Gloomy Picture of Education in Southeast

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The South East Women’s Development Association, (SEWODA), a local non-governmental organization (NGO) working in collaboration with National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) yesterday presented to the Minister of Education (MOE)a comprehensive report based on its observations of the state of public elementary schools in the Southeast.
Up to press time last night, no news had come out of the SEWODA presentation. Attempts by this newspaper to contact MOE’s Director of Communications, J. Maxim Bletahn, did not materialize as his phone was switched off, while staff in his office up to 5 p.m. could not give his whereabouts to reporters.
SEWODA’s report included school facilities in River Gee, Maryland and Grand Kru counties, respectively.
According to the organization’s field agents’ observations over the period June to July this year, 88 public elementary schools in the southeast don’t follow required standards.
SEWODA said a majority of the schools do not have textbooks, libraries or benches.
“These findings and others,” the report said, “suggest that the vast majority of the 19,561 students in the 88 monitored schools have little opportunity to realize their talents and capabilities.”
According to SEWODA, out of the 88 selected public elementary schools’ total enrollment 10,773 or 55 percent are boys and 8,788 or 45 percent are girls. This is an average of 222 students in each school.
The total number of teachers is 561 of which 427 or 76 percent are males and 134 or 24 percent are females, which amounts to an average of only 6 teachers per school.
The average number of students per teacher is 35, while 43 schools (49 percent) do not have a janitor (housekeeper).
Of the 65 schools 74 percent do not have security guards, while 77 schools or 87 percent do not have a first aid team. Among the schools, only two have libraries.
Legal provisions
In 2011 the Education Reform Act was adopted by the Liberian Legislature and signed by the President. In this Act, the Ministry of Education is required to provide and ensure the provision of quality education to all citizens and residents.
Its mandate is to develop and sustain an educational system that allows all students to realize their talents and capabilities and to reduce illiteracy by providing quality, realistic and practical education. This includes the development of prototype designs of school furniture as well as the development and construction of public school libraries.
Recommendations
The citizens’ report recommends that girls’ enrollment must be increased through appropriate programs and activities and more professionally trained teachers must be employed in public elementary schools.
SEWODA is a local civil society organization working towards women’s political empowerment and development specifically in Liberia’s southeast counties. The group is one of National Democratic Institute for International Affairs’ advocacy partners under its Citizen Centered Political Engagement program, which is funded by the Embassy of Sweden.
SEWODA works with local residents across the three counties through Citizen Observatory to monitor three social issues in the counties with education topping their priorities. Based on their findings SEWODA will work with relevant stakeholders to improve the social conditions in the southeast of Liberia.

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