Editorial: Education is key for growth and stability in Liberia
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 00:08
The freshman class at UConn has made headlines this year as one of the highest achieving classes ever. Halfway across the world, the University of Liberia’s freshman class is making headlines for the opposite reason. All 25,000 applicants failed the mandatory admission test, meaning there will be no incoming class this year. Since the news broke, the university has said it will excuse the failing grades and admit 1,800 students, but this bizarre, unprecedented development has put the spotlight on Liberia’s faltering education system, and education in Africa as a whole. Education should be the foundation of recovery for these countries, and they’re not getting the support they need.
Students needed a score of 60 percent in math and 70 percent in English to gain admission to the university. While those might not seem like very rigorous standards for the nation’s largest institution of higher learning, the test was actually made more difficult this year, which many blame for the failures.
The problem isn’t the test itself, but a total lack of preparation. Most schools in Liberia don’t have the proper resources or qualified teachers. The president herself has said that the education system is “a mess.” Some, however, are accusing the University of doctoring the results because they’re so overcrowded and can’t afford to take in new students.
Any way you spin it, this is a problem with the system. Two civil wars in 30 years have left the country disorganized and impoverished. According to the CIA World Factbook, Liberia’s per capita GDP is about $700, making it the 6th lowest in the world. Liberia’s situation is similar to that of many other African countries. Violence has led to a self-perpetuating cycle of instability. Basic infrastructure is nearly nonexistent. An educated workforce is needed to fix these problems, but there’s no system in place to create one.
Change isn’t going to be easy, but without education, Liberia will never recover from its violent past. Education brings young people the skills they need to develop their communities and attract outside investments. There’s simply no way to get the country back on track without a new generation of educated people.
This isn’t a simple condemnation of Liberia for its failures; the US was far from recovered from its civil war after ten years. But if countries like Liberia can’t recover after being nearly leveled, they need a jump start. Education is one of the best investments that can be made in a developing country. Liberia is one of the better cases – they have a university and 25,000 people, both boys and girls who are allowed to and want to attend it. Sending aid is good, but giving a country the tools to help itself is better.