Liberia: ‘US$4 Million Can Solve Teachers’ Payroll Problem’ – Deputy Education Minister

Liberia’s Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, Latim Da –Thong says it will take the government US$4 million to place all current public school teachers on the payroll

Capitol Hill, MonroviaLiberia’s Deputy Minister of Education for Administration Latim Da –Thong has told Plenary of the House of Representatives that it will cost US$4 million to place all current public school teachers on the government payroll.

Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]

Deputy Minister Da –Thong also called for the continuation of the Liberia Education Advancement Program (LEAP) that is being implemented at 400 of the 2,000 public schools in Liberia.

Teachers’ salary has been one of the major problems facing the education sector of the country as most of the teachers are not on the government payroll and often abandon classes in demand of salary.

Addressing the Plenary, the Deputy Education Minister noted that out of the 17,200 high school teachers, 12,000 are on the payroll, while 5,000 are volunteering.

To get the 5,000 volunteer teachers on the payroll, he said the government needs US$3 million, while US$1 million is needed as a retirement benefit for 1,500 teachers.

He made the assertions on Thursday, June 13 when he appeared before Plenary alongside representatives of private actors of the Liberia Education Advancement Program (LEAP), formerly the Partnership School for Liberia (PSL).

They were summoned by the House to state why teachers of schools that are being run by these private actors are not being paid and whether the agreement for the pilot program is being implemented to the fullest.

The Plenary’s decision derived from communication from Rep. Roger S. Domah (UP, Nimba District #7) craving the indulgence of his colleagues to invite Bridge Liberia to state why teachers of its (Bridge) operating school within his constituents have not taken pay since September 2017. 

Most of the lawmakers also complained of being confronted with a similar situation.

However, the Deputy Minister said as per the agreement, private partners are not to pay teachers, build and renovate schools or carry out any infrastructural development.

The issues of teacher salary and construction of schools, he said are the sole responsibilities of the government.

This led to Rep. Jeremiah Koung (Nimba County District #1) to demand Deputy Minister Da – Thong to list the full responsibilities of the private actors.

Rep Koung expressed concern over why are these private actors doing with the ‘huge’ sum of money they are raising on behalf of Liberia if they are not responsible to carry out basic interventions like paying teachers and renovating schools.

Rep. Larry P. Younquoi (Nimba District #8) also asked the MOE official about what Liberia stands to lose if it discontinues the experiment and takes responsibility of all the public school.

According to him, the program is causing a ‘serious’ distraction for students; adding that public schools’ students are no longer using the same uniform and most teachers complain of not being paid.

For her part, Rep. Haja Fata Siryon (Bomi County District #3) called for a collective effort in addressing the challenges grappling the education sector. 

She suggested that the Legislature allow the needed fund to accommodate all public school teachers on payroll and work with the Ministry of Education and the private actors in improving the program.

In response, Deputy Minister Da – Thong noted that terminating the program would affect the education sector as the private partners are assisting the government in several areas including giving teacher stipend and providing quality education.

He also said that the current agreement expires this 2019 and the Ministry is working on a new and improved contract that runs up to 2023. Unlike the current agreement, he added that the new framework will make the private partners more accountable and will be sent to the Legislature for review.

Private Actors’ Testimony   

Meanwhile, several representatives of the private companies including Bridge Liberia, More Than Me, Rising Academy, OMEGA, and Youth Movement for Collective Actions took the witness’ stand and explained their respective scope of operations and activities. 

Marcus S. Wleh of Bridge said the firm is covering 20,000 students and is committed to its side of the agreement, which he said is the first of its kind on the African Continent and plans are being worked out to improve the program.

Margratta Smith, General Country Director of ‘More Than Me’, noted that out of its US$1.2 million, her institution gives a monthly stipend of US$40 to each of the 63 teachers under its operating school in Montserrado, Bomi, and Gbarpolu, while the rest goes out to rape survivors, covering their medical needs and instructional programs.

James Bradley, the Academic Manager of Rising Academy Liberia revealed that his institution supports 29 schools in Liberia and supervises 246 teachers. Out of the number, he said, 148 are fully on the government payroll, 24 on supplementary payroll, while 74 are receiving stipends from Rising Academy.

Following all of the deliberations, Plenary then voted in favor of a motion designating its Committee on Education and Public Accounts to review the agreement and ascertain whether it is being fully implemented and report within two weeks.