‘Getting to Best’: Ellen Chairs Education Roundtable

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday chaired an Education Roundtable Meeting held on the theme, “Getting to Best.” The meeting was in further consultations with stakeholders on how to improve the country’s education sector.

The meeting with education stakeholders, according to Executive Mansion release, was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium where the President was joined by Education Minister George Werner and the leadership of the Education Ministry, Cabinet Ministers, International Partners, educational authorities of private and public institutions, advocacy education organizations, and student advocacy institutions, among others.

During the meeting, President Sirleaf warned that reforming the education sector to “best” is going to be a long road, and not a quick fix. “Whatever we do is going to take years,” she warned, nothing, “Our challenge is to start the process, get the elements of that process right taking into account the recommendations advanced by the participants.”

She urged Liberians in the education sector to continue with consultations at different levels – students, teachers, parents-teachers association, among others and further discuss and address some of the many challenges affecting the sector including the ills in schools and how they can be overcome.

President Sirleaf then thanked all those who attended the meeting for their insightful participation especially the international partners, who have been there with the MOE authorities providing support and pieces of advice.

“I just want to see this spirit continue,” she said, emphasizing that the responsibility of building the country rests on Liberians primarily; but is thankful for the partnership that the country has that has enabled it to go beyond its own resources and capabilities.

Earlier, George Werner made a presentation on the topic, “Getting to Best,” and outlined nine priority projects which, he said will lay the foundation for quality learning for children in Liberia over the next two years. He named National Roll-out of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA); Qualified Teachers with the Skills to Improve Learning Outcomes; Supported and Motivated Teachers will Improve Learning Outcomes; and School Infrastructure Meets the Needs of Children.

“Others priority projects are schools and for teachers to have the resources to improve learning; improving enrolment and retention; lay the foundation for children’s education with early childhood education; young people to have the necessary skills to secure Jobs through Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET); Girls’ Learning Outcomes Improve; and the MOE, and schools are accountable for children’s learning.

Minister Werner emphasized that statistics on education in Liberia show that 42 percent of primary school age children are not in school; more than 20 percent of young people aged 15-24 are illiterate; while one-third of young people are not employed, educated or trained.
He reiterated that the education system is referred to as a “mess” “because there are not enough safe and quality schools, core literacy and numeracy skills are not taught, over a third of our teachers are not qualified and young children are not prepared for school and start late.”

Continuing, he said girls are less likely to enroll, stay in school and graduate, secondary-level education is under resourced, centralized system is unaccountable to schools and students, and young people cannot access market-driven and relevant TVET. “We must act now to stop another generation losing out on an education,” he warned, adding that immediate change is necessary to get to best.

Participants proposed a number of suggestions to enhance the MOE in getting to the best. They suggested that ownership and the role of communities are key; the need to strengthen the role of civil society; the need for decentralization, safe school environment, and improved partnership.

They also proposed the need for teaching nutrition to students and parents; health of students, as well as guidance and counseling.

Other proposals advanced by the participants were the need to curtailing violence (sexual and gender-based); improve resources for education; take concrete actions to address education issues; improve response time in addressing teacher replacement and placing teachers on payroll; ensure accountability and spend resources efficiently; rebrand TVET, focus on after-school programs; establish a national inspectorate board, ensure parental education, build play grounds at all schools, reform the school curriculum; among others.

Meanwhile, as part of the commemoration of Liberia’s 168th Flag Day anniversary, President Sirleaf has launched the National Curriculum on Citizenship Education.

During the commemoration of the 168th Flag Day anniversary at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion under the theme, “The Flag, Our Identity,” yesterday President Sirleaf stressed that the Curriculum on Citizenship Education is an indispensable tool for enhancing citizens’ education.

The Curriculum on Citizenship Education appreciates, but substantially departs from previous initiatives, which have focused on helping students understand the branches of government with emphasis typically focused on the president. This initiative provides the framework for a broader learning experience in the art of citizenship beginning with an understanding of our identities, families, environments and the communities within, which we live, and the organization and functioning of government. It also helps students understand and appreciate the complex patterns of interaction, rights, obligations and duties of citizenship.

Organized with incremental levels of complexities, the content will be taught from Grades 1 through Grade 12.

As this is the completion of the first phase, President Sirleaf thanked the Governance Commission and the Ministries of Education, and Finance and Development Planning for working together towards its completion and called on them to do what they can to secure the required resources to begin the textbook writing project so that in a year’s time, the teaching of citizen’s education can be strengthened as they commence introducing the new textbooks in all schools.

“I hope that by the time of the 2017-2018 school year, Citizenship Education would form an integral part of the curriculum of every school in our country,” she indicated.

Touching on the choice of celebrating our ‘Community’, President Sirleaf reflected on the ability of our communities that took ownership and led the process as Liberia battled the Ebola virus disease (EVD). “The ability of our communities to take ownership and lead the process as we battled an unknown enemy—truly manifests an engrained sense of identity, patriotism and commitment to service,” she said, adding, “It is a nationalistic service to people and country that replaces tears with hope and a restored self-esteem population.”

She stressed that as a people, we have something to celebrate owing to our unique identity, which must be divorced of politics and pettiness. “It is that identity that positions us to recognize that ‘war-war’ can be replaced by ‘joy-joy’,” she furthered.

President Sirleaf indicated that it is our solemn appreciation that “one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all” is not only a manifestation but an inherent embodiment of our identity. That is all the reason why the Flag serves as a constant reminder of a recognition and testimony of who we are as a people and as a nation.

Prior to the indoor program, 20 high schools in and around Monrovia participated in the usual drill ceremony. This was a major highlight of the day’s activities that included President Sirleaf, who is Commander-in-Chief (C-I-C) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and the Ministers of Education and Defense that received the Eyes-right salute from students.

This year’s 1st place winner and Best Eyes-Right was G. W. Gibson High School; 2nd place and Best Drilled, Cathedral High School; and 3rd place and Best Dressed, St. Theresa’s Convent. They each received a presidential award of US$600, US$400 and US$200, respectively. Each school also got US$150 and a medal for their participation. The Muslim Congress High School was selected as the Most Discipline School.

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