The Ministry of Education (MOE) has launched a countrywide sensitization program dubbed; “School-Community Partnership Initiative,” to make communities recognize their ownership role and responsibility in the promotion of quality education in the country.
The exercise is accordingly part of greater effort to remove barriers to ‘effectively and efficiently’ implore school governance, maintenance and development processes across the country.
The disclosure was made to the Daily Observer recently following the Assistant Minister of Education Minister for Student Personnel Services, T. Wilson Gaye series of encounters with the various education districts in Montserrado County.
According to Mr. Gaye, the intent of the outreach program is to sensitize communities about their ownership role and responsibility in the promotion of quality education in the country.
As part of the exercise, Mr. Gaye indicated that a team from the Bureau of Student Personnel Services comprising key staff has commenced an interactive dialogue with a cross-section of school administrators, teachers, students, parents, community leaders and district education officers in Montserrado County.
According to him, six of the nine school districts within the Montserrado County School System have so far been covered by the exercise, while the next phase of the dialogue is expected to cover the remaining three educational districts in the county as well as the other school districts across the country.
“During the interactive dialogues at the respective districts, the team informed the participants that the MOE initiated the nationwide sensitization to make communities recognize their ownership role and responsibility in the promotion of quality education.”
Mr. Gaye also asserted that the team would engage the MOE authority to recognize the value of working with community members in the effective management of schools, and sharing responsibility for as well as taking full ownership of the education system.
As such, the Assistant Minister Gaye underscored the importance of community engagement in education.
He added that the process is critical to removing barriers and achieve quality education for all.
“Successful engagement empowers communities to participate in multi facets of education support in all parts of the country.”
The team, he noted, when school administrators, teachers and parents mutually support and recognize the role and relevance of one another, opportunities for learning can be maximized.
“That is to say, teachers need support and recognition from communities to perform effectively, while parents need guidance from teachers and other school personnel to understand how they can support their children’s learning.”
The team then urged community members to take ownership of the education of their children by not only embracing government’s free and compulsory education, but by also protecting and preserving school facilities and preventing school-going children and teachers from getting involved in unwholesome acts.
Mr. Gaye identified some of the unwholesome acts as school-based crimes, report of sex for or commercialization of grades, sexual harassment, child labor, etc.
The team further maintained that community involvement in school management will help to increase accountability for both learning outcomes and school resources.
Towards this end, the team called for a vibrant resuscitation (revival) of the parent teacher-student associations (PTSAs) and the setting up of school management committees (SMCs) in all public schools in the country.
The team, however, noted that the effectiveness of the PTSAs and the SMCs will help to put a perpetual end to the alleged rampant encroachment and report of gross mishandling of school facilities across the country.
The team reiterated the Ministry’s commitment to working with the PTSAs and other community-based organizations to develop operational guidelines and key skills in decision making and resource management to enable the PTSAs and community organizations work in partnership with school administrators to enhance transparency and accountability.
A representative of the participants expressed appreciation to the MOE for the innovative undertaking which, they believe, would help to improve cooperation and collaboration between the schools and communities.
The participants, however, expressed disappointment with the manner in which school facilities are sometimes being abused by students and some ‘unscrupulous community members.’
Also, on behalf of the parents and school administrators, Mr. Gaye said, they reaffirmed their preparedness to collaborate with the Ministry in establishing vibrant PTSAs in schools in which there are none.
They welcomed endeavors by the Ministry to strengthen school-community collaboration and called for the extension of such ventures to the rest of the counties to solidify the operations of the PTSA framework, which could in turn complement the work of the Ministry.
The participants, however, frowned on government’s scanty support to schools, a situation that has often resulted to the inadequate sitting capacity in schools.
The various interactive dialogues concluded with both representatives of the Ministry and the participants resolving to closely work together in strengthening and giving a new outlook and direction to the PTSAs in an attempt to improving school governance and maintenance processes.
The over 200 participants further assured the Ministry of the prompt operation from their respective school PTSAs.
MOE 80% Payroll Clean-up
Meanwhile the MOE says it has achieved 80 percent of its payroll clean-up process in 2013.
According to a dispatch, deputy Education Minister for Instruction, Hawa Goll- Kochi said the Ministry is on the verge of completing the payroll clean-up exercise.
According to her, the Ministry’s international partners are assisting in fast tracking the process in Montserrado and Margibi counties.
She then blamed previous governments, especially those of the civil conflict years, for over-padding the Ministry’s payroll with names of individuals or relatives, who had no defined job descriptions.
She explained that those persons who were not on payroll but were only receiving stipends have been paid off by the ministry.
Deputy Minister Kochi disclosed that the current education administration inherited huge payroll complications (problems) starting from the 14-long years of civil crisis, during which time some ‘untrained persons’ were recruited into the teaching profession.
Deputy Minister Goll-Kotchi also said during the year under review, the Ministry established the early childhood division and the department of students’ personnel services-now headed by the Assistant Minister, T. Wilson Gaye, among others.
At the same time also, Minister Goll-Kochi has disclosed that about 90 percent of teachers currently in the classrooms are not graduates of teachers’ training colleges, but were merely using the teaching profession as a “first stage of survival.’’