“Depoliticize education, elevate the NCHE to the rank of ministry”

Dr. Edward Lama Wonkeyor, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) in Liberia, challenged government and other stakeholders to ensure that education is not politicized in order to to guarantee the maintenance of its desire for excellence.

Wonkeyor appearing on state broadcaster ELBC said that while it is true that the contemporary world, primarily in Africa, has seen politics as the main basis through which many national issues and development are driven, politics weakens education and compromises the quest for excellence.

“There is a need to depoliticize educational institutions. We understand that in contemporary African society, politics play into the way education is managed, but bringing politics into the management of education paralyzes it and the value is lost,” said the DG of the NCHE to his interviewer as the audience listened.

The veteran educator said that until higher education is depoliticized, the country will continue to struggle to be on par with its regional counterparts who have already made great strides and are doing better.

“In Liberia,” he noted, “our institutions of higher education have shrunk since the war years and have yet to be revamped to the level where the others are. A graduate from Liberia can barely compete with a graduate from Korle-bu University of the University of Ghana. It’s a fact because there are statistics to prove it.

Reflecting on his recent participation in the UNESCO International Conference on Higher Education in Barcelona, ​​Spain, Dr Wonkeyor said the need for concerted efforts to improve the country’s higher education system does not necessitate to insist.

“We know that the number of faculty members is insufficient in almost all higher education institutions. Very recently, I presented a case at the UNESCO Conference on Higher Education in Barcelona, ​​Spain. The case that I presented concerned the conditions, the material and technical needs to help the institutions to do better. We told the forum that it would be very good for Liberia to be part of a globalized higher education system,” he informed the audience through the show.

His call for the depoliticization of education, primarily at the tertiary level, comes amid the relentless political influences in the management of the University of Liberia (UL) and all other public universities and colleges, experiments that tend to make degenerate quality education into a more collective failing system.

The presidents of UL, Tubman University (TU) and other colleges across the country barely work independently of the political decisions of the power of the day.

Elevate the NCHE to ministerial level

Dr Wonkeyor also said that the time had come for the legislature to elevate the National Commission on Higher Education to the rank of ministry, in order to grant the Commission equal rights and opportunities at the Cabinet level within the executive branch of government.

“We want the Higher Education Commission to be elevated to a full ministerial level. This is the case in Sierra Leone, Kenya and other countries. It is very necessary if higher education is to function well,” he said. Dr. Wonkeyor, former president of Tubman University, said policy makers in Liberia do not take higher education very seriously.

He called on the legislature to do better by employing a collective conscience to secure more resources; primarily funding is earmarked for the system.

“They’re doing their best, but they should be doing a lot more and putting more money into higher education and working with us so we can fix the system together,” Wonkeyor continued.

The call for the elevation of the NCHE was also made by Bong County Senator Dr. Henrique Tokpah. Dr Tokpah also argued for the need to elevate the NCHE to a ministerial level to allow the Commission to defend its budget.

For now, the Minister of Education, whose oversight is exclusively for elementary schools, is the Chairman of the NCHE Board of Trustees, with the power of appointment still in the hands of the President of Liberia, although the The law establishing the Commission provides for a decision by the Board of Directors on who becomes the head of the Commission.

Need for specialized training and technocrat

The head of the NCHE pointed out that no country in this contemporary era is moving fast enough in development and growth without specialized skills acquired through excellent professional and academic training.

“Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) and Management of Science and Technology Education (STEM) will help us transform the system,” he boasted, adding that “UNESCO is willing to provide funds for facilitate this. Today’s learners need to acquire better and sufficient STEM and TVET education to be able to be productive.”

Wonkeyor indicated that during their stay in Barcelona, ​​other countries, mainly located in the same regions, have agreed to organize conferences that will bring them together to reflect on the progress and challenges facing their respective education systems.

“We have tackled thematic areas such as the development of guidelines for the recognition of diplomas, certificates and diplomas from all over the world. We have recognized that there are inequalities in education systems around the world. In order for your degrees and certificates to match those of others around the world, there must be instructors with the same or similar qualifications, skills, and worth. This is what we have to tackle here in Liberia,” he said.

Surveillance

The NCHE boss said his Commission is facing a shortage of vehicles to move around the country and vigorously inspect colleges and universities operating across the country. He continued that “there is a need for rigid oversight of higher education institutions to avoid the continued duplication of inequalities in the system”.