Since the country’s 14 year civil war ended in 2003, the education sector is yet to regain the needed respect where the quality of schools would improve to match the required teaching.
As such, the sector continues to show signs of decline with students performing poorly in public exams to the extent that admission to the state run University of Liberia (UL) has continuously exposed the weak educational system by rejecting high school graduates who fail the university’s admission exams in massive numbers.
Under the year in review, 13,000 candidates registered for the UL placement and examinations. The result, only 15 candidates passed.
As of the annual examinations administered for junior and senior students by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), this year’s recorded leakage of the exam papers from the Konola Campus where the test materials were stored in the outskirt of Kakata, Margibi County, was a sign of how unprepared students were to sit the exam.
For that reason, WAEC Head of its Monrovia office John Y. Gayvolor announced reprinting of the test papers, but felt short to say whether the remaining “leaked papers” were destroyed or not. In the end, the test was re-administered to the students, even though the date on the “cancelled exams” was the same on the “reprinted ones.”
The reported leakage in the exams prompted the plenary of the Senate to mandate its Committee on Education to probe the incident.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) in collaboration with WAEC Liberia announced the postponement of the exams.
The plenary’s decision became necessary following a communication sent to that body by Education Minister George K. Werner.
According to Minister Werner, the test which was to have been administered to only 12th graders on May 23 was cancelled and postponed to a later date.
Meanwhile, the Liberia Senior High School Certificate Examination (LSHSCE) was scheduled for May 23 to Friday, May 27, 2016 at 96 centers and depots around the country.
Henceforth, WAEC hired 22 supervisors along with 1,564 proctors to assist with the monitoring of the examinations to 46,917 candidates.
The sector was often engulfed by a series of demonstrations, but this year’s education suffered another round of protests when teachers under the banner of the Monrovia Consolidated School System protested in demand of the immediate resignations of Minister Werner and the Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), Benjamin Jacobs. The protestors stormed the grounds of the ministry for a week venting their anger with the way the sector is being run by the Werner administration, which the protesting teachers accused of “unilaterally taking decisions,” which often affect them.
The protestors were teachers who told journalists that they are demanding the resignations of Werner and Superintendent Jacobs because Werner’s educational reform has failed, besides his dismissing teachers, and that Jacobs’s educational qualifications are questionable.
The protesting teachers were from the MCSS Teachers Association, the National Teachers Association of Liberia, and other local teachers’ unions.
They were demanding Minister Werner’s resignation because of his role in bringing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) and the introduction of the Bridge Academies that they said lacks what it takes to reform the Liberian school system.
The PPP was accused of collecting over L$3,000 per student in the primary level, and employing many unqualified teachers.
The protestors said Bridge Academies, the foreign private education company the government has outsourced the education system to, has no success story in all the countries it has served.
For that, the teachers said Minister Werner lacks leadership skills and Supt. Jacobs lacks quality academic credentials to manage education.
But the accused duo rubbished the teachers’ claims and refused to resign, nothing, “Our government is not ready to relieve us of our respective posts.”
The two officials said the protesting teachers are at liberty to express their feelings, but should understand that Minister Werner is not the problem in the education reform process, but is working with specific mandates.
Minister Werner, who initially mocked the protesting teachers describing them as ‘good tailors’ before removing the post on the social media, maintained that he will continue his ongoing reforms and will not bow to pressure from the protesting teachers.
Werner admitted that Bridge Academies failed in Kenya and Uganda, but said, “It does not mean they (will) also fail in Liberia.”
Students joined the fray by setting up road blocks thinking the action will attract the attention of the national government to their plight since they’ve not been able to express their concerns to the county education officer in Kakata, Margibi County, where worst of the incident occurred.
“No one has a right to infringe on the rights of others. If there are grievances, it does not give students any right to infringe on those of others”- President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
In the aftermath of the confusion, all parties looked up to the President to make a decision. She had all the while been out of the country. But upon her return, she told Minister Werner to investigate and close down schools involved in violent activities that characterized the demonstrations, which led to the setting up of roadblocks along the Monrovia—Robertsfield highway and other parts of the country.
The President’s pronouncement dashed the hopes of protesting teachers.
During the year under review, the government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with private partners to improve the sector, a measure interpreted as outsourcing the country’s education system. However, the story of public education is one that remains unsettled.
The MOU says it would change it for the better with the announcement from the government that the Partnership School for Liberia initiative was a good first phase pilot project.
The plan is to unite education providers with proven a track record to deliver high-quality education in public primary schools.
Bridge International Academies took center stage as one of the first partners of the initiative due to its “tremendous success” in delivering excellent learning outcomes in its over 450 plus kindergarten/nursery and primary schools.
With that in the mind, the MOE is expected to design a new format in its drive to reform the sector by the year 2017 to meet international standards where quality education will remain the hallmark of our time. The government says it is on a mission to dramatically improve education and ensure inclusive and quality education for all by 2024.