things grieved my heart during my trip, particularly the state of our youth and the state of our educational system. I have grappled with writing this letter since I left the country a few years ago to return to the States, but a recent news development has constrained me to pen this letter.
On April 26th, the British Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the BBC, released a story from its BBC Africa division entitled, “Liberia- the country that wants to privatize its primary schools.” I was flabbergasted. I do not live in the country, neither was I born there, yet Liberia has a place in my heart and is on top of the list for my concerns. I am sure that I am not the only Liberian Diasporan or person of Liberian descendant who feels this way. If this BBC article is true, then I must contend that handing the public primary school system and/or the public school system at-large over to foreign private entities is a huge mistake and disgrace to Liberian people everywhere. Yes, there must be improvement and advancement in our educational system; yes, we want what is best for our children. But Liberians are more than capable of assessing, analyzing, developing and implementing change within the educational system and the entire country.
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I do not write this letter to judge nor to condemn but to encourage the Liberian government to do what is right by our children and our people. I am sure that great research, time and discussion went into the decision to allow “Kenya-based company Bridge International Academies” (BBC, 2016) and other “private providers” (BBC, 2016) to potentially takeover the public primary education system. Nevertheless, IF there seems to be a shortage of qualified professionals within the country (the key word here is “IF”), then I suggest creating a collaborative board of national and international Liberian consultants and advisors who could help mold the educational sector. Perhaps start a pilot program that could be rolled out in stages over a few years. Or if finances are the issue, then consider pulling money from areas that are not deemed high-risk and channel the funds into education (this could serve as a temporary fix to help sustain and maintain a thriving educational system as money is needed to modernize and advance).
A country that does not invest in its students or youth properly is a country without a future. Liberian students will better benefit from an educational system that is designed and managed by Liberians, and promotes Liberian ideals and culture. In a recent article that I wrote for Face2Face Africa entitled, “Africans Are Still Teaching Colonialist Education to Our Youth,” I noted the benefits of Africans incorporating Indigenous Knowledge Systems into their academics: this idea can be further dissected to pinpoint that Liberian students can greatly benefit from an educational system that is uniquely Liberian, rather than relying on an imported educational model from another part of Africa or the world.
Liberians are a prideful people. We take pride in our country and heritage, and thus we must take pride in our educational system and our youth. Even though the educational system presents a great challenge, it also presents a great opportunity for Liberia to be a model in educational development in Africa. I implore the Executive Mansion of Liberia and the Ministry of Education to rethink this decision and to diligently search for and recruit qualified Liberians who are credentialed and experienced in education, youth development and curriculum design.
We are here and we are willing to help our nation.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
The love of liberty should be realized through education!