Liberia’s Education Minister Addresses UNESCO 39th General Conference


Paris, France – Liberia’s Education Minister George Werner has addressed the 39th General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, France emphasizing that Liberia has been making frantic efforts aimed at ensuring that all Liberian children will have access to free, quality education by focusing on three crucial areas: improving the quality of teaching, ensuring effective monitoring, and exploring innovative solutions.

Mr. Werner said as efforts to improve the quality of teaching and management in Liberian schools is progressing, is essential to effectively measure the impact this is having, thus developing a framework for School Quality Assessment, which will monitor improvement in school quality from Early Childhood Education up to Senior Secondary, and enable the provision of objective feedback to school administrators and teachers.

“UNESCO’s support for the Joint Program to Accelerate Efforts to Advance the Rights of Adolescent Girls in Liberia has also made a significant impact.”

“Madam Director-General, I was heartened to see the focus on education as a catalyst for development and gender equality at the top of your vision for UNESCO.”

“This is an issue that is of great importance for me and that is particularly close to the heart of our current President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I am confident that our successors will be eager to partner with UNESCO to continue this effort”, Minister Werner told the conference.

He praised UNESCO for helping Liberia to launch its efforts to achieving Sustainable Development Goal Four, aimed at ensuring inclusive and quality education for all.

He noted that UNESCO also provided crucial guidance to ensure that the country “Getting to Best Education Sector Plan” was fully aligned with SDG4.

“UNESCO has been an invaluable partner as we have worked to rebuild our education sector after the devastating impact of years of conflict followed by the Ebola crisis”, the Liberian Education revealed.

Minister Werner said Liberia was exploring innovative solutions to rapidly accelerate improvements in school management and teaching quality. He said of the country’s most ambitious reforms are a pilot program called Partnership Schools for Liberia – PSL for short.

The program according to him has already demonstrated tremendous potential, with students learning 60 percent more than their peers in other public schools. While the program itself has prompted international debate, one thing that tends to get lost is that PSL isn’t just about improving education in a small number of schools.

PSL schools serve as learning hubs, where we can identify effective interventions that can be applied across the school system. And we are doing just that.

Minister Werner concluded by thanking the World Heritage department at UNESCO for making Liberia to have a tentative list of sites to submit for World Heritage status.

He said UNESCO is helping Liberia work towards a day when Liberia is known for something more than just Ebola and child soldiers, by bolstering our education system, and showing the world our rich cultural heritage.

Heads of State Call for Support for Multilateral Action

Meanwhile, world leaders at the ongoing 39th General Conference of UNESCO have made pleas for multilateral efforts to tackle the challenges facing the world at UNESCO.

The leaders from Europe, Africa, Asian and the south Pacific highlighting the importance of concerted action to tackle disparate challenges including extremist radicalization and climate change, as well other critical global issues.

The President of the 39th session of the General Conference, Zohour Alaoui, welcomed participants to what she described as a prospective dialogue entitled: The Sustainable Development Goals and UNESCO’s Role in the Multilateral System.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development which was adopted two years ago,” UNESCO has been working to ensure that Member States manage the transition of their societies in the most inclusive manner possible and that nobody is left behind.”

Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova in her opening address said “Today, when we see the rise of doctrines based on withdrawal and rejection of others, “I believe we need the same courage and the same commitment towards peace, dialogue and empathy,” as were needed in 1945 when UNESCO was created in the wake of World War II.

“This is what I have called a new humanism,” she added.

“In these times of limits – limits of resources, limits of the planet – we must invest in the potential of human ingenuity, in the power of innovation, quality education and scientific research, in the power of dialogue. This is our ultimate renewable energy.”

Prime Minister of the Republic of Madagascar Olivier Solonandrasana Mahafaly, who also spoke at the program said he believes that the time has come to share all available resources to focus UNESCO’s program on the challenges facing member States in education, the enhancement of human resources and the protection of the environment.

He said in the face of these challenges, multilateralism is our greatest asset.

“We must work in solidarity, harness our actions and expertise to achieve the SDGs”.

“I also invite UNESCO to promote the innovative funding methods needed to support actions already undertaken.”

Mohammad Sarwar Danesh, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan spoke of his government’s progress in UNESCO’s fields of competence, since the fall of the Taliban.

Invoking progress in education, notably girls’ education and in the development of independent media. He said the crucial role of international cooperation in protecting these achievements from the attacks of terrorists from all over the world is commendable

He wants the world’s leaders to lead a global cultural movement against terrorism by repairing destroyed historical sites and protecting other remaining heritage and strengthening of cultures of all nations. UNESCO should take the lead of this movement.

He noted that a world with UNESCO is more beautiful and brighter. A World without UNESCO would be a dark and lightless world.

The President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita focused on the ordeals experienced by his country due to fundamentalist violence and thanked the commitment of the Director-General of UNESCO for her initiative UNESCO launched an ambitious campaign to rebuild World Heritage in Mali.

President Keita said the world is facing violent extremism and other challenges that threaten peace in the world, the condition for any development.

These challenges justify the need to reinforce the role of UNESCO and our collaboration with it.

The Malian President said there is greater need for the leaders at UNESCO to be worthy of the Organization’s founders who were convinced that, in the words of UNESCO’s Constitution, “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

At the 39th General Conference, Liberia is represented by Education Minister George Werner, Youth and Sports Minister Saah Charles N’tow, University of Liberia President, Dr. Ophelia Inez Weeks, Deputy Education Minister Gbovadeh Gbilia, Liberia’s Ambassador to France and UNESCO, Dr. C. William Allen and Assistant Minister for Culture at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism Joyce Kenkpeh among others.

Liberia’s Education Minister and Head of Delegation, George Werner is expected to address the General Assembly on Thursday, November 2.

Report by Isaac C. Yeah, UNESCO Headquarters