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Obstacles to Achieving MDG2 in the Republic of Liberia

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Abstract: The Republic of Liberia was at war when global leaders agreed on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As the MDGs target date of 2015 approaches, the country will not achieve MDG Two because of the infrastructural deficit and weak governance capacity resulting from the fourteen years civil conflict. This paper discusses how these obstacles continue to slow the country’s progress in achieving universal primary education. It concludes that the country needs to woo donor support and international solidarity to complement national resources that will allow the government rebuild the damaged infrastructure, including primary schools in all communities; build more primary schools and train qualified and professional teachers to run those schools; and revamp the Ministry of Education and its local structures to efficaciously coordinate, monitor and administer the provision of quality education for all children in pursuit of attaining universal primary education in the Republic of Liberia.

1. Introduction:

In 2000, when global leaders agreed on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Republic of Liberia was at war. The fourteen-year civil conflict killed about 250,000 persons, and destroyed infrastructures, including schools, roads, ports, hospitals and clinics. Several communities were burnt down thereby uprooting residents and forcing them into exile or displaced camps (Humphreys & Richards 2005). Rebel fighters maimed civilians, kidnapped, raped and impregnated teenage girls. To date, rape remains high in post conflict Liberia, and teenage pregnancy persists thus undermining the advancement of most adolescent girls in the country. Presently, teenage pregnancy rate in the country stands at 31% (United Nations in Liberia 2013).

Following series of negotiations, the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), and Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) brokered a peace agreement in Accra, Ghana in August 2003. This agreement brought an end to the Liberian civil conflict. An Interim Government was set up to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants. It was also given responsibility to conduct free, fair, peaceful and democratic elections in October 2005 (Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2003). After the 2005 general and presidential elections, the country continues to make quantum progress in implementing the MDGs especially goals 3, 4, 6 and 8 (United Nations in Liberia 2013). Despite this impressive progress, Liberia, like many sub-Sahara African states, will not achieve MDG Two on target (Chibba 2011). The two main obstacles to Liberia’s achievement of MDG Two are the infrastructural deficit and weak governance capacity inherited from the civil conflict (Munoz 2008). This essay discusses how these obstacles continue to slow the country’s progress in achieving universal primary education. It also proffers suggestions on how the state could surmount the obstacles and achieve this goal.

2. Two major obstacles to MD2 achievement

The Liberian civil war destroyed roads, bridges, houses, air and sea ports, schools, water pipelines, electricity supply, hospitals and clinics thereby creating a huge infrastructural deficit. The estimated cost of rebuilding Liberia’s damaged infrastructure is about two and half (2.5) billion US Dollars at a time the current national budget of the state is just a little over five hundred million (Ministry of Finance 2013). This infrastructural challenge has an adverse impact on the country’s economic development. Currently the country lacks electricity and safe drinking water.  Roads linking all the fifteen political subdivisions are in a deplorable state thereby hindering access to schools, clinics, markets and other basic services. Due to lack of electricity, safe drinking water and roads, investment cost remains expensive, and human survival is at risk. The high cost of investment in Liberia leads to stagnated economic growth and development.

Furthermore, the country cannot easily return to its pre-war economic growth status. The slow economic growth and development lead to widespread poverty (Collier 2007). Currently, the poverty rate in the country puts those living under one US Dollar a day at 63% and the population living in extreme poverty remains at 47.9% (Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services 2007). The infrastructural deficit and its accompanying effects, including the lack of sufficient and quality primary schools in the country, undermine net enrolment and completion of primary education. For example, while primary school net enrolment stands at 34%, the overall grade six completion rate in the entire country lingers at 35% (United Nations in Liberia 2013). Against this backdrop, Liberia will not achieve MDG Two on target.

Although the huge infrastructural challenge hinders Liberia’s drive to achieving MDG Two, weak governance is another key blockage to the country’s efforts to achieve universal primary education. The war dealt a deleterious blow on all the socioeconomic and political institutions. It not only destroyed the efficacious functioning of the three branches of government, Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, but also the conflict rendered key technical national institutions dysfunctional and as well led to high human resource deficit.

For instance, the Ministry of education lacks professional educational administrators and has therefore lost control of its statutory role to effectively coordinate, monitor and foster quality education in the country.  The hierarchical structures of the educational system leading from the Ministry to County, district and community education offices remain in the state of recovery. These institutional weaknesses are compounded by low and weak human resource capacities to effectively run schools and efficiently manage classrooms (UNICEF Liberia 2011). Despite government’s free and compulsory primary education policy for public schools, majority of primary school age students cannot enrol due to acute shortage of public schools and qualified teachers to manage the limited existing ones.  While most of the educational institutions in Liberia are managed by apprentice teachers, the few that deliver quality education are predominantly owned either by religious institutions or private investors whose primary objective is guided by profit motives.

