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Pres. Sirleaf chairs education roundtable forum

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In further consultations with stakeholders on how to improve the country’s education sector, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has chaired an Education Roundtable Meeting “Getting to Best”. 

An Executive Mansion release said President Sirleaf met with education stakeholders at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Friday, August 21, 2015. She was joined by Education Minister George Werner and the leadership of the Education Ministry, Cabinet Ministers, International Partners, educational authorities of private and public institutions, advocacy education organizations, and student advocacy institutions, among others.

The President warned that reforming the education sector to “best” is going to be a long road and not a quick fix. “Whatever we do is going to take years,” she warned, nothing, “Our challenge is to start the process, get the elements of that process right taking into account the recommendations advanced by the participants.”

She urged Liberians in the education sector to continue with consultations at different levels – students, teachers, parents-teachers association, among others and further discuss and address some of the many challenges affecting the sector including the ills in schools and how they can be overcome.

She also thanked all for their insightful participation especially the international partners who have been there with the Education Ministry authorities providing support and pieces of advice. “I just want to see this spirit continue,” she said, emphasizing that the responsibility of building the country rests on Liberians primarily; but is thankful for the partnership that the country has that has enable it to go beyond its own resources and capabilities.

Earlier, Education Minister George Werner made a presentation: “Getting to Best” and outlined nine priority projects which, he says, will lay the foundation for quality learning for children in Liberia over the next two year. He named National Roll-out of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA); Qualified Teachers with the Skills to Improve Learning Outcomes; Supported and Motivated Teachers will Improve Learning Outcomes; and School Infrastructure Meets the Needs of Children.

Others priority projects are Schools and Teachers have the resources to Improve Learning; Improving Enrolment and Retention; Lay the Foundation for Children’s Education with Early Childhood Education; Young People have the Necessary Skills to Secure Jobs through Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET); Girls’ Learning Outcomes Improve; and the Ministry of Education and Schools are Accountable for Children’s Learning.

Minister Werner emphasized that statistics on education in Liberia show that 42 percent of primary school age children are not in school; more than 20 percent of young people aged 15-24 are illiterate; while one-third of young people are not in employment, education or training.

He reiterated that the education system is referred to as a “mess” because there are not enough safe and quality schools, core literacy and numeracy skills are not taught, over a third of our teachers are not qualified and young children are not prepared for school and start late.

Continuing, Mr. Werner said girls are less likely to enroll, stay in school and graduate, secondary-level education is under resourced, centralized system is unaccountable to schools and students, and young people cannot access market-driven and relevant Technical Vocational Education and Training. “We must act now to stop another generation losing out on an education,” he warned, adding that immediate change is necessary to get to best.

Participants proposed a number of suggestions to enhance the Ministry of Education in getting to best. They suggested that ownership and the Role of Communities are key; the need to strengthen the role of Civil Society; the need for decentralization, safe school environment, and improved partnership.

Addressing other conditions for learning, they proposed the need for teaching nutrition to students and parents; health of students, as well as guidance and counseling.

Other proposals advanced by the participants were the need to curtailing violence (sexual and gender-based); improve resources for education; take concrete actions to address education issues; improve response time in addressing teacher replacement and placing teachers on payroll; ensure accountability and spend resources efficiently; rebrand Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET), focus on after-school programs; establish a National Inspectorate Board, ensure parental education, build play grounds at all schools, reform the school curriculum; among others.-Press Release

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