Since the civil war, over 100 public schools in rural Liberia have persistently shown no sign of academic improvement because of the lack of trained teachers.
There is a persistent gap in the performance, achievement and results between rural and urban students, except for a few rural schools run by concessions and churches, which are narrowing the gap, according to an ongoing audit of rural education by the Committee on Education and Public Administration of the House of Representatives.
A member of the Secretariat of the House Committee, who requested anonymity, told the Daily Observer over the weekend that “the Ministry of Education is yet to develop a targeted and comprehensive strategy to overcome commonly understood learning barriers. These include the failure to employ qualified teachers, the lack of laboratory and library facilities needed to strengthen the rural workforce and improve the quality of life for rural Liberians.”
The source said there are significant gaps in educational attainment as well as in the quality and availability of healthcare between rural and urban communities. These gaps arise in part because rural areas face several unique challenges in achieving high-quality education and health care.
The source further said that in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the USAID Liberia Teacher Training Program is supporting the Rural Teacher Training Institutes in Zorzor, Kakata and Webbo. The goal, said the source, is to develop teacher standards, improve curricula, provide teaching and learning resources and, through school-based teacher training, implement Liberia’s national plan to ensure that all children are reading by the end of grade three.
The House Committee on Education and Public Administration is also investigating why some of the trained teachers from rural training institutions are yet to be given assignments and placed on payroll amid the so-called search for qualified teachers to be deployed across the country.
The Committee is chaired by Rep. Matthew Zarzar and co-chaired by Rep. C. Alex Grant. The members are Representatives Ben Fofana, Edward Forh, Fofi Sahr Biamba, Mariamu Fofana and Christian Chea.
The Plenary of the House mandated the Committee last Tuesday, February 3, based on a communication from Rep. Johnson T. Chea of Electoral District 1, River Gee County.
According to the River Gee Lawmaker, if trained teachers from reputable institutions of rural training find it difficult to get assignments and placements on Government payroll for the effective development of the children, Liberia cannot boast of any bright future for its rural dwellers.
Citing the provision of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, Rep. Chea declared that education is a fundamental right for every child in spite of location, economic background or affiliation, among other things.
“We cannot deny our children this right. We need to act not tomorrow, but now as we set the pace in preparing our precious jewels for tomorrow,” the lawmaker asserted in his communication.
He maintained that government must take the necessary action to ensure that qualified teachers are hired and placed on Government payroll.
The Committee is expected to review and advise plenary on Tuesday, 17 February. The question is, will the Liberian Government employ and deploy those 1,500 trained teachers in rural schools to improve the education sector in the interior?
It may be recalled that prior to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), 156 graduates from the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) were awarded pre-service “C” certificates, qualifying them to teach at the primary school level.
The Director of the ZRTTI, Dr. Advertus Orea Wright, awarded the certificates along with one of two Peace Corps Volunteers who worked with the institution during the teacher training.
The graduates, mostly between the ages of 25 and 35, hailed from Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties.
They are the most recent addition to a new cadre of teachers being trained by the Government of Liberia, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to ensure that qualified teachers are placed in classrooms across the country.