President George Weah on Monday, January 28, informed Liberians, development partners and the world that his administration, taking interest in the country’s education system, purchased and distributed 78,000 armchairs, which he said were distributed to schools across the country.
Weah made the disclosure during his second annual message before the joint session of the 54th Legislature at the Capitol.
“In addition to other development programs my government formulated, 78,000 pieces of modern armchairs were purchased for public schools across the country,” the President said.
As welcoming as President Weah’s report may appear, a survey conducted by this newspaper over the months and even years shows that tens of thousands of students in public schools across the country sit in classrooms that do not have seats, apart from the bare floor, cement blocks or other objects that make learning uncomfortable.
One case that caught the attention of the Daily Observer in February 2018 was the deplorable learning environment, including lack of chairs, for most of the students attending the Bahn High School in Zoe-Gbao Administrative District, Nimba County, the Nyor-Buutuo Public School, near Buutuo Headquarters, also in Nimba County, etc.
The reality, as reported by the Daily Observer, had it that every year hundreds of junior high school graduates are denied access to secondary education in Zoe Gbao district, simply because of lack of space and additional chairs to accommodate them.
“According to local education authorities, this is because the only government high school in the district, the Bahn High School, lacks sufficient classroom space to accommodate the large number of students matriculating to secondary level. This has created a situation that sees hundreds of students being denied access to secondary education simply for lack of classroom space to accommodate them. The students have described their situation as a ‘living hell’ due to official government neglect,” the report said.
With the huge population growth in Nimba County, particularly due to its commercial prowess and as a result of the presence of the Ivorian and Guinean borders, lots of people fear that their children may not have quality secondary education, given the lack of sufficient classrooms and seats to host them.
In other public schools around Paynesville, closer to Monrovia, the Daily Observer reliably learned that other than the schools in rural counties, hundreds, if not thousands of students, are yet to get seats in their classrooms.
“Some of us come to school earlier than we should, because we want to have access to seats in our classrooms. If you come late, you will definitely have to stand up, squat or find an object to sit on to take your lessons,” two female students at the Paynesville Community School (PCS) said, with a preferment that their names be withheld from this report.
About other things the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led government has done over the course of its first year for the education sector, President Weah said there is an increase in scholarship awards.
“During the period under review, we undertook measures and mechanisms for transforming and sustaining an educational system that is adequate, to ensure that the constitutional obligation of the government is met,” he said.
“Increase the number of scholarships awarded to more than 1,165, which included 129 foreign scholarships, costing the government a total sum of US$2.5 million. The governments of China and Morocco and several other countries awarded bilateral scholarships to nearly 100 Liberians to study in those countries,” the President added.
Although he did not say how government will sustain some of the actions it has taken in the education sector, Weah boasted that his government is pleased to have declared all public universities and colleges tuition-free and has achieved the goal to digitize the registration process at the University of Liberia (UL).
“I am pleased that government has intervened on behalf of parents and guardians by paying over US$2.03 million and L$41.5 million for 33,931 grade 12 students and 17,679 9th graders respectively,” Weah said.
Weah added that government is spending US$350,000 for all 12th graders regular Saturday tutorial classes in an effort to help reduce the massive failure among students sitting the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
“…in addition to the interventions made by the government to shift the paradigm for a better education system, we also received strong support from our international partners to the education component of the Pro-Poor Agenda,” he said.
He continued, “The World Bank made a grant of US$25 million for investment in public secondary schools, including construction, rehabilitation, setting up of laboratories, provision of teachers’ residences in rural communities, girls’ retention through secondary school, and a host of other interventions helpful for secondary school children.”