SEATTLE — Liberia’s education system has been decaying significantly as a result of the Ebola epidemic and years of conflict in the nation. Education Minister George Werner has recently proposed a pilot project beginning in September to improve the education system.
According to the Huffington Post, change has been a long time coming as some classrooms currently hold 50 students to one staff member. As a result of overcrowding, students are often forced to stand in order to learn.
Statistics from the 2013 Demographic and Health Survey show that only 50 percent of young women and 68 percent of young men in Liberia have completed their primary education or are able to read an entire sentence.
To address these inadquacies, the proposed pilot project would involve having 50 of the 5,000 primary schools in Liberia taken over by Bridge International Academies, a company based out of Kenya.
The new plan will require teachers in Liberia to be vetted and monitored by Bridge International Academies, though their salaries will continue to be paid by the government.
While the education minister is convinced of the effectiveness of this plan, many Liberian citizens are not.
Push Back from the Community
Local teachers have argued that instead of privatization as a solution, the government should attend to the issue of the low wages that teachers receive.
One teacher, Joseph Komoreah, calls the proposed plan a “shame” and also asserts that education should be left to the Liberians. Komoreah believes that because of these low wages, teachers have to overextend themselves into multiple jobs leaving less time and energy for their students.
An alternative solution to spur the improvement of the Liberian education system might be to provide the teachers with a living wage.
By doing so, the teachers would be better equipped to spend an adequate amount of time with the students.
Kishore Singh, a U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to education, asserts that the proposed plan puts “the concept of education as a public good under attack,” noting that providing a quality public education is a core responsibility of the state.
In addition, teachers from Bridge Academies International are not required to have the same amount of training as current teachers in Liberia. Instead, there is a script that instructs the teachers on what to say and do at each moment in the class, provided by a data-enabled tablet.
A Huffington Post article notes that this type of detached instruction removes the typical rapport and critical or innovative thinking involved from teachers to their students.
Though the pilot project seeks to fix the current issues with Liberia’s education system, the new ideas that will be implemented shift the focus from global-awareness to standardized education. Students in Liberia do not attend schools only to learn to read, but also to find new and innovative solutions to everyday global issues.
However, if the pilot project beginning in September is a success, the government will be seeking multiple private providers to bring the same types of changes to Liberia’s education system.
– Amanda Panella