The Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action, two international conventions outlined five basic principles for making aid and service delivery effective for targeted beneficiaries, especially in Sub-Sahara Africa. These include: Ownership, Alignment, Harmonization, Results and Mutual Accountability.
The basis for these five core principles among other things, is to enhance and hold donors’ and partner countries accountable to their citizens, eliminate the duplication of efforts by donor partners and the alignment of donors’ activities with partner countries strategies, priorities, systems and procedures.
But has this been the case for Liberia, particularly in the education sector? The answer is an understandable no. The argument in favor of the response is that Liberia has been in a decade long conflict. Additionally, the regular justification for the uncoordinated efforts has been the lack of local human capacity to effectively manage the process of aid and service delivery.
But time is changing and so is the structure of dependence. As Liberia transition from a burdened, failed or fragile to a steady state, donors’ activities must now be in sync with the five spirited principles of the Paris Declaration. And this was just what the Minister of Education declared at a one day donor conference held in Monrovia on November 30.
The Minister thanked development partners attending the conference for their meaningful and continued assistance in ensuring that the “Liberian Child” receives quality education and market driven skills regardless of his or her socio-economic, religious and geographic standing in society.
Minister Gongar: “We are here today to harmonize the various interventions in the education sector, and avoid scattered group and uncoordinated programs.” The Ministry of Education remains the nucleus for the advancement of education from early childhood to tertiary levels in the Country, whether funded by the Government of Liberia or donor partners. International or local interventions in the sector, the Minister asserts, must be coordinated by the three departments: Administration, Planning and Instruction.
The new Education Reform Act, signed into law by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf early August of this year, is the most important instrument for effectively managing the education system. The decentralization and management of the sector is a major challenge for the Ministry. The setting up of County School Boards to administer the affairs of the county school system, the disbursement of School Grants and a well functioning monitoring and evaluation mechanism will prove a major test case for the Ministry.
Interestingly, the Minister seems to be an optimist, and believes that the coming together of development partners suggests a new collaborative effort for the improvement of the sector. The Ministry cannot go it alone and will therefore need help from development partners. The problem is, if their involvement is not regulated or in line with the mandates of the Ministry, not much will be achieved.
According to recent stats, there are over 25 international and 100 local organizations involved in the education sector. With this latest assemblage of development partners including USAID, UNICEF, UNESCO, WB, OSI and others, it is expected that the harmonization and coordination of service delivery will be conducted in line with the mandates of the Ministry of Education.
While there are hopes that the just ended conference will not end up being one of them talking shops, more needs to be seen on how development partners will begin to align their activities with the Ministry of Education. But more importantly, it is expected that the Ministry will demonstrate its capacity to play a leading role in this new partnership.