The President of the National Teachers’ Association (NTAL), Madam Mary Mulbah is urging the Liberian Government to re-instate the dismissed teachers who demonstrated their rights to advocate against the privatization of Liberia’s primary school system.
Madam Mulbah speaking last week during the celebration of the World Teachers’ Day in Monrovia further use occasion to reiterate call on the Government of Liberia to honor its obligation to value and improve the status of teachers and education workers as well as the teaching profession instead of outsourcing.
Below is the full text of the NTAL’s President’s speech delivered on October 5, 2017
I like to use this occasion to call on the Government of Liberia
Our Distinguished Platform Guests, specifically our keynote speaker on this auspicious occasion, Presidential candidates who honored our invitation and are here; I salute you for showing interest in the Education Sector of Liberia
UNSECO Representative, the Ministry of Education Representative and all government officials present, Representatives of Civil Society Organizations, Fellow Colleagues from the Representative Council and National Executive Council, Distinguished Guests, Teachers & Education Workers Present, Members of the Secretariat, Our Distinguished Future Leaders – the Students,
Members of the Fourth Estate, Ladies and Gentlemen all other protocols observed
On this unique occasion, we bring you felicitation and best wishes from the Representative Council (RC), the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the Secretariat of the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL) on this day as we commemorate World Teachers’ Day.
This day marks one of the historical days in the life of teachers and education workers in the world, since it was set aside by UNESCO one of the important arms of the United Nations responsible for the growth and expansion of educational scientific and cultural aspects of nations that are signatories to the UN protocols and Convention. In 1994, a recommendation was adopted by delegates at an international conference on education held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The day is meant to give special recognition to teachers around the world for the sacrificial service they are rendering in molding the minds of young people in society across the globe.
As we celebrate this year’s World Teachers’ Day, on the theme “TEACHING IN FREEDOM, EMPOWERING TEACHERS”, kindly permit me to remind you briefly on the history of NTAL. This body was founded in 1938 by a group of teachers led by Mrs. Ellen Mills Scarborough, and 20 years later enacted into law by an act of the National Legislature on March 10, 1958.
The NTAL, as a professional teachers’ organization that endeavors to improve the status, working conditions and general welfare of teachers in Liberia, also remains resolute in upholding its constitutional responsibilities. Under Article I, Section 2 & 3 d, “…this Association shall be to assist in raising the standard of education in Liberia, promote and protect the interest of teachers, education workers, and the teaching profession and to advance the cause of education among all groups” and “to cooperate with the Government of Liberia in the pursuit of education advancement”.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our beloved presidential candidates for this 2017 elections; I am compelled on this World Teachers’ Day to ask each of you these few but fundamental questions:
- Are you satisfied with the condition of teachers in Liberia?
- Are you comfortable with the current-state of the education system of our country? If yes, why and if no, why?
- In your opinion, is it rational for a major stakeholder like the NTAL to be excluded in an arrangement on education that affects Mama Liberia?
As you pounder over the answers for these questions, we at NTAL on this World Teachers’ Day wish to use this platform to request full audience with any of you that will qualify on October 10, 2017 or better still, in the event that no one gets 50+1, we also ask for meeting with the two qualifiers for the 2nd round if…
Fellow colleagues, ladies and gentlemen I further wish to use this medium to reiterate our call on the Government of Liberia to honor its obligation to value and improve the status of teachers and education workers as well as the teaching profession instead of outsourcing.
Reflecting on this year’s theme “TEACHING IN FREEDOM, EMPOWERING TEACHERS”, we at the leadership of the NTAL applaud the theme which came at no other appropriate time but now as the Government transitions.
I like to use this occasion to call on the Government of Liberia to re-instate the dismissed teachers who demonstrated their rights to advocate against the privatization of our primary school system.
We also recommend for adequate budgetary support to the education system and not the current Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) program that is now transitioning from pilot to a 2nd year program, and being introduced to more rural parts of Liberia.
To our hardworking teachers, you remain a valuable asset to us at the leadership of the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia. We recognize and:
- appreciate your efforts and the sacrificial role you have and continue to play in teaching Liberia’s future leaders
- despite the meager salary you receive, you remain committed to the profession
- whether it rain or shine you are in the classroom imparting knowledge to our children
We say good job, congratulations to you. We applaud and appreciate you so much, and encourage you to keep up the good work.
In keeping with our constitution, vision and mission, NTAL will like to work with a government that will prioritize quality in Early Childhood Education, Primary and pre-primary education.
