Is George Werner A Good Fit to Serve As Education Minister?

PAUL JACKSON

President Sirleaf has an admirable record of including young Liberians in her government and deserves commendation for such far-sighted approach.But the position of Education Minister is one that has huge public policy implications, so when selecting or appointing anyone to that position, the decision must be tempered with a desire to produce results than by a drive to foster political opportunism. We all understand the role loyalty plays in political appointments, but a position such as Education Minister requires someone with more substance than political swagger. For starters, let us visit some of the bonafides of an effective education minister: Ideally, an Education Minister should be an apolitical technocrat with a fairly lengthy professional experience who is equipped to address a wide spectrum of educational functions.

He/she should be an expert in the field of education, should have at least some formal education in the educational field and be adept in formulating, designing, and implementing educational policies. Before deeming Mr. Werner incapable for this position, it is worth taking an abbreviated look at his education and experience: About six years ago, Mr. Werner earned a MSW in Social Work from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania, however, his academic profile as seen on Linked, says he has a MSW in Social Policy-While policy forms part of the concentration in some MSW programs, the University of Pennsylvania has a distinct Master’s of Science program in Social Policy, and the program completed by Mr. Werner is of a clinical nature, so his assertion that he has a MSW in Social Policy is just a way of putting an elaborate spin and embellishment on his resume.

Mr. Werner also claims to be a “therapist” from 2003-2010, but anyone who is familiar with the helping profession would agree that undergraduate students do not attain that status, and from all indications, Mr. Werner was still an undergraduate degree holder until 2009. So how the heck did he become a therapist since 2003? Mr. Werner’s supervisory experience in the United States lasted for only seven months (Clinical Coordinator), and the next we heard of him, he was occupying a cabinet level position in the Liberian government.

I don’t want to belabor the details that culminated in his recent rejection by the Liberian Senate as Health Minister designate, but the Liberia public is aware of the inconsistencies in his education and lack of lengthy experience which evidently led to his rejection. So how come less than seven months, this same individual has become a nominee again for a ministerial position? Does the President see something in him the rest of us are not seeing?

Is it worth the risk to leave our educational sector in the hands of a complete novice? Of course, much have been said about how Mr. Werner articulated his understanding of our educational system during his recent confirmation hearing, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to give a recitation on public policies he/she has no idea of implementing. We need to be very circumspect in our haste to applaud fancy speeches. The last time I checked, talk was still very cheap!

What happened to the likes of Dr. Emmanuel Dolo, an individual who not only taught graduate school at the University of Minnesota, but also headed a huge educational program in Washington County, Minnesota? A friend of mine recently told me that Dr. Dolo lives and works in Monrovia. Even if not Dolo, we have many other more qualified Liberians, so I simply do not understand our obsession with wonder-boy Werner. I hope the Senate committee responsible for vetting Mr. Werner understands that its loyalty is to the welfare of the Liberian people and not the political ambition of a select few. Mr. Werner may be a cool and good guy, but Mr. Werner lacks the qualifications and skills we required of an Education Minister. We need to stop rewarding political patronage over innovation and qualification.

Paul Paulay Jackson elpaulay@gmail.com

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