US$80M to Reform Education Sector

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Min. Werner1.jpg

Minster Werner told journalists at the dedication of the Kinston Weagba Public School in Tarjourwon District in Sinoe County on Tuesday that government needs US$80 million to successfully reform the sector.
This amount, he said, will include the construction of modern schools in all parts of the country; training of teachers and their quarters; science laboratories and many other administrative initiatives.
The Kinston Weagba Public School, located in the One Way Community, Tarjourwon, has everything that is required of a modern school facility.
Minister Werner told reporters that MOE will need pretty close to US$80 million to implement all of the strategies for the education sector and to build schools to particularly decongest places like Monrovia.
He said this will help to drastically reduce the appalling student-to-teacher ratio, which currently stands at 50, 75 or 100 students to a teacher depending on the places.
“In our own strategy for the reform, we need the money to build schools across Liberia that will also help in cutting down the student population of places that are overcrowded, like Monrovia and other places. We need to reduce the ratio to at least 40:1.”
The government, he said has an agreement with the Global Education Partnership and the World Bank to construct 41 modernized schools across the country. 27 of the 41 are nearing completion, with the Kinston Weagba Public School being one of them. The project is a US$40 million agreement between the three partners and comes to an end next year.
The cost of construction of the Kinston Weagba Public High School, which the minister termed as the flagship project that he would want for all schools in the country, is US$500,000.
“We want to build modern schools that have the facilities we want in all of our schools. For example, the bathrooms here for the females will have showers. There are also teachers’ quarters that will be well furnished, laboratories and others. All the teachers will need to do is to bring their suitcase. You will meet the furniture and you will leave the furniture when you are re-assigned.
It’s great to see the future right here, he said, “When this school is fully completed, the labs and everything will be equipped. There will be desks, textbooks, library, labs, teachers’ lounge and everything that is require of a modern school.
Reforming Liberia’s “Messy” education system, which seems to be the most debated public policy issue of recent, “requires the collective efforts every Liberian and commitment on the part of the government and partners, because the task is monumental and the cost is as well exorbitant,” Minister of Education, George Werner, said.
Since the thought of reforming the system was brought out by Minister Werner when he called for the premature closure of schools to prepare for the commencement of the reform exercise, there have been lot of debates in the public sphere about sincerity, rationale behind this call, with many terming it as belated.
This skepticism is especially apparent giving that the current administration is only left with two more years, but Minister Werner, who desires to leave a legacy on the sector, continues to stress that every long journey begins with a single step and much could be achieved in the next two years if all of the stakeholders work on a concerted and unified front.
“What you see here is what we would like for our schools to look like when the reform is put on track and fully implemented,” he said.
In selecting the communities that will be beneficiaries of the 41 schools under the project, the Minister said there was a demographic survey done to select the site.
It is important to provide a very safe environment for students to learn like the construction exercises that are ongoing, Minister Werner noted, but there are needs for qualified teacher. Liberia currently has just 17 percent of its teachers that have first degree, while the rest do not have.
“Just a minute percent of our teachers have their first degrees; the rest are high school graduates or no high school certificates at all. So we do have a monumental task,” the minister said.
“We are to make sure that we train teachers. We are working with the universities, the University of Liberia and the Tubman University in Maryland County to train more teachers. At the moment we are recruiting science and mathematics teachers, but the recruitment is very slow,”
He hopes that young Liberians, who have degrees in the sciences, can apply, because we aim at paying them well. If they have to relocate them we will have to give them in addition to their salaries, relocation allowances,” he said.

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