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|Tribute: Homage to Professor Thomas Kromah Gaie: An Educational Pundit||| Print ||
|Written by Stephen B. Lavalah, Contributing Writer|
|Monday, 26 November 2012 01:15|
The sudden death of one of Liberia’s foremost and outstanding educators seems unbelievable and unfathomable. It was distressing with great disbelief to hear that Professor Thomas Gaie after a period of brief illness died. Every so often, people get sick and the probability for recovery to proper health status is highly anticipated and anything contrary is sometime not easily accepted as in the case of Professor Gaie.
However, death is an integral part of life and every human and living creature must succumb to its unannounced and unfortunate visit even when the time and venue appear not suitable. The cold hand of death smashed away a great mentor, a dynamic visionary, a devoted administrator and a passionate educator. Indeed, death is a respecter of no man, woman or child in spite of status, origin, or creed. Professor Gaie or Prof as he was affectionately called by his students, colleagues and acquaintances was an inspiration to many young people and other segment of the population. Besides, Professor Gaie served as a catalyst of change in each institution he worked with prior to his untimely demised.
As a freshman at Cuttington University in 2004, it was a great privilege and pleasure to have met Professor Gaie. He had gray-haired moustache and usually dressed in a Liberian chieftain clothes or any form of African attire. The Prof was cooperative and enthusiastic about everyone despite names or backgrounds or beliefs. His office as Vice President for Academic Affairs was beautifully decorated with large snail shells on the flood around the office. With a great deal of admiration and fascination coupled with eagerness to acquire an in-depth analysis about the beautification, I began anxiously asking series of questions. After lengthy cross-examination, he responded and stated: “I am an African and most especially a Liberian, and I have got to be who I am, proud of where I come from and delighted for what I have”.
From that moment, up till today’s date, I have cultivated the change to appreciate Liberia’s rich cultural heritage, music, food and natural produce, government and leadership, education and ideas, sports and many unique components of being a Liberian. Then and again, Professor Gaie provided essential information and even on several occasions invited me to audit some of his classes. He offered his mentorship on countless critical issues arising on campus and beyond. Moreover, the Prof provided classified and confidential information to his young trainee. To a larger extent, I succeeded in most advocacies due to the reliable and credible information obtained from someone who put the country’s interest first above the sum of his individual ambitions or greed for power or strong desire for wealth. He was determined to create a new generation of tolerant and critical thinkers that would be patriotic, earnest and hardworking to rebuild and remake Liberia for the common good of all. The Prof was a true reformist, who strived to change the system from within using an appropriate conduit to achieve ultimate results.
It is without doubt that the Prof loved his country and demonstrated patriotism, loyalty and a great deal of nationalism in transforming the educational sector of the country to become better than what it is now. Professor Gaie desired the prosperity of every Liberian not only through the equitable distribution of natural resources, but with educational opportunity for all Liberians. He deeply affirmed to the believe that no amount of foreign aid or abundant natural resources can rebuild the broken fabrics of war-torn Liberia unless the people have access to quality education at all levels. He envisaged excellent and topnotch academic institutions as well as student populace with high moral, dignity and self-confident. In addition, he dreamed of a student community that could compete or surpass other students in the sub-region and even beyond. He visualized an accessible and affordable conduit of obtaining educational information no matter an individual distance from the political capital. All the more so, Professor Gaie envisioned ethical standards and disciplines among school administrators and all those in the academic realm.
The Prof had an exceptional talent to impart knowledge which he considered as a call to duty. As a lecturer, he was principled and open-minded in ensuring that students and school administrators were committed to rules and regulations. On the other hand, he encouraged the exchange of ideas to enhance learning activities and promoted an enabling environment for freedom of expression. This situation helped buttress students’ ability to articulate their views and candid opinions without fear or favor, thereby fostering public speaking initiative.
While at Cuttington University, he manifested this kind of thought-provoking and stimulating method throughout the various classes he taught. Because of his exceptional character and straightforward attitude towards academic excellence, he transformed the records and documentation unit of the University as Registrar and Vice President for Academic Affairs to further curtail academic skullduggery in all its forms. He also proposed more innovative ways of evaluating students’ performances on placement examinations and introduced creative registration procedures which enable students to register within limited time frame devoid of difficulties. Professor Gaie could even go the extra mile to offer career development counseling to a lot of first-year students and other upper classes. More to the point, he privately took care of some students personal needs. The Prof was not only of immense assistance to scores of college students, but also rendered enormous services to inhabitants within the proximity of the University. He provided scholarship opportunities for many destitute and educational thirsty young people to attend secondary schools at his personal expense. He as well made available job opportunities through the construction of his real estate purposely to accommodate commuter students and other initiatives.
