Embracing Higher Education Reforms in Liberia: Why and How?

Updated: Jul 18

The advent of the Corona virus has had a devastating impact on all sectors of society without let. Education systems globally have had to grapple with the attending challenges occasioned by the tenuous health environment situation.

George W. Williams, Founder and Director,


Learning and the instructional process have been especially hit in developing countries considering the limited or lack thereof, of the basic social and technological infrastructure(Ghafoor, 2017).


Reverend Dr. Julius Sawolo Nelson, Jr.

President,

University of Liberia




Despite the infrastructural limitations, developing countries are impelled by national needs and globally competitiveness to horn available resources to address pressing national educational imperatives accentuated by the worsening social and economic state of the nation (Gobewole, 2016). Gobewole provides, in his published doctoral submission, a historical narration of the precedent events that have contributed to where Liberia currently finds itself among developing nations.

" The University must become an innovator, not merely a disseminator of information."




Questions abound, amid the impact of the pandemic on the global educational community. Regardless of which point on the development scale a nation finds itself, it has had to engage the much tougher questions of when and how to meet the educational needs under the current circumstances. According to the Washington Post newspaper, Arlington County Public School District (APCS), one of Virginia’s most affluent school districts, has had to alter the course of the reopening to online instruction, at least for the coming fall (Natanson, 2020). This decision, like many other school districts, has impacted primary and secondary schools near similarly. The situation is particularly worse considering the enormous resource and technological deficits generally plaguing African.

Howbeit for pre-tertiary education, the circumstances facing higher education, especially in developing countries are structurally dissimilar. Higher education, though afflicted with curricula, technology, and instructional infrastructure inadequacies have their unique collection of challenges. University of Liberia(UL) President, Dr. Julius S. Nelson, announced the institution of a series of reforms intended to position the institution to meet the learning needs of its students (Nelson, 2020). As the UL embraces the reform path, a global, mutually reinforcing set of transformational frameworks must deliberately guide every action, going forward. To that end, this author proffers the following constructs germane to increasing institutional viability, academic prosperity, and socio-economic relevancy. These reform milestones are an integrative and mutually dependent set of actions to raise the persona of what should rightly be “the light in darkness.”

Institutional viability : The UL, in the last two decades, has had to grapple with the mounting indictment of its academic viability given the quality of its growing number of graduates, their performance in the public spaces, and the institution’s positioning as the foremost academic torchbearer that it once was. UniRank, a global university ranking website, ranks Liberia at 10411th in the world (UniRank, 2020). In Africa, the University, disappointingly, does not make the list of the first 200. Ranked number one in Liberia, the quality, especially in the last two decades, spells out the enormity of the task ahead for the new leadership. Attracting viability must firstly come from an assessment of the current national environment and the calibration of UL’s role in lifting the nation from its intellectual, social, and economic doldrum. By asking the elementary question, and synthesizing insightful responses, the administration becomes better informed of its what it ought to be, and the national citadel of knowledge. In their book, Reframing Institutions, Artistry, Choice And Leadership, Bolman and Deal, (2017) mince no words in what leaders must undertake and endure to drive the process of change forward. The duo places special emphasis on leadership reframing by improving practice and institutional culture. Accordingly, to the curricula reforms, the UL’s viability can essentially influenced by such structural factors as enrollment size, quality of core instructional and administrative staff - the nature of its workforce, and importantly its strategy to increase global competitiveness (Azziz et al., 2019; Portnoi & Bagley, 2014).

Academic prosperity: The prosperity of academic institutions rests, in large part, on the strength of its academic programs and their ability to effectively address the needs presented by the proximate society. Academic prosperity in this context suggests that higher education institutions are purposefully propelling learning that’s constructed by growing economic and social demands (Iya, 2018). Academic prosperity necessarily requires tertiary institutions, to not only meet institutional academic needs, but those of the social and economic continuum (Guerrero et al., 2016). The UL must become an innovator, not merely a disseminator of information. To that end, transforming the University into a viable social and economic partner to drive up the value of their products - intellectual and material output. This will require making demands on faculty and staff. Ensuring, for example, that academic staffers, especially, are annually attracting and venturing out for resources in the entity’s interests, through their individual and collective intellectual derivations. The current educational slump can effectively be met and serviced through the Teachers’ College, for example, that has been a silent observer - at least that is the view from the prisms of public scrutiny. In the national drive to address the situation. Universities in the West, and extensively in East and Southern Africa are ahead of the pack in this direction. Liberia cannot afford to lag behind being solely dependent on donations and budgetary allocations(Brown, 2016). The UL must compete for the resources that linger near her doors.

