Hundreds of Teachers, education workers accompanied by some students Thursday paraded the main street of Sinkor placards drawing national government attention on the multiple of challenges they are faced with including the sector in general.
The teachers despite the rain march from their 12th street headquarters to the Ministry of Education on 3rd Street in Sinkor holding placards encouraging the government to among other things use the tax payers money to upgrade the standard of quality education in the public sector, provide more support under the Pro Poor Agenda for prosperity and development to adequately promote public schools facilities and environment ,desist from privatizing education and many others were all packaged in the teachers placards and posters respectively.
The NTAL in its statement historicized that In January 2016, in a controversial move, the government of Liberia announced its intention to outsource its primary and pre – primary education system to a US – based for – profit corporate actor, Bridge International Academies (BIA). Following considerable opposition to this unprecedented move, the government conceived the PSL now LEAP program, where like actors would operate 93 schools in the first year as a pilot project.
Despite claiming that PSL now LEAP would be subjected to a rigorous evaluation through a Randomized Control Trial (RCT), six months into the pilot, the Ministry of Education under the leadership of George K. Werner, decided to increase the number of schools to 202 in the project second year.
Unlike Uganda and Kenyan where BIA constructed some schools, the government of Liberia continues to handover the already insufficient public schools to for-profit private providers with BIA taking the lead.
Most disturbing and unimaginable is that instead of BIA empowering existing Teachers Training Institutions in the country, the Ministry of Education, is allowing BIA to train, coach and support, according to them 3000 Teachers, Vice Principals for Instruction, Principals and County Education Office staff. P a ge2 The outsourcing of more than 250 public schools to private for – profit providers is a form of government shying away from accountability to their citizens on the provision of education which is a public good and a human right.
The provision of curriculum through tablets and cell phones is untenable in Liberia where electricity is unstable and not available in all the rural schools.
If this proposal is allowed extension, it will be the beginning of the end for universal public education, a concept with ancestry dating back to 1647.
This new phenomenon in our considered view is a violation of International and Regional Laws and Protocols signed by the Government of Liberia and violation of Liberia Constitution and the Education Laws of Liberia.
Mr. Minister he noted that, quite recently they visited seven counties to make an on-the spot assessment of the prevailing situations in the government schools as well as the LEAP Schools and what we discovered was quite revealing. We have therefore decided to bring to your attention what can be termed as a crisis in our schools. We will follow up this presentation in due course with documentary pictorial evidence of the existing situations in the LEAP and other government schools. It is an undeniable fact that the Education of a nation’s citizens is a prime responsibility of the state.
In a strong tune NTAL stated that Our government in Liberia must therefore not abdicate its responsibilities under the guise of austerity. It is also a truism that Public Education breeds national social cohesion and an equalizing force in society.
They pointed out that Teachers are dismissed and transferred at will.
Moreover, working hours have been extended from 7:40 AM to 1:00 PM to the current 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM without incentives and feeding for some of the young students. – A flawed technology has suddenly been introduced into the rural schools without electricity thereby ridiculing the whole concept of Education Technology. With the use of the tablets, teachers have become mere robots as even lesson notes and tests are already prepared for them in the tablet. – It was shocking to note that government is providing more funds for the profit making providers than to the normal public schools managed by Liberians. – Mr. Minister, We also noticed a decline in enrollment in some of the LEAP schools due principally to the many unfulfilled promises made by the providers such as school feeding (three times a day), the dissatisfaction of parents, students and teachers due to delay in placing volunteer teachers on the payroll and the inability of Bridge to regularly provide the promised stipend of USD 25.00 monthly while they await getting on the payroll. – The teaching and learning conditions can best be described as deplorable, broken infrastructure and furniture, poor sanitary conditions in most of the schools. We are very pleased to present to you a copy of our findings during our visitations in the seven counties which includes; Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Bong, Nimba, Bomi and Grand Cape Mount. In furtherance of the above, we call on the President of Liberia H.E Dr. George Manneh Weah and the Ministry of Education under the supervision of one of the astute University Professors in Liberia, Prof. Dao Ansu Sonii to do everything possible to disengage in any arrangement or plan in the outsourcing of public schools in Liberia to Bridge.
In response the Education Minister Ansu Sonii commended the teachers for the orderly manner and form in which they conducted themselves terming it is very professional.
He said the government has received their document and will look at it critically and see the need necessary for modification including looking at some legal issues before taking action.
According to him if the system has to change it has to be done by all.
He clarified that the government has not privatized the system as claimed by some of the stakeholders.
The Education Minister indicated further that they are only partnering with those who have little bit of more to help support them.
Minister Sonii admitted that the process which started 2016 was done on a wrong footing.
However, he pointed out the government is following all necessary measures to ensure the restructuring of the agreement and to ensure the best and proper steps will be followed in close connection with the teacher’s body.