-Present position statement to county authorities
Residents of Kokoya, Panta-Kpaii, Gbarnga 1 and 11 educational districts in collaboration with a pro-democracy civil society organization, the Community Development Research Agency (CODRA), on Friday February 22, 2019, petitioned the county leadership to improve education in those areas.
CODRA Executive Director, Lassana Dukuly, said the assessment of public schools in Bong County affecting those districts was the result of different information gathered by USAID through the GeoPoll services and education surpassed the research as priority for the residents.
Dukuly said the research established that there was a disconnect between teachers and students as it relates to classroom attendance and learning relevance.
He said the study was carried out in 40 public schools in four of the eight education districts in the county. The study established that 27 of the 40 public schools have functional parent-teacher-associations (PTAs) and that, across the 40 schools, teachers leave the classroom before 11:00 a.m., leaving As the result, students are left roaming around.
“Our survey established also that there are 371 teachers in the schools assessed with 251 of them government-employed, while the 120 are said to be ‘volunteer teachers’. And there is an enormity of what is happening at the various schools” Mr. Dukuly said.
In a well prepared statement read on behalf of the residents by student Doris Dolo of the Nathaniel Varney Massaquoi High School in Gbarnga, the residents have observed over the years the rapid decline of education in the county, which include the lacked of desks, limited trained teachers, poor infrastructures, inadequate classrooms and offices for teachers.
In their petition statement, the residents also said that the lack of libraries and laboratories as well as text books in most public schools in the county is impeding the learning environment of the students.
Most of the public schools in the county, if not all, do not have toilet facilities, no hand pump and no supervision and monitoring and evaluation. As the result, teachers are slow to teach, the residents’ petition said.
“Bad supervision and no monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are the major challenges that characterize the Liberian educational sector” they said.
They furthered that in July, 2018, CODRA engaged educational stakeholders at the county and district level, and on the spot physical assessment of school facilities and engaged the PTAs aimed to identify and find solution to some of the challenges the schools are facing.
The residents recalled that in 2017, a USAID funded project, Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative (LAVI), conducted a political and economic analysis of the educational system in the county, and identified issues such as poor teaching, and classroom learning relevant as root causes of problems in the educational sector.
In their petition, they expressed the hope that their petition will stimulate the county leadership to mobilize all stakeholders at the county level to work with national government to break with the past, and ensure that the annual national budget reflects the implementation of Liberia Reform Education Act of 2011.
The petitioners recommended that the government fully implement the 2011 Education Reform Act chapter 9.1, which obligates national government as a primary financier of all public schools in the country; that 60% of the signatories’ fees of all agreements should go directly toward education; that the government should increase the education budget to 20% as enshrined in the Dakar framework of 2014, of which Liberia is signatory. The Dakar framework requires all member states to allocate a minimum of 20% of its national annual budget to education, but Liberia is yet to implement the agreement.
Jesse F. Kollie, PTA chairman of the John Flomo Bakalu Junior High School, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, called on education authorities to pay attention to the petition to improve learning facilities in the county.
Bong County Assistant Superintendent, Anthony Boakai Sheriff, who received the petition on behalf of the county leadership, lauded CODRA, and the petitioners for highlighting loopholes in the county’s education system. Sheriff then promised to deliver the petition to the education authorities.
According to Dukuly, the County Education Officer, Armah Varflee, as well as the District Education Officers, were invited, but none of them showed up or even sent a proxy.