Education Minister George Werner, is not biting his tongue when he tells lawmaker here that the government much publicized free education program is far from reality, as there is no such thing as free education in the country, emphasizing that education is not free and can never be free.
Appearing before members of the House of Representatives at the Capitol Building on Thursday, May 11, to respond to concerns about tuition hike in public schools in Maryland County, southeast Liberia he acknowledges that the Government of Liberia declared free education, but it is not paying for it, and that there is no provision in the law to finance early childhood education where majority of the children are enrolled.
Minister Werner was invited to the Capitol after a communication from Maryland County Representative Bhofal Chambers of Pleebo-Sodoken Statutory District, indicating that he had received a document from citizens in his district that two public schools are charging pupils 2,500LRD per semester instead of 350LRD being charged by the Ministry of Education. The lawmaker further disclosed that the Ministry of Education had earlier required secondary public schools to charge 350LRD per semester, while grade one to ninth is free.
But the Education boss vows to investigate the issue and get back to the lawmakers. Werner took up the mantle of authority at the Ministry of Education in 2015, promising massive reforms that never saw daylight. He subsequently instituted a testing exercise for public school teachers across the country, which met stiff opposition from the National Teachers Association of Liberia.
According to him, the Ministry of Education receives an annual budget of US$44 Million, and $39 Million of this amount is for salary along with nothing practically left for school supplies and other operations.
But Montserrado County Representative Acarous Moses Gray quickly clarifies that the Executive usually prepares the national budget for government ministries and agencies, arguing that House approves accordingly without making any cut, particularly the budget for education.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has mandated the Education boss to gather all information on reported tuition hikes by public schools across the country and report to that body next Thursday.
By Bridgett Milton -Editing by Jonathan Browne