— Wants 20% increment
As the 2020/2021 national budget is being formulated, Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE) has reiterated its call for the Government of Liberia, especially the Executive and Legislature to honor their obligations to increase budgetary support to the education sector to at least 20 percent.
Speaking at a news conference held in Monrovia on July 8, 2020, COTAE’s National Coordinator, Anderson D. Miamen, told newsmen that the organization is deeply concerned about the fate of the Education Sector of the country.
Mr. Miamen said the continued inadequacy of resources that, to MoE undermines the quality, adequacy, accessibility, and gender sensitivity of educational services in Liberia; this, he said, will not only meet the minimum 20 percent benchmark commitment required by the Global Partnership for Education, Incheon Declaration of 2015 and global frameworks, but enable MOE and the National Commission on Higher Education as well other key players to address enormous existing challenges in the sector which have been compounded by the emergence of COVID-19.
He believes that there is no better time to substantially invest in education than now, when COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of the system, especially its inability to continue with academic and other productive activities during an emergency.
He wants the government to honor its commitment to satisfactorily fund and fulfill the right to education of its citizens, in line with Article 6 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution. He added that Pillar One (Power to the People) of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), and adopted international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC), Incheon Declaration of 2015, Dakar Framework of 2000, Sustainable Development Goal 4, and Abidjan Principles of 2019.
Mr. Miamen also noted that it is important to acknowledge that education is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by Article 6 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, Sustainable Development Goal 4, the Abidjan Principles and other global, regional and national frameworks and policies.
Such right, he noted, cannot be downplayed by any nation, and especially impoverished country like Liberia in urgent need of the required human capital to develop, fully implement and sustain its transformative agenda.
Mr. Miamen: “We wish to thank the Government of Liberia for steady progress towards increasing national budgetary support to education.” Over the last two budget years, the allocation for education has increased, especially by 1 percent from 13.7 percent in fiscal year 2017/2018 to 14.7 percent in 2018/2019, as well as another percentage increment for fiscal year 2019/2020, representing 15.8 percent.
He also acknowledged the concerted efforts by the “More 4 Education Campaign”, funded by USAID through the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI); the MOE Legislature, and other critical partners as stakeholders that made this possible.
However, Mr. Miamen said not much has been done to celebrate as government’s support to education lags far behind regional counterparts. “A research conducted by COTAE in 2018 discovered that Sierra Leone allocated 27% to education, while Ghana and Senegal appropriated 35% of their budgets to education respectively.”
He added that besides the actual education budget for fiscal year 2019/20 suffered an 8% decrease from US$570.14 million in FY 2018/19 to US$525.91 million in FY 2019/20. In other words, he said the percentage increment for education to 15.8% amounts to US$83.4 million, a US$1.9 million decline when compared to the US$85.3 million allocations for FY 2018/2019.
He claimed that all of these things are happening when the education sector is faced with numerous challenges due to low financing. The challenges have even been exacerbated by COVID-19, which has left schools closed for a protracted period and needs repair, fumigation, and other efforts to secure them for learning upon resumption of full academic activities.
These according to him, it has added to existing challenges, including but not limited to lack of adequate learning facilities and supplies; shortage of trained and motivated teachers; lack of gender-sensitive and responsive services; and limited opportunities to enroll and retain girls and persons with special needs in school.
He noted that Transforming education in Liberia, in part through addressing corruption and waste, decentralizing decision making and empowering local level structures; and addressing the plights of teachers, students and other educational workers require timely, collective and well-coordinated efforts.
Meanwhile, Miamen mentioned that the COVID-19 outbreak has heightened the need for keen attention to the education sector, given its critical role in keeping students and teachers engaged in academic and other productive activities, especially during emergencies.
“With the increasing gravitation towards online education, which has become apparent due to social distancing, restriction on movement, and other relevant health protocols announced by the government, the Ministry of Education needs to devise appropriate means to keep all students engaged.”