Going beyond the Education Summit

The Ministry of Education under the new leadership of Minister Ansu Sonii convened in Kakata, Margibi County last week to discuss enormous challenges plaguing the education sector of Liberia.

President George Manneh Weah addressed the three-day conference, the first by his Coalition government, underscoring the importance of education both to individual lives and to society, citing his own life as an example.

The conference was attended by various stakeholders and presided over by Minister Sonii himself, who is an experience academician and former dean and former vice president of the University of Liberia.

During the forum, authorities dissected and diagnosed problems facing the sector, ranging from poor standards in schools, unqualified teachers, lack of science laboratories and libraries and poor performance by students, among others.

The challenges are not totally new, as they have been there all long, and perhaps became even more visible particularly, after the 14 years of civil war with previous authorities in the sector playing lip-service. This time around, we can but only pray that last week’s forum was not just another talking shop that produced policy papers and recommendations to be put on shelves for dust to eat them up.

For instance, on the question of unqualified teachers and lack of laboratories and libraries in schools, we believe strongly the Ministry of Education has every means and authority to addressing these concerns both in public and private schools. How could the ministry talk about unqualified teachers being in the classroom when there are teacher’s training institutions across the country, including the University of Liberia to prepare our teachers?

For some reasons, it appears that authorities at the ministry take pleasure in staffing public schools particularly in the counties with unqualified teachers and underpay them or keep their names on so-called supplementary payroll for the longest under the pretext of budgetary constraints.

Meanwhile, graduates from the William V.S. Tubman Teacher’s College at the University of Liberia linger around without employment because the ministry cannot find salary commensurate with their professional training and qualification, citing budgetary constraints.

Sometime ago, the United States Agency for International Development or USAID, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education initiated the Liberia Teacher’s Training Program or LTTP at the William V.S. Teacher’s College, University of Liberia, offering scholarships particularly, to females desirous of entering the teaching profession. Many females took advantage and benefited.

But regrettably, graduates or beneficiaries from the LTTP are finding it very difficult, if not impossible, to get absolved due to budgetary constraints, while MOE authorities are busy granting licenses here and there to individuals and religious institutions to establish schools and so-called colleges regardless of requisite standards. Some officials at the ministry are even on the boards of some of these sub-standard institutions, preparing our youth. These are the crust of the problems and we shouldn’t shy away from them.

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