Liberia: USAID/LPAC Boss Stresses Significance of Curbing Corruption In Liberian Schools
Monrovia –The head of the USAID/LPAC has assured Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission, the Center for Transparency and Accountability and Faith and Justice Network that his institution will support them “to the fullest with the necessary resources required to undertake” the pilot phase of the Corruption-free School Project in the country.
Mr. John P. Furnari, Chief of Party of the USAID funded Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption or LPAC, is confident that the project will promote “integrity system in schools, universities and society at large which is essential for preventing corruption and promoting good governance practices”.
He also said his entity’s support to the anti-graft bodies through the project will be a means of “cracking down on corruption in the educational sector of Liberia”.
“Since arriving in April, I have had a great opportunity to meet with many Liberians and they universally describe corruption as a disease that permeates the very fabric of Liberian society,” Furnari said at the launch of the initiative in Monrovia on Tuesday, August 13.
“But one key area that has come under heavy attacked in recent years is the educational sector. Our schools must be a sanctuary for learning and achieving, and for human growth. A place where children grow to become proud, engaged, and caring citizens of their community.”
Aare of the vices, he pointed out the ramifications of the “disturbing trends of corruption in schools and universities” by mentioning reports about teachers and lecturers demanding gifts, accepting bribes, abusing students sexually in order to pass exams, stealing of textbooks, the rigging of exams, issuance of fake diplomas and never-ending placement of ghost names on teachers payroll amongst other issues.
“These illicit activities of criminal fraud and coercion are hampering students’ learning and overall performance of the education system. Such corrupt acts perpetrated by administrators or educators suck thousands of dollars out of parents’ meager resources, dashing hopes that their children will receive a quality education,” the USAID/LPAC boss emphasized.
Corruption destabilizes economic growth and development, weakens institutions and systems, and destroys democratic tenets, he said, adding that “ordinary people are the most affected because it threatens their social, economic and physical wellbeing and deprives them of basic social services”.
He said the “gravity of this situation is wide-ranging”, warning that if nothing is done “to address this menace, children will come to understand that these behaviors are normal and acceptable” in the wider society.
“It is against this sobering background that I am proud to be standing with LACC as we launch Corruption-Free School Project to transform the students, teachers, and administrators and to create school environments that are conducive for learning through the establishment of Integrity Clubs in schools and universities.”
According to him, the project aims to build a culture of integrity that essentially begins with the education of students and youth in schools and universities with anti-corruption education, integrity standards, good moral values, civic duties, rule of law and many other good governance principles.
It is also expected to drive training workshop, quarterly symposia; lectures and seminars and conferences – all to induce voluntary change, inspire public integrity and ethical behavior in young people and in turn, encourage all of Liberia’s public sector leaders to help each other to find their way back to the honorable path of corruption-free public service.
“Central to this Project’s success will be awakening the teacher, student, and parent communities to the tenets laid out clearly and thoughtfully in the Ministry of Education’s Code of Conduct Manual for Teachers and School Administrators LACC and LPAC share confidence that the more teachers are informed of their ethical responsibilities,” he said
Mr. Furnari is also optimistic that the more students are informed of their rights and responsibility to report crime and academic malpractice, “future bad acts” will be averted.
It is expected that increased student awareness and Integrity Club activities will lead to increased reporting of corruption in education, which will aid the LACC in conducting intensive investigations.
“I believe that the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that these young people will learn through this project will not only change their behaviors but will also shape the future of this country because they represent one-third of the Liberian population – a powerful force that will soon become part of the Liberian electorate responsible for both choosing Liberia’s leaders, and responsible for carrying this Project’s lessons about integrity with them to their communities, and – someday soon – into leadership positions in the Liberian Government,” the USAID/LPAC boss said.