All 25,000 candidates fail Liberia university entrance test

The result prompted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to describe poor education standards in the impoverished nation as a 'national emergency'

A file photo dated 03 June 2013 shows Liberian students sitting the West Afican Examinations Council (WAEC) exams at G.W. Gibson High School in Monrovia, Liberia. EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberia’s main public university said on Wednesday, August 28, all 25,000 applicants for the new academic year had failed its entrance exam, prompting the president to describe poor education standards in the impoverished nation as a “national emergency”.

The University of Liberia, which educates more than half of the country’s students in the capital Monrovia, said it had been forced to admit 1,600 failed candidates for the new term which begins next month.

“None of the 25,000 students who sat the test (obtained) the required points,” said university vice-president Ansu Sonii.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made an impromptu call at the university to discuss the failure, her office said in a statement, which described the situation as “alarming” and confirmation of a recent statement by the president that “the educational system is a mess”.

“Why are the students of the system not performing to the standards expected? Why are they not comparative with those in other countries?” Sirleaf demanded as she met university authorities on Tuesday, August 27, according to the statement.

The president urged the country to see the poor performance of the candidates as a “national emergency”, the statement added, and called on “all Liberians, irrespective of political background” to tackle the issue of dire standards in schools.

Sirleaf: ‘Embarrassing’ situation

Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel peace prize for her part in ending Liberia’s ruinous back-to-back civil wars in 2003, but has been criticized for her failure to improve teaching since she took office three years later.

She admitted that the situation was “embarrassing” for Liberia.

“The problem is not just taking the test and failing. The problem is where they are coming from — so we have to go into those high schools, into those elementary schools and see what is lacking and what we can do about it,” Sirleaf was quoted as saying in the statement.

University president Emmet A. Dennis said the institution had lowered the pass mark to allow in 1,600 undergraduates and postgraduates.

Liberia is still recovering from 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003 and left the west African nation in ruins.

Widespread poverty has led to a large proportion of parents putting their children to work rather than sending them to school, according to various studies by the United Nations and other organizations.

Although there are a handful of private higher education establishments and another tiny state-run university, in practice more than 90 percent of the country’s publicly-educated undergraduates go to the University of Liberia.

The Liberian parliament’s education committee chairman Bill Tuaway blamed poor teaching for the failure, the first time in Liberia’s history that no student has passed.

“This is a clear indication that the quality of education in Liberia is very bad. This shows how our teachers don’t teach well,” he told reporters in Monrovia. –

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