President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered a wide-ranging address to the nation last Wednesday, pointing to a number of plans her government envisages toward post-Ebola recovery. She rightly included improvement in the healthcare delivery system, as well as education, agriculture and Liberian participation in business.But she spoke in generalities and presented no specific outline of what she intends in each of these areas.The Address could be described as essentially lackluster (bland), primarily because she spoke in generalities, gave us no bold prescription of how she and her government intend to jumpstart the economy, and most especially the revitalization of the healthcare delivery system.She herself and many other partners have stressed that the Ebola epidemic was allowed to wreak its deadly havoc and do it so rapidly because of the weak healthcare system in all three countries—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.This is what led the People’s Republic of China, through its Ambassador, Zhang Yue, to announce last October his government’s pledge “to work with other international partners to help [rebuild] and modernize Liberia’s health sector in the post-Ebola period. Similar pledges followed from the Americans and the European Union. This newspaper has been pleading with the government to seize this golden opportunity and devise a comprehensive and detailed plan for the revitalization of healthcare in Liberia. But we have yet to see one. The Ministry of Health (MOH) reacted verbally to our last Monday Editorial on this subject, saying that indeed a plan had been devised. But the plan is not that impressive.In her address, the President mentioned a ten-year program for the training of healthcare professionals, improving and expanding services at primary and secondary healthcare centers, upgrading county hospitals and establishing three regional hospitals. She further spoke of what she called “the repositioning of John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK) to meet its envisioned role as a national referral center.”There were, however, no specifics. Which healthcare professionals does she intend to train—are they nurses, paramedics or medical doctors—or all three? How does she intend to do that? Both the Tubman National Institute for Medical Arts (TNIMA) and most especially the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine are crying for help. We recently reported that the College’s students’ allowances, like the salaries of faculty and staff of the university itself, are eight months in arrears. Does the President know this? What plans are in the offing to fix that, then move on to the larger question of reequipping and expanding the college? George Fahnbulleh, a top commentator on the Observer web site, wrote that “with a 3% net population growth rate, Liberia will have an estimated population of 6.74 million in 2030 and will need . . . approximately 1,752 doctors to meet [the] average.” According to him, we need to produce 105 new doctors every year for the next 15 years? This, it seems to us, underscores the urgency of immediately addressing the needs of the Medical College.What intervention plans has the government for the West African Post Graduate Medical College? The college needs its own campus, with well equipped buildings and a topnotch teaching staff to train medical specialists. Are there any plans for that?Where exactly upcountry does the President intend to place the three referral hospitals? And which healthcare centers are targeted for improvement and expansion? What are JFK’s own plans for revitalization? Recent statistics show that our maternal death rate is rising. That is a sign that infant mortality is not far behind. Yet there is only one Liberian gynecologist at the JFK—the Chief Medical Officer himself, Dr. Billy Johnson; and only one pediatrician, Dr. Sia Camonor. Numerous other specialists are lacking at the nation’s leading referral hospital. What are the JFK’s own plans for training specialists or reengaging Liberian medical specialists in the Diaspora?Herein lay the urgent need to build the West African Post Graduate College of Medicine. We pray that the President and her Health Ministry team, in collaboration with the partners, especially the Chinese, Americans and EU, will as soon as possible devise the plan, so that we may begin the urgent task of rebuilding our healthcare sector and turn Liberia into one truly healthy nation.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Just after receiving permission from the Mayor and City Council of Georgetown to utilise the Parade Ground for much-needed practice sessions, Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) Head and Rugby Coach Peter Green has made a call for better facilities to be given to sporting disciplines.At the media briefing, the Rugby Coach described the conditions under which the team had to operate prior to receiving permission to use the Parade Ground. “That’s what will happen because of the weather and the players running up and down on at that field and I’m surprised at that, because they did some work on it and somehow it is not up to standard because just after use of several teams it became slushy,” he lamented.Green further shared that attempts to utilise other practice facilities such as theGRFU Head and Coach Peter Green speaking with media operativesLeonora Complex proved futile owing to them being used by another sporting fraternity. He expressed gratitude for the use of Parade Ground, but not without outlining the difficulties they may encounter.“Parade Ground yes, next week, but the boys have to walk the full length and breadth, because you have bottles there, and my rugby players tackle and fall on the ground. Visualise landing on the ground and a piece of glass waiting to rip you open; that’s not what we have in mind. So while we’re getting Parade Ground, we constantly have to walk the length of that ground and then we meet up with the opposition of people who are saying this is our land, what are you doing here?” he explained.As such, the frustrated Coach made a bold call for a facility that is strictly for rugby, stating: “Rugby needs a ground, we have land. Why is the sports policy promising and we’re not getting these facilities? I’m appealing to the Government of Guyana to kindly make a priority and give us land at least where the majority of players are, from Demerara,” he said.The Coach explained that they were appealing for their own training ground so as to avoid having to use facilities belonging to other sporting disciplines, especially when they are hosting international tournaments.“We’re going to have a situation where you’re going to find football’s ground that is being made there, all of us are going to be begging to use that ground for international events. We don’t want that picture.”The national rugby team is currently in preparation for the Caribbean and Central American Games in Barranquilla, Colombia.
