The Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE), has called on the government of Liberia to honour its human rights obligation to adequately fund public education and regulate the involvement of private sectors in the educational sector of Liberia.
During a press conference held in Monrovia, CENTAL’s Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, told journalists that the current unregulated involvement of private school operators is unacceptable and needs immediate actions.
He said education in Liberia should not be for profit-making and those doing so should have no place in the sector.
Mr. Miamen insists that COTAE wants the ongoing programs and activities of stakeholders in the sector, especially the Ministry of Education, to be guided by international and local laws and policies governing the sector, including the Abidjan Principles that provide clear direction on how states should engage with private and for-profit actors in the sector.
He also urged the civil society, media and citizens to remain engaged with activities in education by demanding accountability from government and fulfillment of the right to education of all citizens, especially the poor that need quality education to lift them out of poverty.
Mr. Miamen further disclosed that with funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), COTAE has commenced ongoing activities to popularize the Principles among stakeholders in Liberia and advocate for its recognition and full implementation by the Liberian Government, in line with its human rights obligations and commitment to providing equal access to educational opportunities to all citizens.
According to him, Abidjan Principles highlight the Human Rights obligations of States to provide Public Education and to regulate private involvement in education, mainly in Liberia.
It may be recalled in February 2019, the Guiding Principles were adopted in Côte d’Ivoire following a three-year participatory consultation and drafting process.
He added that the principles are based on existing human rights treaties and conventions, which include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Right of the Child and the Convention against All Forms of Discrimination in Education, to which he said Liberia is a signatory.
The principles, he noted, comprise 97 Guiding Principles. In addition to these, 10 overarching principles provide an overview and summary of the guiding principles, which clearly promote and defend the right to education, globally, especially in Liberia.
He named Article 6 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution which guarantees this, along with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs4), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other global, regional and national laws, policies and frameworks protecting the right to education.
These include Principle that require states to respect, protect and fulfill the right to educating of everyone within their jurisdiction in accordance with the rights to equality and non-discrimination; Principle 2 on the obligation of States to provide to prioritize the funding and provision of free, quality, public education and Principle 8 on the obligation of States to put into place adequate mechanisms to monitor compliance of public and private institutions with the right to education and ensure all public policies and practices related to this right comply with human rights principles.
Since 2019, according to Mr. Maimen, the principles have gained worldwide recognition by top bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council; United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS); Global Partnership for Education; and the Paris Peace Forum.
He added that the acceptance of these Principles by stakeholders, as an additional global framework to govern education is not surprising, as International Human Rights Laws require States to provide quality public education and leave room for private actors to offer educational alternatives.
Miamen, who earlier spoke on behalf of COTAE, urged the Government to honour its obligation by adequately funding education and regulating the activities of private actors in the sector.
“The current support to education is below the minimum 20% benchmark by the Global Partnership for Education. This is troubling, as the right to education cannot be fulfilled without adequate funding to the sector,” he said.
He also said that private school operators and other stakeholders intervening in education in Liberia must be regulated, so that their activities do not undermine the right to education of ordinary citizens.
Mr. Maimen further frowned on the government for what he called reneging on its responsibilities to fully regulate the sector, as private operators are practically running schools at will and charging just any fees.
The CENTAL executive director noted that the ongoing public-private partnership program between the Ministry of Education and Bridge International academies and other private providers must conform to Human Rights Laws and requirements for private involvement in education, including the Abidjan Principles.