WHEN PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF took power beginning 2006, she promised to reform the education system of a country that experienced more than a decade of civil war, a situation that dashed the hopes of thousands of youths of school going age who were deprived access to basic education. A few years on donors made tremendous contributions through numerous programs including the training of teachers, support to a proposed free and compulsory primary education and other programs.
THE FREE AND COMPULSORY primary Education program failed to achieve the desire objectives and a few years into her regime, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the education system as a mess, a statement she used as her reliance for dismissals and new appointments at the Ministry. Primary education has proven to be terrible which is imparting the country at the secondary and tertiary levels based on the outputs of Liberian students in local and regional examinations. LIBERIA STUDENTS HAVE over the years performed dismally in the West African Examination Council (WEAC) exams while a placement examination administered by the University of Liberia intended to enroll students witnessed all the students failing to make a pass. WITH LESS THAN TWO YEARS left in power, Sirleaf recently admitted in a Financial Times interview that the mindset of Liberians have not changed on issues of integrity, honesty, hard work, blaming the education system for failing to help instill these virtues in Liberians. “WE HAVE NOT CHANGED THE MIND-SET. We have not changed attitudes toward honesty, integrity, hard work. Maybe our educational system has failed us,” she said. A system that was in a state of collapse later turned messy under the Sirleaf regime and could not be reformed for about 12 years now while the regime bids farewell. INSTEAD OF DEVELOPING A PROGRAM to improve the system and leave it in a better shape for the next regime, the Ministry of Education is concluding a program where the primary education of the country will be outsourced to a private company. CURRENTLY, THE MINISTER OF EDUCATION, George K. Werner who is implementing reform at the Ministry in the air, travelling from countries to countries has spent the last months visiting East Africa to bring a private entity, Bridge Academies to secure the project for managing the primary education system of the country for a period of five years. THE PLAN AND ONGOING PROPOSAL which will see the grant for the pilot project coming into force by the end of this March, has not been communicated to stakeholders in the education sector or adequately publicized by the Ministry of Education but Bridge International Academies (BIA) officials are already in Liberia to conclude the singing of the contract for the project. The planned Private public partnership program has been described as the worse for the education system of Liberia as a senior United Nations Official has angrily described the proposed project as violation of the rights to education of children in Liberia. “OUTSOURCING LIBERIA'S PRIMARY school system to a private company would be a "violation of the right to education"”, said Singh on United Nations radio. Singh said there is no need for the Government of Liberia to hand over the management of its education to a private entity. “THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED AT THE SCALE currently being proposed and violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligation,” said Singh. “Provision of public education of good quality is the core function of the state, and abandoning this to commercial benefit of private company constitute a gross violation of the right to education”, Singh added. The private partnership project has been described as the worst for the education system which has already seen a Free Compulsory primary education failed to achieve the desired results. BESIDES, THE PRIVATE ENTITY ABOUT TO BE contracted, BIA, has no history of high performance anywhere in Liberia. In East Africa, mainly Uganda and Kenya where the entity is implementing education project, reports have it that BIA is contributing to poor standard of education. BIA programs have lapses in the two countries where notes and other lectures materials are stored on an android mobile phone and the teachers use the phones to teach, a method where the teacher does not have to be sophisticated to teach. THE INSTITUTION CHARGES US$6 PER student per month in Uganda and Kenya as part of its project and also charges other fees for feeding and others. Some in Kenya and Uganda believe that $6 plus other charges by Bridge Academies is a lot of money for the millions in the two countries. In Uganda, many say the amount requires poor Ugandan families with many children to borrow in order to keep all their children in school or to choose which child goes to school. A REPORT ON BIA OPERATIONS declared that despite charging fees, the World Bank through its sector investment arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested US$10 million in bridge Academies in 2014 in order to increase the number of bridge schools in Kenya and expand to three countries including Uganda. The IFC also approved a loan of $4.1 million to Merryland High School, a private, fee-charging secondary school in Entebbe, Uganda in December 2014. IN SPITE OF THESE INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE and fees charged by bridge, the BIA continues to get criticisms from the Governments of both Kenya and Uganda for its method of using Android mobile phones to teach students where most of the teachers used only use what is placed on the phone as Bridge resulted to using teachers who are not qualified to teach since the teaching materials are placed on a phone and the teacher only needs to teach what is available. The entity teaching method is seen in the two countries as discouraging the employment of qualified teachers who will interact with the students while teaching instead of using fixed materials downloaded on a mobile phone. IN LIBERIA WHERE ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY is a serious problem, the BIA methods used in Uganda and Kenya may likely contribute to the poor state of the primary education system. The regime of President Sirleaf has proven incapable to improve the education system after almost twelve years in power and must now leave it to the next regime rather than waiving its responsibility to a private company and obligating the next regime through a signed contract. Leave the messy system, after proving incapable of cleaning, rather than adding insult to injury.