FULL RESOLUTION: Consortium of Education Defenders of Liberia (COEDEL) releases resolution calling on gov’t to disallow all private providers in the public education sector

Providing education is an important function of the State. Article 26 Sub Section 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) put education as a basic Human Right.
“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.

Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. It is a tool for sustainable development. Every goal in the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires education to empower people with the knowledge, skills and values to live in dignity, build their lives and contribute to their societies.

This is enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030. The roadmap to achieve the education goal, adopted in November 2015, provides guidance to governments and partners on how to turn commitments into action (Education 2030 Framework for Action).

The success of 2030 Agenda requires political will, global and regional collaboration and the
engagement of all governments, civil society, and the private sector, youth, United Nation (UN) and other multilateral agencies to tackle educational challenges and build systems that
are inclusive, equitable and relevant to all learners. Chapter II General Principles of National Policy of the Liberia Constitution with specific reference in Article 6 gives the provision of
education as a sole responsibility of government. “The Republic shall, because of the vital role assigned to the individual citizen under this Constitution for the social, economic and
political well-being of Liberia, provide equal access to educational opportunities and facilities for all citizens to the extent of available resources. Emphasis shall be placed on the mass
education of the Liberian people and the elimination of illiteracy”.

The Liberian Education Law also recognizes the important role of the state in ensuring quality and inclusive education for all. Moreover, Pillar 1 of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led Government’s Pro–Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), Section 2.1.2.1 states “reducing out of school, and increasing retention and completion rate for girls, raising minimum infrastructure standard, the provision of lifelong learning opportunities on an equitable and inclusive basis will be a special emphasis under the PAPD among others.
Contrary to the above-mentioned concepts and global objectives; which are supported by the Constitution of Liberia and the Education Law, the Government of Liberia has been taking
steps to run away from one of her core responsibilities.

In January 2016, in a controversial move, the Government of Liberia announced its intention to outsource its primary and pre-primary education system to a United States (US)-based for-
profit corporate actor, Bridge International Academies (BIA). Following considerable opposition to this unprecedented move by the Government which conceived the Partnership
Schools for Liberia (PSL) program, where eight actors would operate 93 schools in the first year as a pilot project.

Despite claiming that PSL would be subject to a rigorous evaluation through a Randomized Control Trial (RCT), six months into the trial, the Ministry of Education, under the leadership
of Former Education Minister, Hon. George Werner, decided to increase the number of schools to 202 in the project’s second year. The long-term cost of the program “remains high
compare to programs yielding comparable effects elsewhere”, including Uganda and Kenya. In other words, unlike Uganda and Kenya where BIA constructed schools, the Government
of Liberia continues to deliver the already insufficient public schools to private providers with BIA taking the lead. This action (on) the part of the Ellen Johnson and now George M.
Weah led government is seriously affecting public education in Liberia.

Despite several researches pointing out huge discrepancies in the provision of education in the pilot Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), now branded the Liberia Education Advancement Program (LEAP), Bridge Academies, the biggest provider, is still making
strives to entirely take over almost all public schools in Liberia.

The current proposal (Technical Assistance to improve school quality in Liberia, dated April 2019 if not quickly checked, will see Bridge International Academies taking over 250
schools in Liberia in all the 15 counties, including 100,000 students and 3000 teachers by September 1 st , 2019/2020 school year. According to the statement of the proposal, BIA is to
produce and deliver curriculum and learning materials to the schools of operation.

Most disturbing and unimaginable is that instead of BIA empowering existing Teachers Training Institutions in the country, the MOE is allowing BIA to train, coach and support,
according to them, 3000 teachers, vice principal for instruction, principals and county education office staff (County Education Officers (CEOs), District Education Officers (DEOs), Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officers.

Provision of curriculum through tablets and cell phone is untenable in Liberia where electricity is unstable and not available in all the rural schools.

If this proposal is allowed continuity, it will be the beginning of the end for universal public education, a concept with ancestry dating back to 1647.

If this government is permitted to outsource the entire elementary school system, and even the Junior High Division, Liberia will enter the records of notoriety once again.

At stake is the future schooling of children around the world. Liberia will suffer another shameful international scandal.

For us as civil society organizations, teacher unions and educational stakeholders in Liberia, we view this proposal of privatization and commercialization of public schools from the
following points:

  1. We believe that the GOL is negating or shading away from her core responsibility.
  2. The outsourcing of more than 250 public schools to private providers is a form of
    government shading away from accountability to their citizens on the provision of
    education.- does this not mean the same thing?
  3. It is violation of international and regional laws and protocols signed by the
    Government of Liberia; and violation of Liberia Constitution/ Education Law.
  4. It is a threat to the composition of our national education curricula and education
    policy.
  1. We see it as a form of discrimination which is counterproductive to the UN SDG #4,
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights as enshrined in Article 26, the African
    Charter on Humans and People’s Rights as enshrined in Article 17
  2. We see it as a creeping intent of taking over all public schools for profit-making; to
    create job insecurity for teachers, Education Officers (EOs) and all the educational
    employees in Liberia. The BIA Program does not also cover insurance for teachers
    and educational workers as enshrined in Education Reform Act of 2011, referencing
    article 6.3
  3. We see it as exploiting the vulnerability of Liberian children for undue profit-making
  4. We see this outsourcing of education program as unsustainable and will further
    weaken government’s commitment to financing and providing quality education for
    her citizens.
  5. It is a form of disregarding the efforts of educational and public school administrators
    while by-passing the real issues confronting the education sector in Liberia (education
    financing)
  6. It is a form of discouraging professional development while encouraging the
    recruitment of less competent individuals in the classroom.
  7. We see this BIA program as well as other providers as a way of rendering our district
    and county education officers not having complete control in the supervision of our
    schools.

This proposal must be blocked, not just as a matter of principle; it must be opposed because it is based on faulty logic. Furthermore, it provides no evidence to support their radical
disruptive experiment with the nation’s school system.
We therefore reject this threat and menace that may not only affect our fragile education system but also affect teachers, civil servants, students, parents and the image of our country in the compliance of international conventions/protocols.

We hereby consider the outsourcing of public schools as a National Emergency comparable to the Ebola epidemic and now Corona Virus Pandemic and must be given attention as a
matter of urgency.

Having realized the deliberate action of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Justice not to respond to our petition statement which was presented to the GOL through the MOE on October 17, 2019 in the presence of the current Minister of Justice, Cllr. Musa Dean , we hereby call on the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. George M. Weah to immediately intervene since his ministers have chosen not to dignify us as legitimate citizens with genuine concerns for the good of the country. We are hereby requesting the Government of the Republic of Liberia to disallow all private providers in our public education sector from using our public school buildings and GOL public school teachers for commercial purpose.

WE HEREBY GIVE THE GOL 90 DAYS TO RESPOND TO OUR DEMAND OR WE WILL BE COMPARED TO TAKE FURTHER STEPS THAT WILL COMPEL THE GOVERNMENT TO ACT.

The Government of Liberia should request her partners to build their own facilities and employ their own staff if they are sincere to contribute to the advancement of education in Liberia. Our public school buildings and the public school teachers are paid by tax payers.

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