Monday, 2 May 2011


Education Minister Gongar urges new generation of teachers to follow footprints of pamphleteer, journalist, educator

Bassatown, Somailia Drive, Paynesville -
Albert and Bertha Porte made an impression on everyone who crossed their path. The veteran journalist, educator and pamphleteer and the wife who stood by his side for years, already have a library maintaining their legacy. Now a foundation, the Albert and Bertha Porte Foundation, Inc. has been established to keep the legacy going.
At a well-attended ceremony held at the foundation’s complex in Bassatown, Somalia Drive in Paynesville Sunday, May 1, 2011, Education Minister Dr. E. Othello Gongar paid tribute to Porte and expressed thanks and appreciation to the Porte family for allowing him a chance to participate in the program honoring a giant in the Liberian society.
Eradicating poverty, illiteracy
Elfric Porte, eldest son of the late Albert Porte, who chairs the foundation said the foundation aims to eradicate poverty and reduce illiteracy amongst the undeserved population. Porte said, the foundation is seeking volunteer time and resources as well as financial contributions to keep the foundation and the library afloat.
For Gongar, the foundation enhances the work of the ministry’s ongoing quest to re-establish a reading culture in post-war Liberia.
Said the minister: “When we took over the ministry less than a year ago, our major challenge was reading, our aim was to create a reading culture because for us, reading was a major problem from several prospective. One there were no public libraries in Liberia. From Cape Mount to Monrovia, all the libraries were destroyed and there were no public libraries available. The private and public libraries were looted and the books burned.  The only thing we see today is books on the sidewalks for sale.”
As a result, the minister said the reading habits of students were not only bad but the reading habits of professionals were bad until people were told that if one wrote a document that was more than three pages long, Liberians would were simply not willing to read, denying a chance for discussing the issues that go beyond the front page or the back page.
Schools lack libraries
The minister lamented the fact that many schools in Liberia today lack libraries. “When students leave school instead of going to the Library, they go to the video stores and the only thing you hear is Barca versus Real Madrid or Chelsea versus Arsenal and there’s no discussion of Bai T. Moore’s Murder in the Casava Patch or Ebony Dust. There’s no discussions about those works because everyone is focus on the result of Barca versus Real Madrid. Thus, establishment of a reading culture was a major challenge. The youths of the Albert Bertha Porte Foundation have taken up the challenge to promote reading in Liberia.”
Said Minister Gongar: “We in the government, particularly the ministry of education can do no less but to give you the kind of support needed to keep the foundation moving. So on behalf of the ministry, whatever the request that is within our bounds, we will do our best to assist the library.”
The minister said the Porte library marks  the beginning of a culture of community involvement in doing things and something the ministry felt obligated to support. “We see nowadays most of the schools in Monrovia carry their fence way up, the raise the fences because the communities do not take care of their own and so we wanted the fences high so the communities cannot misuse the libraries. We are looking for a reversal of that trend where the communities can now take ownership of facilities such as libraries , where communities can participate in the development of the society. As a result of the conference we have begun to decentralize the educational system. We have appointed schools in all of the counties. Pretty soon we will be reviewing all of our education officers in all of the counties and appointing new ones with new directives.”
The minister also declared that the ministry is in the process of building new ministry of education in all of the counties that will serve as education ministries in all of those counties. We just opened the first one on Good Friday.
Reading rooms, resource center
The minister said each of the offices are equipped with reading rooms and resource centers for students and young people to gather their own learning materials equipped with computers and printers in a bid to keep the Porte legacy alive.
The minister averred: “One would hope that in today’s classroom, one would find teachers like Albert Porte, a true professional. Unfortunately, there are instances in post-war Liberia is still affected by the lack of qualified teachers. During the war, most of the teachers-training institutions were closed down.”
Minister Gongar said the government inherited a country devastated by war but the focus is now on building a foundation and the foundation is still being built. “As we try to build the foundation, we must now move away from secondary education to post-secondary education. We hope that as we move on that we will be able to restore the years that the war took away.”