Therefore, poor parents cannot  afford to send their children to private institutions. As a result, most of the children in Liberia remain out of school, consequently obstructing Liberia’s achievement of universal primary education in 2015. Even though infrastructural deficit and weak governance impede the achievement of MDG Two in Liberia, the country could reverse the situation and make incremental progress towards achieving MDG Two by taking advantage of two opportunities. First, the international community, which still supports the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as a peace keeping force, takes pride in the nation’s recovery. The United Nations considers the restoration of peace and security in Liberia as one of the success stories in the UN’s peace keeping history. Hence the presence and concerted engagement of the UN in the country’s recovery open a window of opportunity for the government to embark on right-based and results focused development planning through which achievement of MDG Two could be factored in the country’s national development agenda as a prime target. Second, that Liberia has benefited debt waiver of over four billion US Dollars (International Monetary Fund 2010), the country has leverage to harness and transparently manage its rich natural resources to spur economic growth and development, which would generate indigenous resources to finance implementation of MDG Two and other development programs (Turrent & Oketch 2009).

3. Conclusion and Recommendations:

Thus far, this essay has discussed infrastructural deficit and weak governance as consequences of the civil conflict obstructing the achievement of MDG Two in Liberia. It has also highlighted two opportunities that the country could take advantage of to facilitate mitigation of these obstacles. To conclude, the civil war destroyed infrastructure, weakened the political and socioeconomic fabric of the state, and decimated the human resource capacities of the country. Liberia should therefore take three tangible steps in addressing the two main obstacles to achieving MDG Two.  First, to salvage the infrastructural deficit, the country needs to woo donor support and international solidarity to complement national resources that will allow the government rebuild the damaged infrastructure including primary schools in all communities. Second, the building of more primary schools should simultaneously be carried out with the training of qualified and professional teachers to run those schools.  Finally, the country should revamp the Ministry of Education and its local structures to efficaciously coordinate, monitor and administer the provision of quality education for all children in pursuit of attaining universal primary education in the Republic of Liberia.

References:
Accra Comprehensive Agreement on Liberia 2003, Accra, Ghana, viewed 23 January 2014
Chibba, M 2011, ‘The Millennium Development Goals: key current issues and challenges’, Development Policy Review, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 75-90.
Collier, P 2007, The bottom billion: why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Humphreys. M & Richards, P 2005, ‘Prospects and opportunities for achieving the MDGs in post conflict countries: a case study of Sierra Leone and Liberia’ Discussion Paper, Columbia University, USA, viewed 17 January 2014
International Monetary Fund 2010, ‘Liberia Wins $4.6 Billion in Debt Relief from IMF, World Bank’, International Monetary Fund, viewed 1 February 2014
Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) 2007, Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (2007), Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), Monrovia, Liberia.
Ministry of Finance 2013, ‘National budget of Liberia’, Department of Budget, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Liberia, viewed 31 January 2014
Munoz, E 2008, ‘The Millennium Development Goals: facing down challenges’, Briefing Paper no. 2, Bread for the World Institute, Washington DC.
Turrent, V & Oketch, M 2009, ‘Financing universal primary education: An analysis of official development assistance in fragile states’, International Journal of Educational Development, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 357-365.
UNICEF Liberia 2011, ‘Education in emergencies and post-conflict transition: 2010 report evaluation’, pp. 6-10, viewed 31 January 2014
United Nations in Liberia 2013, One program: The UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2013-2017), Monrovia, viewed 14 January 2014

About the writer
Born 19 March 1973 in Harrisburg, Montserrado County, Thomas Kaydor, Jr. (Tom Kaydor) is presently a postgraduate student at the Crawford School of Economics and Governance/Public Policy, Australian National University in Canberra, Australia where he is reading three post graduate programs (Graduate Diploma in Public Administration, Master of Public Policy with emphasis in International Development Policy, and Master of Diplomacy). He previously earned a M.A (Suma Cum Laude) in International Relations from the IBB Graduate School of International Relations, University of Liberia, B.A (Magna Cum Laude) in Political Science with emphasis in Comparative Government and Politics with History as Minor, University of Liberia. He graduated from the St. Francis High School in Pleebo, Maryland County.

