The attention of this newspaper has been drawn to a story carried in its Tuesday November 13th edition headlined “62 percent of Public School Teachers Not Qualified” quoting a recent World Bank report. According to the recent World Bank report, 62 percent of all teachers that are assigned in public primary schools across the country do not hold a “C” certificate.
The “C” certificate is the minimum qualification required for teachers in public schools in Liberia. The World Bank also reports that teacher quality at the secondary level is very low where only about a third of secondary teachers possess the minimum qualification which is a University degree or an “A” certificate.
In short, a general lack of qualified teachers and the generally low quality of teaching are principal drivers of low learning outcomes in Liberia, according to a recently concluded World Bank, Liberian government Joint Education Review held in Ganta, Nimba County. What the World Bank statement apparently forgot to state was that Government of Liberia spending on education in the 2018-2019 budget amounts to a paltry US$5 million.
That the educational system of the nation is imperiled is an understatement. Former President Sirleaf described it as a mess and her solution to the problem was to outsource public education to private business interests. Despite protests from the National Teachers Association of Liberia, UNESCO, UNICEF and others, the project went full steam ahead.
The Bridge-Liberia partnership and the scandal-ridden More Than Me Academy, for example were touted as laudable examples of what could be achieved through outsourcing of public education to private business interests. But the results purportedly achieved under this scheme remained at best questionable.
The current situation is alarming and it stands in urgent need of remedial action. Firstly the allocation to education in the national budget is abysmally low. For example, most public schools around the country lack, in addition to qualified teachers, relevant instructional materials including desks and chairs and the chronic lack of science laboratories and libraries.
Given the disastrous results of the public education outsourcing policy and, given the alarming level of low learning outcomes in our public schools, it is clear and self-evident that in the absence of adequate funding to education, national development efforts shall remain stymied and the nation’s progress impeded. Such funding should include provisions for teacher training and the production of adequate and relevant learning materials.
While this newspaper holds that the nation’s broken education system is one inherited by this government, yet it cannot serve as an excuse for the demonstrated lack of commitment to fund education of the country’s human resource. It must not be forgotten that this government was elected on a welter of promises to fix the country’s problems.
Given the current outlook, there is little reason for optimism about the government’s ability to deliver on its promises. A cursory review of the budget, for example, shows that total budgetary allocation for health, agriculture and education amounts to a mere US$9.28 million. On the other hand, budgetary allocation to social benefits for former elected officials, standing at US$48 million, is more than five times the total allocation for health, education and agriculture combined.
Against this backdrop, it becomes difficult to see just how the Pro Poor Agenda for national prosperity and development will yield any tangible results at all. It can be recalled that recently, President Weah announced a tuition-free policy for all students enrolled in public universities and colleges.
This newspaper lauds the President’s intentions to provide tuition free education to students in public institutions of higher learning. Yet it cannot remain oblivious of the fact that the current budgetary outlay for education is grossly inadequate and may more likely than not, hamper the successful actualization and implementation of the tuition-free policy announced by President Weah.
The public is all too aware of President Weah’s promise to build a great nation but he cannot successfully do so if the preponderant majority of its people remain uneducated. There are no shortcuts to development without education, The United Nations recommend that governments around the world should spend at least 20 percent of their national budgets on education.
Poor funding to education is said to be responsible for the Ministry of Education’s inability to properly monitor schools. According to 2016 Ministry of Education report, school monitoring is hampered by a lack of training, lack of fuel and poor accountability for County Education and District Education officers, neither does it have a single monitoring tool or use of smart phone technology to gather and report school data.
The key question is whether the Pro Poor Agenda for prosperity and development can turn around the fortunes of the nation’s educational systems, which former President Sirleaf described as a “mess”. Can the Pro Poor Agenda resolve the nation’s education crisis? Only time will tell.