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‘More Than Half of Liberia’s Primary School Teachers Unqualified’ – GAC

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George Werner, Liberia’s Education Minister

Monrovia – The General Auditing Commission has issued the Performance Audit report on the Management of the Free and Compulsory Primary Education, Ministry of Education for the period July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2014 to the National Legislature. 

Performance audit is the independent examination of a program, function, operation or the management systems and procedures of a government or non-profit entity to assess whether the entity is achieving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the employment of available resources.  

The Performance Audit was motivated by public outcry over the implementation of the Free and Compulsory Primary Education program by the Ministry of Education.

Parents claimed that in spite of the new education law, they were still paying fees and other requirement for their children in public schools as reported by the Heritage Newspaper on   August 9, 2011, The News Newspaper on March 8, 2012 and September 10, 2013.

Background

In 1997, the Government of Liberia launched the Free and Compulsory Primary Education Program which is now referred to as Basic Education and was re-launched in 2007.

The Government’s objective is to increase the enrollment of school going age children in the country by providing every child the opportunity to enroll in a nearby school in their community.

The audit was commissioned by the Auditor General to assess the appropriate measures put in place by the Ministry of Education to achieve the Government’s objective of Free and Compulsory Primary Education Program.

In addition, to verify whether students in public schools performance have improved as a result of said program.

Findings

The report says that the policy on reform Session 2.1 states that “every citizen or resident has the right to education between 6 and 18 years and participation is basically free and compulsory for basic education from 6 to 15 years”.

Contrary to the policy above, the report says  the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) for the period under audit, 2010 – 2014,  established that school going age children totaled 776,167 (seven hundred seventy-six thousand one hundred sixty-seven).

However, eligible children enrolled in schools were 266,548 (two hundred sixty-six thousand five hundred forty-eight) or 34 percent and those out of school were 509,619 (five hundred nine thousand, six hundred nineteen) or 65 percent.

The LISGIS statistical report also indicated that the 509,619 children of school going age that were not enrolled also included children who had not attended any school. 

Below is the breakdown of enrollment by County per the GAC audit report:

The Liberia Education Administrative Regulation stipulates class size for all public schools.

According to the regulation: for lower basic education (primary schools) class size should not exceed the ratio of 44:1 and for upper basic education, (junior/secondary schools) class size should not exceed the ratio of 40:1 to facilitate effective teaching.

However, it was observed during the audit that there were limited constructed and reconditioned schools. As noted from statistical report shown above, schools within the country newly constructed and re-conditioned existing school buildings, are inadequate when compared to the population of school going age children.

The number of enrolled school going age children compared to the number of schools that are available shows that schools are congested and subsequently leads to un-conducive learning environment.

 The GAC observed further that there are insufficient facilities such as: latrines, safe drinking water, and chairs without backrest to meet the students’ basic educational needs. See Below- students sit on the floor at the Kpelloe Ndama public Elementary School Foya District, Lofa County as captured by the GAC

According to Liberia Education Administrative Regulations of 2011 page 36 “Equal Access”  “ all students are entitled to equal opportunities for quality education” and “to ensure that textbooks, library resources, and other instructional materials and supplies are available on a fair basis, the County School Board or  the Monrovia Consolidated Schools System (MCSS) council, will allot all national, local and non-categorical funds, system-wide, or a per pupil basis, at each of the various organization groupings (e.g., basic and secondary school), in such manner that low-income schools will receive per pupil amounts equal to or greater than those in other such schools”.

On the contrary, GAC interviews conducted with the Minister and the Comptroller of the Ministry of Education during the audit revealed that the Government of Liberia had no direct budget line for the provision of instructional materials for public primary and secondary schools for the period under audit as mentioned in the regulations and as such, pupils were not getting the required education.

The “Policies for Reform 2.7.10 clearly states that “in order to obtain the results from the education program, the county is responsible for the monitoring and supervision of the intended activities of its districts and schools in their regular agendas, as well as special attention to development agenda’’.

GAC interviews conducted during the field visitations with Chief Education Officers (CEOs) and District Education Officers (DEOs) indicate that they are not carrying out effective monitoring and supervision to validate attendance and the performance of instructional staff due to inadequate support received for maintenance of assigned cars and motorbikes.

Also, oil and gasoline provided to them by the Ministry of Education are insufficient to carry out effective monitoring. Parent Teachers Associations of schools in the counties visited also indicated that instructional staffs are not spending the required school time on campuses and in the classroom.

According to the GAC, failure on the part of CEOs and DEOs to conduct regular monitoring and supervision, could lead to teachers not spending the required time in classrooms and thus the requisite education standards are not being met by the students.

The report says that  in the absence of monitoring of instructional staff, teachers are not thoroughly teaching and completing the required curriculum prescribed by Ministry of Education for the academic year.