Tom Kaydor holds several professional certificates and diplomas including a Diploma in International Programme on Management and Development of NGOs, Galilee International Management Institute, Formerly Galilee College,    Israel;   Certificate-Human Rights Based Approach & Results Based Management in development  Programming, UN System Staff College, Turin, Italy, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Diplomacy and Negotiation from the Islamabad Foreign Service Academy, Pakistan. He also holds Certificates in Basic Psychosocial Skills (TOT), and Training for Transformation, (TOT)-Mother Pattern College of Health Sciences; ABC E-Certificate- Professional Writing Skills for Business and Administration, Alan Borman Communications, UK; Training in UN General Service Staff/Headquarters Salary Survey and UN Human Resource Management, Congo Brazzaville; Atlas (UNDP Financial Management Studies), Prince II Written and Online Examinations, Program Management; Advanced and Basic Security in the Field; Gender Journey, Thinking Outside the Box; UN Prevention of Harassment & Sexual Harassment & Abuse of Authority in Work Place; Peace Building & Program Management (TOT), RECEIVE Inc., and Computer Operation and networking, CHEALE Vocational Institute, Liberia.

He also received several awards including, but not limited to Pilgrim Certificate: Jerusalem Pilgrim-fulfilled the Biblical calling and ascended to Jerusalem, the Holy city, Capital of Israel; Certificate: Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River; Certificate of Highest Honors, University of Liberia; Certificate of Achievement:  Mathematics, St. Francis High School; Certificate of Social and Political Change in Liberia, New DEAL Movement.  He maintains memberships in professional organizations including United Nations Coordination Network, Member, UN Peace Building Cooperation Net; Member, Online UN Volunteer network; Member, Humanitarian Law Practice Network.  He also served as Member (Staff Representative) UNDP Liberia Disciplinary Committee.

Tom Kaydor served as Assistant Minister for Afro Asian Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where he oversaw and coordinated Liberia’s diplomatic relations with Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific. Prior to this post he served as UN Coordination and Common Services Adviser at the UN System in Ethiopia. In this capacity, he provided the relevant advice on Common Services and harmonized business practices in light of the UN reform-Delivering as One (DaO)– to the Operations Management Team (OMT), its Chair, and the UN Country Team. He supported increased inter-agency operational collaboration and efficiency. In particular, he supported improvement and expansion of Common Services through effective coordination with OMT; facilitation of knowledge sharing; ensuring strategic direction of CS, and assessment, management and implementation of Common Services.

Additionally, he respectively served as the first National Coordination Officer and UN Coordination Analyst (International Civil  Servant)-Integrated Office of the DSRSG/RC/HC/RR-Liberia ensuring effective Country Office Support to the UN System/UN Country Team (UNCT), OMT and IAPT thereby increasing trust and confidence in Resident Coordinator System; cutting transaction costs and promoting UN reform through Joint Program formulation and Implementation, supporting Delivering as One (DaO) initiative in Liberia; promoting assessment, planning and implementation of Common Services and Harmonized Business Practices. He previously served as Chief of Office Staff-Office of the Chairman on Executive, House of Representatives, Republic of Liberia; Field Supervisor RECEIVE/USAID/LCIP Social Reintegration Program, Liberia; Psychosocial Officer, World Vision International ; Editor-in-Chief- Observation newspaper, Liberia; Registrar, Trinity Lutheran High School-then Matadi Lutheran School; and Teaching/Research Assistant at the University of Liberia, AMEU and AMEZU Universities in Liberia. He is married to Mrs Helen Yassah Garbo-Kaydor with six children and several dependents.

His extra-curricular Activities include, but not limited to, Standard Bearer, Independent Camp, University of Liberia Students Union elections (2001/02); Chairman, Student Unification Party (SUP), University of Liberia (2001/2002); Chairman, Membership, Recruitment and Mobilization committee, SUP, (2000/2001); Reporter, Varsity Pilot newspaper. He is one of the Incorporators, Liberia Foundation for Education (LIFE, Inc.); and Founder, Thomas Kaydor Scholarship Fund (2008-present). On Religious Leadership: Vice President, Men Department, Trinity Lutheran Parish (2007-Present); Board Member, Trinity Lutheran School (2005-2008); President, Monrovia District Lutheran Youth Fellowship (presided over 11 parishes in seven counties-1999/2001), Secretary, Trinity Lutheran Youth Fellowship (1997/1998); Secretary, Grand Lutheran Youth Fellowship; and Treasurer, Newaken Lutheran Youth Fellowship.

He extensively travels around Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. He has Key and professional skills in facilitation, training; Communication; Speech writing; editing; oratory; reading and comprehension skills.  He served as a consultant to develop training modules on Democratic governance in Liberia;  Liberia Institute for Public Administration (2007); Facilitator, UNDP Annual Retreats (2008 & 2009); Facilitator, Common Services Retreat, Operations Management Team, United Nations Liberia (2008); Co-Facilitator, Common Services Training, United Nations Liberia (2008, and Facilitator, Operations Management Team Retreat, United Nations Liberia (2010). His interest lies in Governance, Development, Public Policy, and Diplomacy.

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