Professor Gaie ability as a leader and problem solver was always evident and he demonstrated it when he took over the mantle of authority at the West African Examination Council (WAEC) Liberia office. With no affront to his immediate predecessor, the Prof was called to national duty to lead WAEC at the time when there were a whole lot of lapses, academic malpractices and collusion at its peak for the first time in the history of the country. Flexibility fees became very alarming and formulated into being an integral requirement for most schools across the country.
Twelve and nine graders – who are obliged to take the WAEC exams and pass before being duly permitted to enroll in institutions of higher learning – were most often seen compiling luggage when the exams were approaching to attend self-styled study camps and in most cases engaged in unwholesome social practices. The acts were being carried out because too many students it was said received the exams prior to the scheduled date. During this perilous period, a good number of ill-prepared students enter the examination halls with high hope to receive test answers from proctors or other external sources using various devices and channels. The exams were seen in street corners and communities across the country. Nonetheless, the performance of students dropped to an unacceptable and inconsiderable level. School administrators and students have to wait for longer time and of course subsequently travelled from the rural parts of Liberia through long distances on deplorable road conditions to reach WAEC headquarters in Monrovia just to obtain examination results or acquire other valuable services.
Within a relatively short span of time, Professor Gaie began his transformational agenda to invoke change and accelerate a more proactive, effective, efficient, and productive methods of examination preparation, placement and outcome. He drastically worked to minimize collusion and malpractices and even took further steps to penalize schools and students for violation. He extensively discouraged parents and guardians from providing flexibility fees and as well issued a strong caveat prohibiting students from going to any so-called study camps. The Prof exposed and ensured the dismissal of proctors, examiners, school administrators and even students involve in collusion and other forms of academic fraud. He further instituted a system wherein anyone engaged in illegal possession of the exam or exam related materials was severely dealt with and turned over to the Ministry of Justice. He gradually improved the standard and the students’ performances have become somewhat satisfactory even though not at the average level. He put in place accurate and suitable measures to ensure the release of WAEC results in a timely manner.
One of the most exciting and fascinating milestones of Professor Gaie leadership at WAEC was his ability to digitize the entire registration with results accessible to everyone no matter the distance from the Monrovia. He initiated the provision of a computer storage device to be issued to each school so as to register candidates for the examination in order to avoid misspelled names and other information that should be indicated on the Liberia Senior and Junior High School Certificates. He strengthened a vigor and active corporate website that is used to access results using an affordable and cheaper card. Under his administration, the WAEC headquarters was transformed to a certain extent with state-of-the-art facilities. Professor Gaie empowered his staffs through various capacity building programs and strived as much as possible to reduce human errors. He resolved to ensure that Liberian students are equipped and prepared to participate in the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations.
Professor Gaie was also keened to working with civil society organizations to advance the educational sector of Liberia. For typical example, in April 2012, when the Youth Exploring Solution in partnership with the Liberia Institute for the Promotion of Academic Excellence designed a project named and styled ‘Turning the Tide Project’, which was geared towards providing free tutorial classes for twelve graders from forty high schools in Paynesville City; Professor Gaie provided his fullest support to the project and requested a meeting with the two youth-led development institutions and as well made available different Examiner’s Reports including other resource materials. Likewise, the Prof pledged unwavering commitment to the Liberian Bus Project, a voluntary youth-led grassroots organizing movement and non-partisan drive geared towards driving votes, leaders and change. In fact, the Liberian Bus Project intended to honor Professor Gaie in early 2013 before hearing about his demise. Even though the Prof’s legacy would still live on for posterity to read, however, he was not perfect like all human beings.
Notwithstanding, he was an inspirational leader willing and prepared to serve humanity, a character to emulate at all levels, a beacon of hope to the less fortunate and a selfless and tireless educator. Therefore, Professor Gaie legacy should and must be assimilated by vast majority of the young people so as to fill in the titanic knowledge gap, he left behind. Liberians and foreigners alike would definitely regret the sudden death of Professor Gaie, nevertheless, his legacy would forever be remembered. Good bye for now Prof and may light perpetual shine upon you and all faithful departed. Go in peace and take your rest.
Stephen B. Lavalah, Contributing Writer