- We may not be able to give our all; but we should assist Liberia in its time of need
Liberia has asked Nigeria for 6,000 teachers and other forms of technical assistance. The new President of Liberia, George Weah, made this request during his visit to Nigeria, which he described as a “mission of gratitude and respect for the extraordinary and exceptional role that you, our Nigerian brothers and sisters, have played and continue to play in maintaining peace and stability in the West African sub-region, and more particularly, in Liberia.”
Liberia is undoubtedly one of the countries with a long tradition of friendship with Nigeria. It was a friendly collaboration between William Tubman and Tafawa Balewa as influential leaders of the Monrovia Bloc, along with other leaders in East and West Africa, that stimulated in 1963 the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which later became African Union (AU). During and after Liberia’s civil war, Nigeria paid a gallant part to ensure that peace returned to the sister country.
President Weah was forthright about this historical connection when he met President Buhari in Abuja: “Your sustained technical assistance for capacity building in these sectors is most welcome. . . . More specifically, under the Bilateral Teacher Exchange Programme, we are seeking 6,000 plus teachers to make up for the shortage of good teachers in our educational system.”
This request, though large, is in tune with the spirit of Nigeria’s Technical Aids Corps (TAC) which has been in operation since 1987: (a) Share Nigeria’s know-how and expertise with other African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (in this Act referred to as “recipient countries”); (b) give assistance on the basis of the assessed and perceived needs of the recipient countries; (c) promote cooperation and understanding between Nigeria and the recipient countries; and, (d) facilitate meaningful contacts between the youths of Nigeria and those of the recipient countries.
Undoubtedly, President Weah’s request could not have come at a better time for Liberia, which is still recovering from political, economic and social malaise thrown up by years of civil war. It also could not have come at a worse time for Nigeria, when the country is struggling with a severely challenged economy that includes a high rate of unemployment, fall in the value of the Naira, and noticeable decline in its educational sector. However, Nigeria is still relatively in a better shape than Liberia, particularly in terms of training of teachers, health professionals, and agricultural extension officers, the three areas of request for assistance from President Weah.
Since 1960, Nigeria, despite its own challenges, has not walked away from its international friends and global causes capable of bringing peace and progress to the world. In many cases the country has paid with lives of its citizens. So, Liberia’s request should be considered in relation to its purse and needs. With so many states complaining about lack of adequate number of professional teachers, it may not be realistic to expect Nigeria to release 6,000 well-trained teachers at a time, but Nigeria ought to strive to meet 25 to 50 per cent of the request, given the urgency of the situation of Liberia.
To ensure that teachers sent to Liberia give their best, their stipends which TAC requires from the donor country must be regular and prompt while Liberia should be made to do its own part: provision of accommodation, transportation, and healthcare. Moreover, Liberia should be encouraged to establish more training institutions for its citizens in the next four years, to make return of Nigerian professionals to Nigeria at the end of the four-year term less stressful for Liberia.
We urge the Federal Government to include people who are qualified to train teachers in the pool of technical assistants billed for Liberia. And Nigeria should prepare for the return of such professionals who are expected to be redeployed after completing their TAC obligations. In addition, the government needs to encourage experienced teacher trainers in Nigeria’s higher institutions to spend their sabbatical in Liberia, to provide leadership for intensive teacher training and capacity building initiatives in healthcare and agricultural extension in Liberia under the TAC scheme.