25 October 2013

Liberia: Tarpeh's Resignation Denied - but Is Liberian President Ready to Clean Education Mess?

Photo: Glenna Gordon/Unesco
The student-teacher ratio at the Paynesville Community Junior High School in Monrovia is over fifty to one (file photo).

Executive mansion sources have denied media reports that the Minister of Education Etmonia Tarpeh has tendered her resignation to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Press attaché at the Ministry Mr. Maxim Bleeten has also denied these reports terming it as a 'black lie'.

On Friday teachers staged a demonstration before the ministry's head office in Sinkor accusing Minister Tarpeh of financial malpractices while at the same time calling for her dismissal.

Speculations surrounding the minister's resignation grew when President Sirleaf with immediate effect, dismissed Mr. Edwin Tetteh, Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Education.

Mr. Tetteh's dismissal, which was confirmed by the executive mansion, came as a result of a collective view of the entities concerned that he failed to provide the leadership and commitment in the matter relating to the clean-up of the Teacher's Payroll at the Ministry according to the President's dismissal order.

President Sirleaf's letter of dismissal issued Tetteh also indicated that the payroll clean-up exercise has been delayed resulting in the postponement in the decision to increase the salaries of teachers and other civil servants that would have been financed by savings from the cleanup exercise.

But critics have termed the President's action to fire Tetteh and leave Tarpeh hanging in the loop as a misstep and are calling on her (Tarpeh) to resign.

"Whenever there is a problem at the ministry, the President goes ahead and dismiss the deputy ministers leaving the minister standing. The problem with the sector is the minister's lack of will to ensure reform," says Mrs. Joana Peters a resident of Monrovia.

The President must demonstrate that she is serious by firing minister Tarpeh or Tarpeh should resign."

Peters like many Liberians are frustrated over the failure of the sector to improve despite the amount of money that is being pumped into it.

In August 2013, 25,000 high school graduates failed the University of Liberia admission exams without a single outright pass prompting Minister Tarpeh to cast her doubts about the validity of the exam and the intelligence of the Liberia's youth population.

This situation brought to the fore arguments about the quality of the country's education system. President Sirleaf blasted the ministry of education at a cabinet retreat, terming the education sector as being a total mess. Since then the government have been seen to be taking some cosmetic measure to fix the mess but many who have know the sector say until the President can take a decisive action that will lead to cleaning up the mess, the situation will continue to haunt the sector.

But the government maintains that it is taking the necessary staps aimed at reforming the sector.

"At the ministry of education, there is renewed efforts to strengthen the administration of the education programs from district, counties... " said information minister Lewis Brown at a news briefing on Thursday.

"The fact that 25,000 students taking matriculation exams from the University of Liberia and failing in those exams-English and Math, it means we must continue to do more.Already government working with development partners has a peace corps program underway helping to mentor teachers and providing assistance in many schools including especially the rural area."

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