By Lewis S. Teh
Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education or COTAE expresses concern over the prevailing hardship parents and students are currently facing with the hike in tuition and other fees in the country by school authorities, thereby urging President George Manneh Weah to intervene.
COTAE in a news conference Thursday, November 17, 2021, through its National Coordinator Anderson D. Miamen said the hike in tuition fees comes during challenging economic conditions in the country when many persons are already struggling to address their basic needs (food, clothing, access to electricity, shelter, etc.)
“It is mindboggling that access to education has become significantly hindered, mainly due to arbitrary hike in tuition and other fees by private school operators”, he said adding that the most appalling of all is the fact that services provided by a majority of these institutions do not commensurate with various astronomical fees charged, from time to time.
“We urge the President of Liberia, George M. Weah to constitute an independent committee, not headed by the Ministry of Education, to thoroughly investigate the hike in tuition and other fees charged by private schools.”
According to him, such an independent committee must comprise of representatives from civil society, media, lawyers, educators, and other professional bodies that will thoroughly investigate and report the facts and circumstances regarding hike in fees as well as its implications for the right to education in Liberia to inform appropriate government policy and decisions.
He wants the Legislature, especially the Committees on Education in the Senate and House of Representatives to effectively exercise their oversight responsibilities by supervising activities of the sector. He said this entails conducting their own investigations into the reported hikes in tuition and other fees by private school operators in Liberia to inform their decisions and actions.
Mr. Miamen argued that such arbitrary hike in fees, especially by private schools, undermine the right to education; the affordable access provided for in Chapter 2 of the New Education Reform Act of 2011 and professed commitments of private school operators to complement the government’s efforts to increase access to education and eradicate illiteracy in Liberia.
“As Government’s supervisory and regulatory authority over private and public schools cover all aspects of their operation, including fees charged for services, the Ministry of Education must perform her duties and stop giving flimsy excuses about not having the power/authority to determine fees charged by private schools.”
He also wants the government to increase the budget of the ministry of education to at least 20% to allow schools to receive the required materials and supplies to effectively and efficiently operate.
He specifically notes that the Incheon Declaration of 2015 and Darkar Framework of Action, endorsed by Liberia, must be upheld and fully implemented by the Liberian government in increasing National Budgetary support to education, especially in the 2022 Budget.
Miamen pointed out that the right to good quality, relevant and inclusive education must be protected in Liberia, especially in these difficult times when several parents and students cannot afford various fees charged, mainly by Private Schools.
As public schools do not have the required space to accommodate the growing number of school-going population, the government cannot allow private schools to operate at will as though the decision of many parents to enroll their children into these schools is based on mere preference for private education, he argues.
.Miamen continued that it is even more astounded by recent comments attributed to a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education that the Ministry lacks the power and authority to determine or regulate tuition and other fees charged by private schools in the country, saying such statement attributed to a ranking official of the Ministry is extremely troubling and hope-dashing, as it leaves poor Liberian parents and students at the mercy of private school operators, many of whom have proven to be more concerned about maximizing profit from education rather than helping the government to fulfill its statutory obligation to her citizens
On Thursday, November 11, 2021, while addressing the Ministry of Information’s weekly Press Briefing in Monrovia, the Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, Latim Da-thong announced that government, through the Ministry of Education has no authority to regulate fees charged by private schools in the country.
Miamen narrates that contrary to the Deputy Minister’s comments, the New Education Reform Act of 2011 clearly mandates the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Education to manage and regulate both public and private schools across Liberia.
He says the oversight and regulatory responsibilities of the Ministry of Education are clearly outlined in relevant chapters and provisions of the New Education Reform Law of Liberia.
He specifically cites that Chapter 1.4.1 (under general provisions) says that the Act “shall apply to and cover the establishment, management and supervision of All Schools within the Republic of Liberia, including but not limited to all public, private, faith-based, and boarding schools, with the only exceptions, provided for in Section 1.4.2 being military training centers and police/security training institutions. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/liberia-ministry-of-education-suspends-ceo-2-principals/Editing by Jonathan Browne