A disturbing development with unprecedented consequences in Education ever since Minister Werner took the realms of office is looming and if caution is not taken, the doors of public schools will be shut until something is done about it.
He came into the Ministry with the tacit belief that he alone knows the answers to all the problems in Education. He ignored the National Education Plans put together by previous Ministers who are distinguished Educators-Dr Kandakai, Othello Gongar, Dr Korto and Mrs Tarpeh. All of these people did their best to revamp the system but the bottom line was always the lack of funds to do the job to bring about change.
Our current Minister, having returned from USA believes he has all the solutions and can move Education from what he describes as FROM THE MESS TO THE BEST. How presumptuous is he?
It is always a good thing to aim at the sky and to be ambitious; but Education is so important that no individual can claim the monopoly of knowledge to manage it.
Since his tenure in office, Minister Werner has waged a war of words on teachers who can make the best of plans fail or succeed. Instead of encouraging and mentoring them, he has targeted them for humiliation, dismissal, outsourcing of pre-primary and primary schools in order to reduce the wage bill and handover public education gradually to business companies in USA and UK. Due to pressure, he has roped in local providers and faith-based institutions who have always been running schools in Liberia. Mr Minister claims the teachers are illiterate, some untrainable.
The Ministry has developed a code of ethics for teachers without the involvement of teachers on the assumption that teachers are the only people responsible for all the failures of Education in Liberia. Reading through the Code of Ethics, one is prone to believing that teachers in Liberia are a bunch of criminals, involved in gang raping, gangsterism, school girl pregnancies, chronic absenteeism without good cause etc.
Indeed this man must be coming from another planet.
In his problem analysis, Minister Werner admits that 30 percent of teachers are without training. In Nimba, he posits that 48percent of teachers are without certification. In rural areas he claims a third of teachers are illiterate. Teacher attendance in school is poor with some teachers unpaid, names deleted on payroll, unapproved volunteer and community teachers, ghost teachers ostensibly recruited by the very Ministry of Education, teachers travelling long distances to get pay cheques. He also admits that his Ministry does not have the capacity to monitor and evaluate teacher and school effectiveness.
Furthermore, the Minister admits that teachers are demotivated with no incentives to attract and retain qualified ones.
Instead of tackling these problems, Minister Werner, under the influence of business organisations and the World Bank who pose as messiahs of Privatisation, have chosen the easier but unsustainable option of an unprecedented whole sale outsourcing of pre-primary and primary education, because of the number of students involved for profit making.
With a United Kingdom adviser to Minister Werner, provided by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Minister has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Bridge International Academies. We understand that Bill Gates and other billionaires are supporters of enterprises such as Bridge Academies and other education service providers whose motive is not philanthropic, but purely profit making. The fact that they provide already made lessons, encrypted in tablets and supplied to teachers, majority of whom are ill-trained or non- professionals, does not guarantee the intended educational objectives. Their sole emphasis is on literacy and numeracy but these alone cannot guarantee effective educational outcomes.
Education goes beyond reading and writing and Minister Werner should know that.