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Education Ministry’s Decision Commendable, But…

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The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Education, has announced September 10, 2012 as the new date for the commencement of classes for the academic year 2012/2013 across the country. Classes had been scheduled to start on Wednesday, August 22, 2012, but postponed as a result of a recent meeting between authorities of the Education Ministry and private schools.

Public outcry against the inflated (more than a hundred percent) tuition fees charged by private school authorities and the inability of parents, guardians and self-supported students to underwrite such cost prompted the recent meeting of the minds between the two. Other than the extension as announced by the government, private school authorities accepted a reduction in fees by fifty percent, while the former committed itself to increasing subsidies to the latter.

Even though this latest move by the Government of Liberia may be regarded as belated especially so when parents, guardians and self-supported students had already gone through the rigors and frustrations in the process of ensuring registration, we think it is fair enough to consider the move as a commendable action. This is also indicative of the government’s preparedness to listen to the ‘voice of reasoning’, as well as ensure that the concerns of people of Liberia are attended to
While we ‘shower the government with these warm sentimental platitudes,  the issue of the sincerity and commitment of private school administrators and owners remains of serious concern.

We have no doubt to question the government’s ability and commitment to ensuring subsidy increase to private schools, but the sincerity of private school authorities. Is there any pragmatic guarantee for parents, guardians and self-supported students from private school administrators and owners about the decision between them and the Ministry of Education? Are there any monitoring and evaluation mechanisms already in place for such decision? What punitive action(s) will the government execute should private schools fail to adhere to their commitment? What happens to the seventy percent tuition fees already paid as ‘first installment’? These are just a few of the questions to which many well-meaning Liberians may be seeking answers.

Another contending issue of concern is whether or not the decision by the Liberian Government regarding subsidy covers all private schools. This is an issue authorities of the Ministry of Education must adequately address to avoid further interpretations. As we commend the Ministry of Education for constructively engaging private school authorities on the abrupt decision to inflate tuition fees, there is an urgent need for further explanation on the revelation made by Education Minister Etmonia David-Tarpeh about the ownership and board membership of some officials of the ministry during her recent interaction with the House of Representatives.

It is our hope that the assurance given members of the House of Representatives by Minister Tarpeh for an investigation into the revelation is already ongoing for a logical conclusion. We regard the involvement of officials of the Education Ministry with private school in whatever capacities as “conflict of interest” and should it be established that the do own private schools or hold membership with private school boards, they must decide on either of the two. Since the Minister of Education went public with such revelation, it is also incumbent upon her to make her findings public.

We think Minister Tarpeh meant well for our educational system when made the disclosure recently before members of the House of Representatives, and must therefore be commended for such move to protect the credibility of her administration. Those in the situation of “conflict of interest” at the minister must actually decide or be left for a decision by Madam Minister.

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