“The government, in 2018, deleted the names of three teachers from the payroll, because it said the teachers were not qualified, so I am the only one teaching all the subjects,” Mr. Brown, the school’s principal said.
A Daily Observer survey conducted recently in Sanoyea District in Bong County has established that most of the public schools are “neglected with students being left to their own devices. It appears as though nobody, not even county authorities, are concerned about the dismal state of affairs of public education in the county.
For example, the Piata Public School has only one instructor, Wallee Brown, 61, who is reportedly assigned as the principal and registrar, as well as a classroom teacher providing instruction from the nursery thru the sixth grade classes.
“The situation has forced me to inform other pupils that are from 3rd to 6th grades are not to come to school until otherwise announced, but many of them are still forcing themselves to come, because they do not want to sit at home,” Mr. Brown said.
Brown, a 1979 graduate of the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTTI), informed the Daily Observer that the school has enrolled 125 students, but it is currently catering to only 25 due to the “no money syndrome to encourage the students and also the teaching staff,” he said.
He said he started from 1980 as a classroom teacher assigned at the school until recently, when he became the principal proper, following the dismissal of the previous principal who, education authorities claimed, was not qualified to teach.
“The government, in 2018, deleted the names of three teachers from the payroll, because it said the teachers were not qualified, so I am the only one teaching all the subjects,” Mr. Brown said.
The government built the Sanoyea Public School in 1973 to cater to the educational needs of school-going children. The school originally had four assigned teachers.
When asked how he manages to coordinate activities of the various classes simultaneously, Mr. Brown said he sometimes requests one of the students to write the notes on the chalk-board, while he is in another class teaching or sometimes he gives the students a class assignment.
He added, “sometimes I don’t visit other classes until school is over for that day.”
“Looking at my age, the next academic year, I will close down the school, because I alone cannot teach from the nursery to 6th grade,” Mr. Brown said.
Brown said the structure now risks total collapse judging from its dilapidated condition, noting, if the building is not renovated before the next school year, many parents may not send their children there.
Piata is surrounded by six satellite villages; “a reason that gave rise to the construction of the school to provide education to the children, who are unable to walk hours to Sanoyea Town for school,” Mr. Brown said. According to him, the distance between Piata Town and Sanoyea town is about three hours’ walk.
He said he has on several occasions informed the District Education Officer (DEO) Silas Juakollie about the situation at the school, “but the DEO has in return asked me to exercise patience as the Ministry of Education (MoE), and the government partners are doing everything possible to begin the employment of additional teachers.
“Our public schools accommodate majority of the poor and, if we well manage the schools, many of the ‘poor people’ will have access to a reasonable level of education that would lead to an increase in the literacy rate,” Mr. Brown concluded.
It can be recalled that former President Sirleaf once described the Liberian education system as a “mess” preferring instead to outsource public education to private business interests rather than training more teachers and outfitting public schools with instructional materials including the provision of laboratory and library facilities.
The Bridge Project and the sex scandal ridden More Than Me project were at the time touted by Education Minister, George Werner, as successful examples of what outsourcing of public education could achieve. The results of both projects today remain at best questionable as they have failed to deliver the promised dividends.
According to UNESCO public spending on education in 2017 accounted for a mere 7.0 percent of the national budget as opposed to the recommended global average of 20 per cent. This represents a rise of 5 percent from a dismal 2 per cent in 2012. This compares unfavorably to the Ivory Coast that spent 18.62 percent of its budget on public education in 2017 or to Guinea which spent 15.769 percent of its budget on public education while Liberia’s other neighbor Sierra Leone spent 19.915 percent of its budget on public education in 2017.
From all indications the situation may even regress further given the current economic downslide, while hopes for an upturn in the crisis may not prove tenable, at least in the short term, according to observers.
Meanwhile the Finance Ministry has announced a delay in the submission of the national budget. According to Ministry of Finance sources, this delay is because adjustments have to be made which may even require a cut in salaries of civil servants. Budgetary allocations to line ministries are expected to also be reduced. At this stage, it however remains unclear whether or to what extent the proposed cuts will affect the already low allocation to public education.