Good secondary education and tertiary education as well as a well-supported vocational and technical education program that will train and equip most of our high school graduates that cannot (for one reason or the other) afford college education and youths on the street so that they can become productive citizens and contribute meaningfully to the nation building process.
We also encourage adult education that will help drastically reduce the high illiteracy rate in the country.
Before I take my seat, let me express appreciation to our local and international partners including Oxfam, LAVI, UNESCO, Action Aid International and especially Education International (EI) and its affiliate members for their continuous support to the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia and the education system of this country.
Finally, we are grateful to the government of Liberia. Let us continue to work together because Liberia is our common denominator. May God richly bless and guide us all in our endeavors as members of NTAL.
Solidarity Forever! Solidarity Forever
I Thank You.
Delivering on behalf of the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP), its Board Chairman, Mr. Moses Blonkanjay Jackson in his speech delivered at the program praised the NTLA for its advocacy for the teachers of Liberia.
Below is the full text of Mr. Blonkanjay’s speech:
Madam President and officials of NTAL, Government Representatives, Assistant Education Minister for Basic & Secondary Education Madam Felicia Doe-Suma, the Executive Director of the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project (DEEP) Ms. Jenneh K. Tamba, Platform guests, Fellow Teachers, students, national & international stakeholders, ladies and gentlemen
I bring you greetings from the officers and staff of the Diversified Educators Empowerment Project, DEEP, who have granted me the permission to attend these events. DEEP has been in the vanguard of advocacy for quality education in addition to training teachers to improve their pedagogy and propounding of critical views on social and education issues.
I am entirely flattered yet grateful to be selected as Keynote Speaker at this auspicious program sponsored by such an austere noble group of people: teachers. As you may have already learned, World Teachers Day (WTD) is set aside each year to celebrate teachers who are usually placed at the lower rung of societal ladders, although they are the ones who mold the people who are in the business of relegating them.
Each year, a theme is adopted to suggest the shade and manner of advocacy which we teachers must convey under our breasts, and exemplify in our actions over the next 365 days of a calendar year as so-called poor teachers. This year, the theme that is supposed to be adopted as a mantra and point of advocacy by all teachers, stakeholders and institutions is “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”
When I received the invitation to speak, I asked myself, what kind of theme is this? I then tried to figure out the logic for adopting such a powerful yet tantalizing theme for a group of people who by no small measures are the least respected in our society. Several questions then rumbled in my head: ‘Is the theme making a humble appeal, on its knees, to governments across the world including the Government of Liberia, to give more support to teachers so that pedagogy can improve in our classrooms’, on the one hand?
On the other hand, is the theme reminding us that teachers are slaves of their own passion and need empowerment to set them free?’ ‘Is it intended to shake and wake up teachers to the fact that governments do not possess the spine and willpower to position requisite wherewithal or resources to improve the quality of pedagogy?’ ‘Is the theme calling on all teachers to rise up and take their freedom in their own hands?’
In the specific case of Liberia is the theme challenging all teachers to launch advocacies and actions to lock down their capital cities just as political parties are doing these days in their bids to assume state power to free Liberia from orchestrated poverty conditions, corruption, degradation and the gross disregard of the invaluable services of teachers? Is the theme inciting teachers to rise up, proclaim and cease their freedom after being dormant, domesticated, oppressed, and docile for so many decades?
It is therefore based on the powerful implications embedded in this year’s theme that I have selected to speak to you briefly, but softly, on the topic, Compulsory Emancipation Proclamation for Teachers: A call to Remove the Shackles and Seize our Freedom
Current Status of Teachers
Recently, there has been a mantra in various professional and non-professional circles that “Education is a mess” While I beg to differ that education may not be a total mess since the assertion made by the President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was not based on research and conversations with professional stakeholders, I admit there are huge gaps in our pedagogy system. In previous renditions, I have dealt extensively with the demerits and merits of the far-fetched notions about education being a total mess that can be taken from “mess to best” as the beleaguered Education Minister George Werner prematurely promised during his confirmation hearing. Records show the mess has become messier.
Fellow teachers, you must note that since President Sirleaf declared education a mess, the blame has been placed on us teachers that we are not teaching and that is the reason children are not learning. To please the President, all and sundry, including her government officials and legislators have taken that assertion as a mantra every time they are given an opportunity to blow a horn for Ma Ellen’s government.
My dear teachers, I say to you today, “remain strong and resolute”, do not mind those hypocrites and ingrates with their empty talks about “teachers not teaching”. First of all, they have no clue about the single challenge that comes with standing before a group of rambunctious kids for at least 45 minutes, keeping focused and engaged to transform content to knowledge. Those who bad mouth teachers are ungrateful hypocrites because the very teaching profession which they have chosen to berate today, taught them ‘A-B-C’, ‘S-O’ so and ‘Times Table’ before they became government officials and prominent citizens; instead of paying back by fronting for teaching conditions to improve, they have selected to use it as scapegoat for their faulty administrative practices.
