The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: Overhaul Educational System - Pres. Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has provided more justifications for her recent criticism of the educational system in Liberia, which she described as "complete mess", that requires a total overhaul.

Addressing a one-day National Education Roundtable Conference, held Friday, May 3, at the Monrovia City Hall, President Sirleaf said that her remarks about the state of the nation's education are supported by her personal experience with students and school authorities across the country.

Although school authorities have good intentions for developing Liberia's human capital, she observed, they lack the capacity to impart quality education to Liberian students.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the purpose of the Roundtable was to engage key stakeholders in addressing the major educational challenges and practical strategies to improve education in Liberia. The Education Roundtable was proposed by the President's National Youth Policy Advisor, Dr. Emmanuel Dolo, aimed at finding solutions to providing quality education.

Elsewhere in her opening remarks, the President observed that schools are not furnished; they lack libraries and laboratories, coupled with government officials' failure to travel around the interior to get first-hand information on the learning condition of Liberia's children. At the tertiary level, the President said she is worried that university graduates are equally performing poorly as some are unable to write fitting letters.

The Liberian leader said these shortcomings have compounded Liberia's quest for a revamped education sector, and that unless all stakeholders can redirect their time, energy and resources, the country will continue to face problems in providing quality education, something she said, is unacceptable.

"I am glad that everyone has turned out to find solutions by listening to all of you presidents of universities and teachers. Please tell us what we can do, because at the end of the day, if you do not have an educated population, we will be unable to build the national capacities of our young people," she told the participants, drawn from universities, colleges, primary and secondary levels.

The President acknowledged that while government does not have all of the resources, she believed that the administration can provide a gradual response towards solutions, especially where long-term recommendations are made.

Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh, speaking earlier, made a commitment that the Roundtable would bring out the real problems associated with providing quality education and a subsequent reaction to them.

Other Ministry of Education facilitators included: Dr. Khalipha Bility, Deputy Minister for Planning, Research and Development; Hon. Ann-Dora Gbormie, Assistant Minister for Planning, Research and Development; and Dr. Albert Coleman, Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Education.

Among issues addressed were Early Childhood Education/Development; Basic and Secondary Education; Teacher Education; Technical and Vocational Education; Tertiary/Higher Education; Decentralization/Education Management and Finance.

In closing, President Sirleaf said she would await the forum's report, hoping that it would be realistic, focused and time-bound in identifying immediate and rational steps. She cautioned the stakeholders not to make the outcome of the Roundtable "paperwork" as has been the case with other sectors.

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