Fixing The Mess: Ellen Launches New Education Plan

President Sirleaf launches the Ministry of Education Operational Plan (2014-2016)
President Sirleaf launches the Ministry of Education Operational Plan (2014-2016)

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on record for describing the country’s education system as a “mess” has launched the with a number of recommendations aimed at improving the education sector of the country.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader launched the plan on Saturday, May 24 at the Monrovia City Hall under the theme: “Quality Education for All: Redirecting Our Future.”

The President, on several times on 2012 and 2013 sad the education system of the country needed total overhauling, stating that her comments about the system being messed up was the result of her personal experience with students. In May 2013,  addressing a one-day National Education Roundtable Conference in Monrovia, President Sirleaf said that her remarks about the state of the nation’s education are supported by her personal experience with students and school authorities across the country.

Although school authorities have good intentions for developing Liberia’s human capital, she observed that they lack the capacity to impart quality education to Liberian students.

Besides the President, the Liberian Governance Commission pointed out in a report that the country’s education was being disparaged because of lack of vision and direction by those leading the sector. The recent findings released by the Governance Commission (GC) on systemic government issues, specifically on the Education Sector, states that the Ministry of Education lacks clear vision and leadership to improve the country’s education sector.

The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission also in another reported widespread corruption in the sector

Speaking during the presentation of findings at Governance Assessment Ministerial Technical Conference held last year in Monrovia, the Program Manager of the Governance Commission, Matthew B. Kollie, stated that the most underlying problem in the educational sector is “lack of clear vision and leadership”, something he said has made the Ministry to perform below expectation.

Meanwhile commenting on the new plan, President Sirleaf said it is necessary in furthering the goals, ideals and plans that had been presented by the MOE in its Operational Plan by going one step further.

 “Just think, if a Deputy and Assistant Minister were required to go in the classroom and teach for two months so that they can experience what teachers experience instead of sitting in the office writing papers,” President Sirleaf said.

She stressed that there are a substantial number of university graduates from government supported programs, especially the University of Liberia Teacher’s College, who receive monthly stipends to go into education to increase the number of teachers in the country. She wondered, “Where are they?” The Liberian leader suggested that these graduates be identified and recruited to work in the classrooms of rural areas for specific periods to pay back to government for what government has done for them.

President Sirleaf also urged the head of the University of Liberia, Dr. Emmett Dennis, to reconsider and make it a requirement that prospective graduates of Teacher’s College give one semester’s work to public service in schools before graduation.

 “As much as we talk about infrastructure, roads, power, ports which are important as they are as emphasized by the Liberian people, if you do not have an education to manage those facilities, those facilities will not last,” the Liberian leader admitted, noting that the greatest problem one can bequeath to their children, citizens is an education.

President Sirleaf thanked the partners who have worked over the many months with the Ministry of Education officials in producing the plan. She urged all stakeholders to study the plan, identify targets to be able to address the many deficiencies that were identified during the presentation. “It’s only when we have specific goals for which there are benchmarks for which progress can be monitored that we will be able to mobilize the support that the Ministry of Education needs; not only from the Government of Liberia through the budgetary process but from partners,” she said.

 On behalf of education development partners, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Ambassador Deborah Malac said the Operational Plan, the first of its kind since the end of the civil war, is a further indication of a plan for further development of education in Liberia and a testament to the collaboration between government, donor partners, and the multitude of implementing partners, civil society organizations that have developed a shared vision and path to provide equitable access to higher quality education for Liberian children and youth.

 She said they share a great vision for education in Liberia and for the country as a whole and the 2014-2016 Operational Plan is the step in the path that will lead Liberia to a brighter education future and a more prosperous country.

The chair of the National Education Advisory Board, Mr. Charles Collins, expressed its commitment to playing an advisory role to help the Ministry of Education in its programs.

 The representative of Civil Society Organizations, Mr. Thomas Doe Nah, said Liberia requires a revolution in education. He recounted President Sirleaf’s statement that the education sector was a “mess”. “From the point we were all called to arms for a revolution in education,” he said. From this perspective, Mr. Nah said it required that Liberians become more creative in dealing with the challenges we face as a nation, adding, “It requires national ownership.”

He emphasized that they did not believe that the burden to begin the revolution and reinvigorate the education system rested on the Ministry of Education but needed proactive approach to be carried by all Liberians and partners.

 Mr. Nah said civil society organizations, as a partner, is delighted that the Education Ministry has become more proactive and has stepped up its consultation with partners; and noted that the education operational plan represents a pivotal step in the country’s new education revolution.

