Liberia: What Happened to the Teaching of Civics in Our Schools?

Students on strike
opinion

At the start of this administration, authorities at the Ministry of Education announced that it would be introducing civics or citizenship education in our schools within a year. This announcement was greeted with applause throughout the society. Every national policy document on reconciliation and healing, and on building national cohesion -- including the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development -- has stressed the importance of introducing the teaching of civics in the Liberian school system. This is important for any development initiative as well as for building unity among Liberians.

Liberians do not have a strong sense of citizenship with the proper understanding of the rights and responsibilities that should come with it. We fight each other viciously, we often think it is the responsibility of other countries to develop our country, so we are always appealing to donors while we squander our own resources. We lack a sense of patriotism. All of this can be traced to the fact that we do not see ourselves as one people, and we do not emphasize the fact that as Liberians, we have responsibility to develop ourselves and our country.

Recently the Ministry of Education announced that significant progress has been made by students, who took the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, a type of standardized test. The Ministry of Education must be applauded for this initial achievement. However, this achievement is just the beginning. It has not turned our educational system around but it is a step in the right direction. Even when students succeed in passing the WASSCE, they do not automatically become good citizens.

They have to be taught to love, value and contribute to their country. They need to know about their government, their local communities and the richness of their culture. They have to have instilled within them the values of accountability, the importance of participation and respect for each other and their country. They must be taught to own their country, believe in it and work tirelessly to make it better.

Our airwaves are filled with hate speech being spewed out by government officials and others. We seem ready to do anything to bring each other down. Our streets are littered with garbage. Both government and citizens need to develop a sense of civic duty and civic pride, to know that we can disagree without cursing out each other and engaging in violence. We need to know that the development of the country is the responsibility of government and citizens and that we must keep each other accountable. We need to determine together what are our national responsibilities and obligations.

There is an irony in that fact that Liberians are now debating the question of dual citizenship when the majority of our people may not even know what it means to be a citizen. So what has happened to civic education? We urge the Ministry of Education not to renege or delay any further in introducing civics in all of our schools.

Scenes captured on Tuesday, October 15, showing protesting public students engaged in stone throwing battles with the Police and also attacking their own facilities, as well as learning institutions, should be considered instructive for the immediate introduction of civics in all schools to be declared a national exigency.

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