Monrovia, Liberia, Tuesday April 12, 2016:
Government’s Partnership Schools for Liberia and JFK Scandal:
The Ministry of Education of the Republic of Liberia announced that in its efforts to improve education in the country, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bridge International Academies, a Silicon Valley for-profit corporation to begin a pilot project called “Partnership Schools for Liberia”. In an Op Ed piece, the Minister of Education Mr. George K. Werner said the pilot project will begin in September and include 120 schools, less than 3 percent of the total of all public schools. The Minister further indicated that he plans to insist upon an independent evaluation of the pilot project before proceeding after the trial period.
However, the Government’s plan has been roundly condemned by many professional local and international organizations. The plan is seen as driven by profit motives and is an effort to outsource education in Liberia. The National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL), through its Secretary General, Mr. Samuel Y. Johnson, admonished the Ministry of Education to reconsider its plan to privatize and outsource education in the country.
The NTAL says little or no consultation and validation were done before a decision of this magnitude that will have profound effects on the future of Liberian education was made. The Ministry says consultation was carried out with more than 30 (thirty) stakeholders including a representative from the NTAL. The Ministry failed to indicate the timing and efforts that were made to seek nationwide validation of this consequential pilot project that could alter the course of education in Liberia.
The All Liberian Party (ALP) is concerned that a major reordering of the education system in Liberia cannot be accomplished just with consultations over a brief period and with controversies brewing among key stakeholders such as civil society groups and the country’s teachers. If a fundamental change is to be accomplished that will improve education in Liberia that must be done with the cooperation, coordination and acceptance of stakeholders. Unfortunately, the Government of Liberia appears to be in a hurry and it may not have considered the full repercussions of the change it proposes. The haste of the government is also worrisome as for-profit motives in Liberia have usually been characterized by self-interests and ended up disastrously in our history and recent past. In the last ten years of our democratic dispensation, concession agreements that have been hastily concluded have not adhered to the laws of the country and consequently not achieved the desired results of significant employment, improvements in livelihoods or brought about shared prosperity and sustainable development. We cannot afford to have the same results with the rights to education, which is fundamental in achieving a prosperous, orderly and democratic society.
Public-private partnership is a valid process in achieving societal objectives, and it can only be accomplished with the proponent, in this case the Government of Liberia being patient and understanding the reluctance of citizens to agree to fundamentally alter society without empirical evidence on the efficacy of interventions. The people of Liberia do not share the vision of the President and her Minister of Education on this project. Moreover, the Government of Liberia has not done its homework and it is creating conditions for suspicion and anxiety among a broad spectrum of citizens. Additionally, the international outcry seems to provide some evidence that privatization of education may not be in the long term best interest of Liberian students.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Mr. Kishore Singh said the scale of the proposal “violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligations”. Meanwhile, educators, civil society groups, such as Action Aid, Kenya Nation Union of Teachers, Legal Brains Trust, and many organizations in Uganda and Kenya, two of the countries where the project is operational say there is no evidence that in fact education has been improved and the cost to educate a child, with profit motive as a cornerstone will have disastrous results. Opponents of the project say the World Bank, a major proponent is an investor through the International Finance Corporation (IFC), with more than 10 million dollars in Bridge International Academies, while the Bank has not invested one penny in the public education systems of Uganda and Kenya.
Accordingly, the ALP calls for a halt to the plan to implement a change in the structure of education in Liberia without validation by the country’s stakeholders. ALP believes that given the current economic status of the vast majority of the citizenry, such a change will require serious consultations with all stakeholders. The ALP also calls upon all Liberians to add their voices to the call for a halt to the “Partnership” and to demand that the Government of Liberia heeds to the advice of informed domestic and international stakeholders. The ALP sees the Partnership School for Liberia as not only been hasty but also prematurely obligating the next regime.
Meanwhile, the ALP also calls on the President Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government to investigate issues developing from the John F. Kennedy Referral Hospital and bring perpetrators to book. Let it be clear that recent developments coming out of the JFK are of grave concern and require serious actions on the part of Madam President. The issue of JFK is no politics because it borders on the lives of our people, and all of us, and such acts are not only embarrassing but condemnable in the strongest possible terms. Health care for our people is a matter of paramount concern.
N. Dickson R. Tamba
National Assistant Secretary General
Press and Information
Hon. J.S.B. Theodore Momo, Jr.
“The All Inclusive” All Liberian Party – ALP