Fellow teachers, in order to ameliorate the appalling situation of teaching in this country, several interventions have been introduced including the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) Schools or Bridge International paradigm; the closing down of schools and promoting students from one grade level to the next within five months; and MOE officials taking a profuse number of trips to manage education.
One intervention that remains to be introduced is advocacy accompanied by actions to shake up the whole education sector and set the teaching profession free of all real and perceived vices.
Teachers are like slaves
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that if the theme is advocating freedom in teaching and empowerment of teachers, then there could be an existing oppression or slavery condition. In Liberia, the oppression that teachers are exposed to is very similar to slavery conditions. This has not been the case only under President Sirleaf’s Unity Party led Government, but also under previous leaderships in Liberia.
For example, when graduates from the TTIs go to protest at the MOE for deployment, the police is called in and they are driven away; when teachers participate in protests called by the NTAL, they are dismissed and sent home to suffer with their children in this very hard country; each time teachers venture to raise their voices, they are advised to return to the classrooms as if they are slaves with shackles placed around their ankles and waist or puppies on a leash tied up in the classrooms with roll books and red ink pens. Decisions can be taken on behalf of teachers at anytime without any reference to them; teachers have become the slaves of private school owners because government has no regulations that give teachers negotiating powers. For this reason, teachers teach under threats of dismissal, fear and stress, and are used like tools while the school owners reap hundreds if not millions of dollars. In the case of public schools, dictatorships installed by government do not give teachers any voice because when an inept unqualified principal is appointed to that position based on friendship finds out he cannot solve a problem, he reverts to “The MOE say we must do this/ we must not do this, etc. ..”
When a teacher selects to go to the MOE herself, frustration greets her at the gate because nobody wants to talk to her as MOE staff are sitting behind their computers playing computer games like ZUMA and pretending they are busy working. The teacher gets frustrated after several trips and…you conclude what happens next to that poor teacher slave.
Some teachers have been serving for years without getting on Government of Liberia payroll. While these teachers are going up and down in serious pain to get on the payroll to earn their earnest meager salaries, there was an allegation that somebody in the MOE’s HR section was sitting behind a computer and maintaining a whole school system of over 500 ghost names at 150 USD per ghost; a rogue stealing the teachers’ entitlements. Instead of prosecuting the heartless unpatriotic junk, the MOE simply allegedly asked him to resign and go enjoy his blood money.
Fellow teachers, while the Liberia Government cries budget shortfall every year, people at the MOE and other ministries take trips abroad almost every month using the meager resources. When they return, no information regarding the successes or challenges of their trips are available for citizens and teachers consumption. “But who name teacher, man wait yah, those corrupt people who taking bribes from students?” By the way who is a common teacher to participate in a policy issue?
How many times have active teachers been invited to attend national programs, participate in an investiture, have a lunch meeting with the president as honorable guests? Decorated as Knight Grand something? Or conferred an ambassadorial title like the “cultural ambassador” “peace ambassadors” “soccer ambassador” God forbid, teachers belong in the classrooms with their shackles around their legs and chains around their waists.
Ladies and gentlemen, can’t you see how teachers are treated like slaves in this country? Can’t you see that the WTD theme “ Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers” could not have come at a more appropriate time? Can’t you see the perfunctory need for our advocacy for an emancipation proclamation for all teachers to be set free from oppression and disrespect? Especially at a time when 20 presidential aspirants are making promises to remove teachers from their slavery conditions by raising their hands and screaming “choose me, vote for me, vote for me, choose me” like immature kindergarten children seeking attention to answer an easy question?
I say unto to you, without equivocation, teaching needs freedom and if freedom must come, it must come via an emancipation proclamation.
The Emancipation Proclamation was a culmination of the period when some people chose to come to Africa and seize black people and sell them in America and Europe as commodities just as the owner of a female dog that just gave birth would sell the puppies.
Onboard the ship to the western world, slaves were shackled or placed in chains so that they could not resist. Some refused to eat and preferred to die than be severed from their heritage to an unknown land. When this happened, the slave master would use a mouth opener to force the doggone belligerent African’s mouth open and force food down his throat to keep him alive. The slaves were sold to other slave masters upon arrival abroad. When they sold you, you were property of the slave master and he would choose to use you according to his will and pleasure including to kill you.