Chapter 6 Section 6.2.1 (b) and (c) of the Education Law title 10, Liberia code of laws revised act of 2011 requires that “for upper basic education (junior secondary), teachers and administrators shall possess at least an Associate Degree from a recognized teacher’s training institute and a B-Certificate from the authority established under this act is empowered to issue Teachers certificates; For lower basic Education (primary schools) teachers and administrators, at least an Associate Degree for grades 4-6 and a high school diploma with at least one year of post-secondary teacher training at a recognized teachers’ training institution for grades (1-3); the person must also possess a minimum B or C certificate”.

From documents reviewed by the GAC in the Human Resource Department and interviews conducted with school administrators and the teaching staff, it was observed that 54% of the teachers in the classrooms were yet to obtain the required credentials as set forth in the Revised Education law of 2011 for proper placement in the classrooms.

CEOs and DEOs stated that they are experiencing shortage of trained teachers in the classrooms as a result, the school administrators recruited under qualified instructional staff to fill the gap. 

The GAC report finds that a  total of 346 High School graduates are serving as school principals.

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education has established standards to measure students’ output.

The following lists the measurement levels: 95-100 = Excellence, 90-94 = very good, 80-89 = Good, 70-79 =fair and below 70= poor and scores under 70, indicate failure.

These scores are placed in report cards to track progress by both student and parents.

According to the Audit Report,  an analysis of the Junior Secondary students’ results from the West African Examination Council (WAEC)  revealed that for 2011, 8,288 sat and 6,242 passed; for 2012, 11,130 sat and 8,803 passed; for 2013 12,193 sat and 9,302 passed; and for 2014, 13,207 sat and 7,097 passed the WAEC Exams.

The report also finds that The Education statistics reported by LISGIS for the period under audit shows that out of the total number of 696 junior secondary schools reported in eleven counties, 425 schools were using the WAEC syllabus while 248 schools were not.

The report could not establish the status of 23 schools whether they were using the syllabus or not.

In 2014, out of the 1,161 junior secondary schools reported in eleven counties, 606 were using the syllabus while 381 were not. The report could not also establish the status of 248 schools whether they were using the syllabus or not.

The GAC report says that from this analysis of the Ministry of Education report, it realized that failure on the part of the Ministry of Education to monitor public schools resulted in schools not in compliance with teaching the WAEC curriculum and syllabus.

The lack of implementation of this requirement can be seen from the underperformance of students in public schools which continued to be discouraging.  

GAC Recommendations

The Government of Liberia should increase the number of school infrastructures in the country per population and with the capacity to enable school-going age children in the various counties to have access to education.

The MOE should make sure that adequate supply of clean water for drinking and hand washing, conducive and sanitary environment, spacious and well-ventilated classrooms are provided.

The Ministry of Education should have adequate budget line for the provision of instructional materials to Primary and Secondary public schools in the country for every fiscal year in the National Budget.

The Ministry of Education should provide basic facilities such as Libraries, instructional materials including copies of Ministry of Education Curriculum for all administrators, text books and printing facilities, to enhance smooth learning process.

Instructional materials must be distributed to public schools in a systematic matter prior to the opening of schools to ensure that all students have the required school materials such as a set of core subject textbooks and supplementary learning materials

The Ministry of Education should fully empower District Education officers through the County Education Office to monitor instructional staff during school hours by providing additional logistics and maintenance costs.

The Ministry of Education should establish mechanism for proper collaboration with Parents-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and the District Education Officers in monitoring instructional staff during the school year. Parents should also make sure that the required guidance is provided to the students both at home and in school.

The Ministry of Education should ensure that performance evaluation sheets are available and provided to students at the end of each semester to enable appraisal of teachers’ performance and attendance in the classrooms.

The Ministry of Education should consider the need to build additional teachers’ training centers in the four regions of the country. The Ministry should also put mechanism to ensure that all teachers are trained in line with the standards set forth in the Revised Education Law of 2011.

The Ministry of Education should expand secondment, from Anglophone countries and work with retires teachers association in the United States of America and where applicable to provide assistance to teachers while new teachers are being adequately trained.

In addition, MOE can foster the relationship with the Peace Corp at the secondary school level to address qualified teachers shortage.

The Ministry of Education should make available the curriculum and the WAEC’s syllabus to all junior secondary public schools before the re-opening of schools for every academic year.

Furthermore, thorough follow up should be made to all the schools concerned to ensure that the curriculum is appropriately taught in line with the WAEC’s syllabus.

Given the significance of the matters raised in this report,  the GAC therefore  urges the Honorable Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives and Honorable Pro-Tempore and Members of the Liberian Senate to consider the implementation of the recommendations conveyed in the report with urgency.

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