Why Am Joining The Fight To Radically Improve Free Public Education In Liberia
I am one of millions of Liberians who have probably never stepped outside of the borders of Liberia. Everything I am today, I owe to my Liberian-ness. My life goal is to make Liberia a better country than I have met it; and even better than I will leave it. I try to guide my decision making with my broader vision of making Liberia a better country.
I believe that education, often described as the bedrock any nation, is the answer to our age-old unanswered question: “How do we make Liberia a beacon?” Our future lies in our human resources. Great people make a great nation! But how can we build great people if we are not providing them with a good education?
Our education system is failing our people. Our education system is challenged in every indicator and fixing it would mean setting Liberia on an irreversible path of development. As a teacher and education advocate, I have tried to do my best at a local level to help fix the education system.
During Ebola last year I gave children in my community free school lessons because I couldn’t bare the thought of them going for three months without school. Is it any wonder that 50% of children are finishing school 3 to 6 years late, and that only 20% of children enrolled in primary school complete secondary school?
The people of Liberia deserve better. Parents deserve to have access to educational opportunities for their children, teachers deserve the support and resources to enable them to help children learn, and a generation of Liberian children deserve better than stumbling through a failed system.
That is why I have decided to join Bridge International Academies to work with the Government of Liberia to take bold steps to fix a drastic problem. While maintaining its role as the guarantor of free education for all children, the government has sought partners to vastly improve the quality of education through Partnership Schools for Liberia.
The partnership will work with education providers with proven models of school management, teacher support, and increasing learning outcomes to transform free public primary and nursery schools into centers of excellence.
Bridge International Academies has answered the Government’s call to serve the Liberian people as the first of many partners under Partnership Schools for Liberia. In a one year pilot program, Bridge will implement its model in 50 public primary schools from September 2016.
Any costs for the pilot over and above the existing funding for pubic schools will be entirely funded by outside donors who are investing in the future of Liberia.
All schools under the Partnership will be free. Children in the Bridge public schools will be given free textbooks, independent study books and homework books based on the Liberian national curriculum and all the resources they need to feel engaged and progress in school.
They will be able to participate in extra-curricular activities like soccer club and dance club. They will be in school, learning every day for over 8 hours. Parents will be guaranteed that their children will have a safe and welcoming place to spend the school day, where teachers are in class and teaching.
No Liberian teacher will be fired by any partnership provider. The partnership will give good teachers the support and resources they need to become great teachers, equipped to change children’s lives. Bridge will support teachers by providing each teacher with a wireless enabled tablet computer with all their lessons planned, and direct access to a central support team for assistance and guidance.
Bridge will support teachers with uniform behavioral and instructional systems to keep the school orderly and the students behaved. The lesson plans will allow teachers to circulate in their classrooms and not spend all their time at the board.
Bridge has expertise in using technology in remote and under-served communities. It currently uses mobile phones and tablets in over 450 schools in some of the lowest resource communities in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. No Bridge school needs electricity or internet.
Teacher tablets have power for up to two weeks, and school leaders charge their phones as they would their personal mobile phone. Bridge has inbuilt processes to support technical failures, including where there is insufficient access to power. The system operates with any access to a 2G connection in the area, which the team will make sure is available well in advance. This is what Bridge has done so successfully for the last 8 years and they will do it here too!
Importantly, the government is not outsourcing education. Partnership Schools for Liberia will see education providers implement their models in 70 – 120 public primary schools for the 2016 – 2017 academic year, which is approximately 3% of public primary schools in Liberia. The providers will manage government schools, but the government will maintain ownership and control. Providers will help the government to collect best practice on delivering learning in order to be able to improve all Liberian primary schools.
The only aim of the partnership is to provide Liberian children with the quality education they deserve. An education that engages their hearts and minds, that enables them to gain employment, start Liberian businesses and to be the successful leaders that the Liberian people need.
In its 8 years working in Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, Bridge has been a proactive and successful partner to parents and governments, delivering statistically significant learning gains for its pupils. In Kenya, Bridge’s pioneer pupils had a 40% higher chance of passing national primary exit exams in 2015.
The Bridge model empowers communities to radically change the educational opportunities for their children. Four children from Bridge’s first graduating class in Kenya in 2015 were awarded full scholarships to complete secondary school at exclusive high schools in the United States.
One recipient, 13 year-old Grace Kerubo described the experience, saying: “Bridge opened my eyes to dreams that I didn’t know existed, and then helped me achieve them. Before I came to Bridge I felt lonely and discouraged. I thought that if I could just get through secondary school it would be enough. Being at Bridge taught me to believe I could be more. My teachers showed me that I am a clever, strong, African girl who can go on to change the world.”
I joined Bridge because I believe that it is unjust to let generations of children fail. I believe we must try everything to give all children the opportunities they deserve, and to address inequality for future generations. I ask others to join us as partners to overcome inequality and poverty together, one classroom at a time, for every boy and girl.
Matthew Nyanplu, Bridge International Academies,