He called on government to provide the financial support that will lead to the effective implantation of the operational plan. He called on the Ministry of Education to turn a new chapter when it comes to the implementation of the plan. “We want the momentum started maintained. We call for robust monitoring and evaluation system, and zero tolerance on corruption and other vices that we all know undermines quality education,” he said. He promised to be a trusted partner in the education revolution, but the trustworthiness of the partnership in this process will, at times, come up with critical reports, which will be evidence based and sincere.

On behalf of the United Nations Country Team, Dr. Nestor Ndayimirije acknowledged and congratulated the Government and the Education Ministry for the tremendous progress made in the last few years. He said there is no doubt that education is the foundation for development. He reaffirmed the UN Country Team’s commitment to continue its support to Government as well as supporting the three-year operational plan.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Senator Dallas Gueh, called on politicians to depoliticize subsidy in education. “This area has to be owned and operated by the Ministry of Education and not the National Legislature,” he said.

He highlighted the Education Reform Act which indicates the classification of schools and the Education Ministry’s authority in determining the kind of subsidy to such schools and not the Legislature. “For me as chairman on Education, we’re going to do everything possible to make sure that that particular function is carried out by the Ministry of Education and not the Legislature and we will do everything to discourage that practice from the Legislature and make sure that you do your work,” Senator Gueh promised.

The Ministry of Education three-Year Operational Plan (2014 – 2016) is based on several documents including the Education Reform Law of 2011, Education Sector Plan (2010 -2020), Roadmap for System Transformation, National Agenda for Transformation (AfT) among others. It highlights priorities identified by education stakeholders at several consultative meetings including the National Education Roundtable Conference, 2013 and the Joint Education Sector Review taking account of clear messages that there is a need to reform the education sector and other emerging trends within the system. It serves as a catalyst to accelerate the “Education for All Goals”. It is underpinned by the principles of ownership and accountability.  The plan proposes a range of strategies and activities for improving the quality of educational services to ensure that young people within the borders of Liberia are fully prepared for a favorable livelihood in a changing regional and global environment.

 In setting its strategic directions for the next three years, the Ministry has been very mindful to ensure the manageability and sustainability of the activities it undertakes. The plan calls for pooling scarce resources and working more strategically with Donors and the Private Sector. It particularly recognizes the need to deliver quality programs and services. This plan covers all other areas of the Education Sector except Higher Education. These include: Early Childhood Development/Education (ECD/E), Basic and Secondary Education, Teacher Education, Student Personnel Services, Vocational and Technical Education and Training and Education Governance and Management.

The development of this plan is an initial effort of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration to institutionalize results-based planning within the sector; ensure accountability and allow the plan to serve as a tool for measuring performance of the sector. The Ministry now has a clear list of priority interventions to guide the development of its fiscal budget and partners’ support. With these modalities in place, Liberians can be assured of significant improvement in the sector in the next three years.

The cost of implementing the Three-Year Operational Plan is approximately US$180 million; whereas, projection for year one is estimated at US$58.7 million. Out of this amount, US$3million is available while the funding gap is US$55million. The plan shall be financed through the Government of Liberia’s Annual National Budget and Donors’ contributions. In addition, Public-Private Partnerships shall be sought to mobilize resources to support implementation of interventions contained in this plan.

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Author: D K Sengbeh

Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh (author of Sengbeh's Weblog) is a respected and renowned Liberian journalist, poet and writer with with journalism experience since 2001, of working both as a mainstream journalist and a communication/media consultant in Liberia. He is Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (elected Dec 2013). He was Assistant Secretary General of the Union Dec 2011 to Dec 2013. He is also Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper—one of Liberia’s credible dailies. Before joining the Informer, Danicius had served as reporter, chief reporter, sub-editor and News Editor at The Independent Newspaper between 2002 and 2006. Before then, he was reporter at the defunct Patriot Newspaper and Kiss FM 2001-2002. Danicius is a UN Media Fellow and Liberia’s first UN Medal Award-winning journalist for his contribution to journalism and for being the second Liberian journalist in 15 years to qualify for and successfully attended the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist Fellowship Program in New York and Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and Sociology from the University of Liberia and a Diploma in Journalism from the International School of Journalism. He holds several awards and recognitions both in and outside of journalism, and carries dozens of certificates in journalism and communication from studies in Ghana, China, United States and Switzerland, among others. He volunteers as Chair of the Information and Communication Committee of his local Bardnersville community. He can be quickly reached via (+231) 886586531/777586531/777464018/ dakasen1978@yahoo.com

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