Social - economic relevancy: Finally, with the aforementioned, it is worth mentioning that seeing the University as a viable national development partner in every aspect of the word would be a uphill task, but it's doable(Custer et al., 2015). Setting politics aside and focusing the leadership energies on the national economic and social needs and transfiguring the curricula of the institution into building a new breed of “academics” stimulated by a heightened desire to transform their country into an oasis of progress, a classic projection of what Liberia currently and so dearly needs; a university that contributes or initiates the debate, provides answers to some of the nation’s most insurmountable challenges; an institution where knowledge is cultivated, and from where, Liberia and its partners can reference, in terms of solution - finding (Nohl & Nazlı Somel, 2015).

In conclusion, this author lauds the UL leadership for the current steps taken to modernize the instructional delivery process, especially catalyzed by the advent of the Coronavirus. Admonition is further extended to the leadership to utilize the current space to pursue productive unrelenting change, sparing no time for inconsequential matters so that the might of the UL may manifest in a revise institutional motto with as “et lux in tenebris” and not just “lux in tenebris.”

About the Author

George is an academic with more 15 years of productive educational leadership. Founder of EDDEIN, He leads the African Educators’ Forum, an online platform for bridging educators on the continent and abroad to dialogue and find solutions to the very pressing issues afflicting the continents’ educational sector and its beneficiaries. Concerns, comments, inquiries about this article or EDDEIN related activities, kindly reach out: email: contact@eddein.com, +1571) 208-6694 or visit EDDEIN at www.eddein.com.

References

Azziz, R., Hentschke, G. C., Jacobs, L. A., & Jacobs, B. C. (2019). Strategic mergers in higher education. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Reframing organizations. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119281856

Brown, R. (2016). Mission impossible? Entrepreneurial universities and peripheral regional innovation systems. Industry and Innovation, 23(2), 189–205.

Custer, S., Rice, Z., Masaki, T., Latourell, R., & Parks, B. (2015). Listening to leaders: Which development partners do they prefer and why? Williamsburg, VA: AidData. http://docs.aiddata.org/ad4/pdfs/publication_full_2.pdf

Ghafoor, A. (2017). Public infrastructure performance in developing countries. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315204710

Gobewole, S. H. (2016). Liberia’s political economy: An examination of public institutional quality (Rule of Law, Democratic Accountability, and State Authority) Based on Citizens' Ethnic, Residence, and Gender Status. Dog Ear Publishing.

Guerrero, M., Urbano, D., Fayolle, A., Klofsten, M., & Mian, S. (2016). Entrepreneurial universities: emerging models in the new social and economic landscape. Small Business Economics, 47(3), 551–563.

Iya, P. F. (2018). Meeting the needs of youth in national development policy and Its legal implications in Swaziland. In Swaziland: Contemporary Social and Economic Issues (pp. 56–79). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315190822-6

Natanson, H. (2020, July 14). Arlington Public Schools switches to remote learning for fall, reversing course. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/arlington-public-schools-switches-to-remote-learning-for-fall-reversing-course/2020/07/14/aabe4d3c-c605-11ea-a99f-3bbdffb1af38_story.html

Nelson, J. S. (2020). UL adopts full eLearning for 2nd Semester 2020 – University of Liberia. https://ul.edu.lr/statement-delivered-by-prof-dr-julius-j-s-nelson-jr-president-of-the-university-of-liberia-ul/

Nohl, A.-M., & Nazlı Somel, R. (2015). Education and social dynamics: A multilevel analysis of curriculum change in Turkey. Routledge.

Portnoi, & Bagley, S. S. (2014). Critical perspectives on global competition in higher education: New directions for higher education, Number 168. John Wiley & Sons.

UniRank. (2020). University of Liberia | Ranking & Review. https://www.4icu.org/reviews/10511.htm


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