Monitoring Key to Try and Error PPP Program
LIBERIA’S EDUCATION SYSTEM is no doubt below par as even President Ellen Johnson did not hold back her words in describing the system as messy during an event marking celebrations by hundreds of jubilant graduates from the state run University of Liberia.
THE GRADUATES WHO were joyously celebrating their achievements were scorned by the President’s utterance that the education system is messy and the performance of graduates below standard.
SINCE THE PRESIDENT’S statement, even officials of the Ministry of Education have used harsh words to describe the very system they are charged to take decisions that will help to improve.
ONE SENIOR EDUCATION Ministry official, Deputy Minister Aagon Tinbgan even equated a high school graduate in Liberia to the same performance of an elementary student in the United States of America.
THE REGIME OF President Sirleaf has over the years introduced several failed programs to improve the education system but after more than 10 years in power, statistics are showing that the system is worse than it was before the current regime.
THE UNITED NATIONS Children Fund (UNICEF) in recent report listed Liberia was the worst performing country in the world where Children are missing out on primary education with nearly two-thirds of children never stepping inside a classroom.
THE GOVERNMENT OF Liberia few years ago introduced a free, compulsory primary education program which was meant to get more children into school but public schools were not equipped to cater for students and parents opted to leave their children at home rather than attend poorly equipped schools.
EVENTUALLY, THE FREE, Compulsory primary Education failed as public schools started collecting fees from unemployed parents.
CURRENT EDUCATION MINISTER George Werner whom the Government is claiming to be a reformer was appointed to the position to help fix the messy system and he definitely promised to do so while facing confirmation hearing at the Liberian Senate.
MINISTER WERNER’S PLEDGE to help clean the system started on a terrible note when his decision to change the school calendar following the deadly Ebola outbreak led to protest from students where the President’s convoy was obstructed by protesting students.
THE EDUCATION MINISTER again instead of leading the reform himself, opted to shift the responsibility to several institutions in the private sector embarking on a Private Public Partnership program. Amid concerns about the past performance of some of the entities contracted on the PPP program and the lack of experience by some others, the Ministry has already distributed several schools on these private entities.
ENTITIES SUCH AS LIBERIAN Youth Network (LIYONET), BRAC have no history of managing institutions that can translated into managing schools in a broken educational system. LIYONET was given 14 schools to manage and with no past records, the institution has a big task in handling these schools.
ANOTHER INSTITUTION BANGLADESH Rural Advance Committee (BRAC) which is known in Liberia for programmes in microfinance, agriculture, poultry and livestock, health, and Empowerment and Livelihoods of Adolescents have also been given 20 schools to manage.
Bridge International Academies which is to also manage 23 schools has a terrible record in countries such as Kenya and Uganda and is facing challenges in those countries.
The Ugandan government recently announced that it would shut down all schools operated by Bridge. Janet Museveni, Uganda’s Minister of Education and Sports, announced last month that the government will close the 63 for-profit nursery and primary schools run by Bridge International in the country after deciding they fell short of standards on education, hygiene and sanitation.
DESPITE THIS AWFUL RECORD of Bridge in other African countries Liberia trusts the organization with 23 schools to manage.
ORGANIZATIONS FROM SIERRA LEONE, Ghana and other unknown institutions have all been trusted by the Ministry of Education with good number of schools.
THE ENTIRE PROCESS HAS become what could best be described as try and error where the Ministry is not looking at past performances of organizations before entrusting them with schools.
THE MINISTRY IS YET to state the benchmark that will be used in effectively monitoring these organizations during the period they are expected to manage these schools.
LOCAL ACTORS NEED TO be engaged during the entire process and the Ministry of Education must put in place effective monitoring mechanisms to hold these institutions to their feet.
IT IS CLEAR THAT THERE is risk because if the government could not monitor and ensure the success of the Free, Compulsory Primary Education how much more can it do to monitor private institutions but all is not lost as the Ministry needs to do more in making the PPP to become a success.