Speech Delivered by Mrs. Etmonia David Tarpeh, Minister of Education, At the General Conference (37th Session, UNESCO), Paris, France, November 5-20, 2013

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Her Excellency, the President of the General Conference

Her Excellency, the Director General of UNESCO

The Chairperson and members of the Executive Board

Excellencies

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

I bring you warm felicitations from the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia.

Excellences, Liberia continues to make progress in all of the fields of competence of UNESCO. Our Educational System is in an active transition, since the National Consultative Conference that changed the direction of our Educational System through a wide consensus by all of our stakeholders.

Liberia just recently celebrated ten consecutive years of peace since the signing of the Comprehensive Accra Peace Accord in 2003. We salute all of you who have contributed so generously to this hard earned peace.

With the national leadership and support from our International Partners, the Decentralization of our Educational System is well on course. Although there is much work to be done to get the system to an acceptable level.

Over the last two years, we have been able to increase enrollment at all levels because of the Free Basic Education. This increase in student growth has led to overcrowded classrooms across the country resulting to a very high teacher/student ratio. Poor learning, school facilities and poorly prepared teachers are hampering the learning outcomes of our children. Much work is needed in this direction.

The Government in collaboration with partners in the sector have several projects which address the low enrollment and retention of girls in school. Additionally, there are several hostels for girls that are, for the first time, opened to rural poor and vulnerable girls who dropped out of school, to help them re-enter and complete their studies at no cost to them. 

The Government, with support from donors, have invested much resources to address these deficiencies.

These resources have focused mainly on rebuilding facilities, overhauling of the curriculum for teachers training and for the schools to make them relevant to post conflict realities, the reactivation of a vigorous supervision and monitoring of instruction, the standardization of school designs to include science laboratories, libraries and teacher housing.

The present challenges are daunting but the political will is there on the part of our Government to continue on the reform process.

In order to improve the delivery of educational services, the Government has begun the implementation of a robust decentralization of the sector, working closely with the newly established School Boards, the Government recently completed the recruitment and deployment of qualified County and District Education Officers throughout the Country.

Liberia has a youthful population; 53% of whom are below 20 years old. This has placed a tremendous strain on the education delivery system. The Government is working with the European Union (EU), the Chinese Government and other International and Bilateral Organizations to develop a Vocational and Technical Program which strives to address the education and skills training for these young people. The skills and training will make them employable and capacitated to go into entrepreneurship which will make them self-reliant.

We do know that the areas of Vocational Education and Youth Development are specialty of UNESCO. We therefore invite the Director General to join in intervening for these young people.

There is a crises in the quality of higher education and UNESCO’s expertise is much needed to critically review the situation to find a way forward. The quality of the outcomes is of course linked to the poorly prepared students who enter our Universities. UNESCO’s experience in this area will enable us do a Situational Analysis to better understand the problems.

The Government has a Freedom of Information (FOI) Law which guarantees access to all information and disclosure of Government’s decisions and actions. The Liberian people enjoy a freedom of speech never before seen in our Country. The media landscape continues to expand and widened with the establishment of daily newspapers, radio and television stations. Journalists enjoy unprecedented freedom of expression.

My government appreciates the work that our organization is doing to protect the rights of minority and guard the cultural heritage of member states.

Consequently, Liberia has declared Ecological Tourism as a priority program of our economy. We therefore request your support for the inclusion of the Providence Island on UNESCO World Heritage Site. Providence Island is where the free slaves from the Americas and the Western Indies settled in Liberia.

We wish to express our profound gratitude to UNESCO for establishing the Mary Antoinette Browne Sherman Teacher Education Chair at the University of Liberia. We anticipate the continuous collaboration with UNESCO in making the Chair functional.

Finally, Madam Director General, fellow Delegates, we urge you to join us in ensuring that initiatives that are being taken by my Government will in some significant way continue to construct strongholds for peace, tolerance and the protection of human rights in the minds of our citizens.

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