“There are some phenomenally awesome, great things going on at L.A. Unified,” she said. “L.A. Unified could be brilliant if we could embrace our entrepreneurs – entrepreneur teachers and parents. “People inside the schools are thinking outside the box, but they’re not getting the support they need. It’s when the entrepreneur is crushed they want to leave.” Los Angeles Unified officials conceded that teachers might leave because they feel frustrated by a mandated curriculum that reduces autonomy, but said the system still allows for creativity. “When you’re responsible for a district with 460 elementary schools and the achievement of a very diverse student population, it’s important that you have a common curriculum,” said Ronni Ephraim, LAUSD’s chief instructional officer. “I know that the district’s theory of action does not equate to giving up creativity. We see throughout the district that thousands of teachers bring creativity to the classroom.” Of the nearly 36,000 teachers in LAUSD, 327 have asked to go on charter leave, Ephraim said. They can return within 39 months with no loss of benefits. While public school districts are required to work within the guidelines set by the state, charter schools – the administrators, teachers and even parents and students – have greater freedom of choice: Teachers choose to work at a charter based on its mission statement, which is crafted by the administration. Parents and students choose the schools they will attend. “The schools draw the people who are pioneers, or as we called them in one study, ‘outlaws,”‘ said Penny Wohlstetter, a USC professor and co-director of the Center on Educational Governance at University of Southern California. “These (are) rebels of the public system and they find that through charter schools they not only get a lot more respect and decision-making authority, but they look around and there are people of like minds who are their colleagues.” Charter educators say LAUSD’s top-down hierarchy leaves individual teacher performance at the mercy of individual administrators. One principal might be receptive to a teacher’s creativity, while another might want to quash it. Kelly Jean Hanock, an English language arts teacher at James Monroe High School who was named a California Teacher of the Year in 2005, said she’s still able to be creative within the LAUSD system because of a “really forward-thinking principal.” In Hanock’s case, the principal encouraged her to take the lead in breaking up the 4,700-student school into smaller learning communities of 500 students each. “Within the small, we have a lot of freedom to do different kinds of things because the principal encourages us to take chances,” she said. Despite its growing popularity, the charter movement faces criticism that there could be greater social pressures and more limited extracurricular activities at smaller schools. Teachers union President A.J. Duffy said he believes LAUSD should cap the number of charters allowed, and the state should limit its funding to the charters, which he fears could “destroy” public schools by draining the district’s general fund, which pays for teacher salaries and benefits. “The more money charters drain from the general fund, the less money there is for things like salaries and benefits, which attracts good teachers,” said Duffy, who heads United Teachers Los Angeles. He also accused charter schools of getting rid of disruptive students – an allegation that charter administrators deny – and said there is a problem with high teacher turnover. “They take young, inexperienced teachers, expect them to work 10 hours per day, and they willingly do it because they’re excited, but the problem is they’re gone within five years.” But charter supporters say the schools attract more qualified teachers and students are achieving at a quicker rate. More than one-third of full-time L.A. charter school teachers have advanced degrees or doctorates. Charter teachers insist it’s the freedom to veer from the standards that make kids learn at a higher level. Chapel teaches his seventh-graders about biochemical processes in the cell, protein synthesis, atoms and elements – eighth-grade standards – because that’s what the kids need to know. “Charters say go for it. Public schools would have said they’re not part of the standards and I would have spent more time arguing and reasoning with district officials than teaching,” Chapel said. Susan Cornell is another longtime LAUSD teacher who resigned from the district – and gave up her lifetime benefits – to teach third grade at Fenton Avenue Elementary, a charter that opened in 1993. “I worked with wonderful, innovative teachers and principals at LAUSD, but they didn’t have the ability to be what Fenton is,” she said. “We were told what we had to do from downtown. Our hands were tied by the rules and regulations of being in a big district, and we didn’t have the freedom. “Fenton offers the chance to be innovative and give kids what they need.” Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722 firstname.lastname@example.org 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district with 727,000 students, has 86 charter campuses serving about 38,100 kids, with thousands more on waiting lists. Enrollment is dropping about 2 percent a year in LAUSD while its charter enrollment is booming, with charter students expected to account for 10 percent of the district’s population by 2012. While Los Angeles’ charter schools have hired rookie teachers and even retirees, the greatest number of their educators are coming from LAUSD itself. The California Charter Schools Association – the membership and professional organization serving the 574 charter schools in the state – surveyed 890 teachers and found that 42 percent of those at Los Angeles charter schools came from LAUSD or a nearby district, and 10 campuses had at least half their staff from LAUSD, spokesman Gary Larson said. Caprice Young, a former Los Angeles Unified board president who now runs the association, said the district is working to improve but doesn’t do enough to support creativity or innovation. After teaching nearly two decades at Los Angeles Unified schools, Fred Chapel felt stifled by a system that told him what to teach and how to teach it. So he left LAUSD in 2001 and went to work for a charter school, where he not only gets to decide his own curriculum and select the textbooks, but has input on the campus’ staffing and budgets. “I could never really go back to a traditional public school now after having tasted this,” said Chapel, who teaches seventh-grade science at CALS Charter Middle School in northeast Los Angeles. “I’m back to working with kids, listening to what they have to say, getting to know them and knowing the material in a much more rigorous way.” The burgeoning charter school movement has allowed Chapel and hundreds of teachers like him to work in what they say is a more supportive climate – one that not only encourages but expects its educators to experiment and implement new ideas.