However, due to several decades of advocacy and pressure placed on the President of the United States to set all slaves free, the Emancipation Proclamation, or Proclamation 95 was declared. The EP was a presidential proclamation and executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. The Proclamation was based on the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief of the armed forces; it was not a law passed by Congress.
You may argue, “But we teachers are not sold and we are not shackled in chains”. But guess what; you have no voice in your own profession and you need a voice. Other people who are not teachers are the ones controlling you like the other people who seized Africans and took them abroad to control them.
Proceeding in freedom march
Fellow teachers, platform guests and stakeholders, before I close, let me ask a twofold question, “How should we teachers dispose of the WTD 2017 theme, “Teaching in Freedom”, “Empowering Teachers”? If you agree we need an Emancipation Proclamation, then how should we proceed?
In my opinion, the first step is to make sure the new government which will be taking over in January 2018 hears our voice, and it must be clear and resonating.
Whether it is the controversial Madam Cooper or the unrelenting Counselor Brumskine, whether businessman Simeon Freeman or football star Oppong Weah, whether it be erstwhile VP Joe Boakai or the new-comer Alexander Cummings, whether it be audacious J. Mills Jones, we must wait for him at the door of the Executive Mansion and present our demand for an Emancipation Proclamation.
In our demand, we must request the formation of an Education and Teaching Regulatory Authority of Liberia (EDUCATRAL); this will be an autonomous or semi-autonomous body like the Land Commission, LRA, LTA, MTA, LDAA, etc., to serve as technical entity to implement education policies and programs. EDUCATRAL would be operated by teachers, educational engineers and educational administrators.
Second, we must meet the incoming legislators at the gate of the Capital Building and insist that they approve a bill to establish a Federation of Liberian Teachers. Fellow Teachers, one of the reasons GOL does not respect the NTAL is because it is alone as the sole advocacy voice and coordinator. In Liberia, we have LINSU, FLY, all of which are catering to students and youth. This is why it is necessary to have a more politically oriented group like a Federation of Liberian Teachers to engage GOL on policy issues in addition to the teachers association.
Third, we must lock down Monrovia and other capital cities in the leeward counties as soon as the new GOL takes office; we must protest on January 7, 2018.
While I support go-slows, protests and strikes, I do not support violence where people will break into people’s offices and businesses and take away their hard earned wealth and prestige. We must remain engaged with civility, with love, with genuine passion for a profession we have known and worked all our lives.
Fellow teachers, stakeholders and guests; as you observe World Teachers Day under the theme “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”, you have a charge to keep.
You cannot be fronting for freedom when you yourselves are enslaving yourselves.
You cannot be taking bribes from students for false grades and be doing advocacy for freedom because you are enslaving the students, and you are also in slavery of your greed and dishonesty. You cannot be having sex with young little girls and rewarding them false grades and be fronting for freedom because you are still a slave of your lasciviousness and promiscuity; you cannot be teaching without a C certificate, without training, without pedagogical content knowledge, without classroom management skills, without understanding what perceptual styles and intrinsic motivations, are because you cannot continue to be an unqualified teacher not in compliance with the minimum qualifications to be called a teacher and advocate for freedom; you cannot be a slave to ineptitude and mediocrity and be fronting for freedom for other teachers as you yourselves would be in slavery.
To all education stakeholders, NGOs, private school owners, education managers, you too have a charge to keep. As you return to your schools, institutions, and your education systems that you are managing, remember the advocacy and fight for Teaching in Freedom is not only that of the NTAL, DEEP, or the poor teachers but also yours. Because if we did not have teachers we wouldn’t have schools and if we didn’t have schools we wouldn’t have an education sector and if we didn’t have an education sector, we wouldn’t have NGOs or stakeholders who would be flocking into this underdeveloped Liberia with huge sums of money to invest in education and reap gains; if we did not have these NGOs you would not even have a job and be riding up and down in big big NGO cars under air conditions while teachers are sweating in tight overcrowded heated classrooms and being treated like slaves. This freedom is also your business and could cost your programs, convenience, statuses and jobs. I therefore charge you to join the fight with all your hearts mind soul and spirit let us together fight to “Teach in Freedom and Empower Teachers.
Listen. The Freedom train is coming; can’t you hear the whistle blowing? We gonna ride down through the valley, under the light blue sky. Every teacher is going to ride side by side with his or head up high; we teachers are going to get on the freedom train from January 2017 on. WE gonna ride on the freedom train from this day on, I be a free man now, oh yes I will, oh yes I will.
To my audience, ladies and gentlemen, I am so proud that I have kept my word and I have been brief, and I did not speak harshly; I spoke softly. I thank you.