MONROVIA, Liberia — Caught between a devastating 14-year civil war and a deadly Ebola outbreak, education in Liberia has declined. To improve school statistics in the country, Liberian education minister George Werner and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have implemented a long-term education reform project. In September, Bridge International Academies took control of 120 government primary schools, three percent of all schools in the country. Its one-year pilot program, if successful, will lead to the development of a nationwide charter school system.
Education in Liberia is still very inaccessible, poorly operated and too expensive for many families to afford. It is particularly difficult for girls to attend school. In addition to this, since the majority of schools are located in Monrovia, poorer children in the countryside have trouble accessing education. The 2015 Education for All Report sponsored by UNESCO reported that half a million children in Liberia were out of school.
The country’s goals for education include expanding early childhood care and education, eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education and ensuring access to free, quality education. Challenges facing these goals include a lack of trained teachers, new school construction throughout the country and parents who keep their children home from school because of fees, distance or the need for help at home.
Bridge International Academies is the world’s largest educational innovation company directly impacting poor families in Africa. From nurseries to primary schools, Bridge utilizes data and technology to revitalize educational institutions, enhance curricula and monitor the performance of students and teachers.
The first Bridge Academy opened in 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya and quickly became both the largest chain of private schools in Africa and the fastest growing company in Kenya. The company opened other academies in Uganda and Nigeria and as of 2015 has created 414 academies across three countries. In addition to this, Bridge has plans to expand into Asia and has opened up more offices around the world.
Schools in Liberia will remain under government control and offer high quality, free education to Liberian families. Liberian schools need more trained teachers, and Bridge is providing them, with a quick but thorough training system that helps teachers gain competence and confidence.
Through its partnerships with Liberian schools, Bridge will impact nearly 20,000 children during the 2016-2017 school year. The “Partnership Schools for Liberia” program costs about $65 million dollars and will receive an additional $135 million dollars from private donors.
Despite criticism over for-profit schooling systems and Bridge’s tactics, the project has the potential to transform education in Liberia. As long as the Liberian government commits to its promise to expand the education system’s potential and impact, Liberian schools will experience a significant increase in attendance and retention. Bridge’s track record of successfully educating over 100,000 children and producing significant learning gains makes the company a valuable partner.
– Ashley Morefield