Liberia: Public Schools Face 'Enormous' Challenges

-Research indicates

The education sector of the country, especially government-run public schools, continues to face enormous challenges, and recent reports are even presenting more worsening cases for Liberian students.

Findings in a research conducted by The Center for Democratic Governance (CDG), in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), highlighted perennial problems of the overcrowded classroom, combining of different grade-level classes, and less learning hours for students in public schools as compared to private schools.

The data, which was under the theme, "Strengthening Participation and Inclusive Service Delivery at the Local Level," indicated that the number of students in each class range from 40 to72, considering the size of the classes, while in private schools students in each class range from 30 to 45.

"Due to overcrowdedness," the findings said, "the administrations will face additional challenges with seating capacity as they are faced with now."

The data focused on primary three public and private schools in Buchanan city, District#3&1.

Samuel R. Outland, CDG project officer, in the inactive forum told the gathering that the data collected from the field show that both private and public schools registration processes are still ongoing at the moment due to the high economic challenges the country is faced with.

Mr. Outland said because most parents are unable to meet up with the school's requirements, they appealed to administrations of various schools to allow their child or children in school until a later date, even though the schools are accepting payment by installment.

He said the data was able to establish that the public schools collected L$400 as extra money, apart from the compulsory charges required by the government, to pay to compensate volunteer teachers and make provisions for other incentives where there are gaps and challenges, like the stationery, seating capacities and compensation of volunteer teachers.

Mr. Outland said that information gathered from the data proves that registration processes at the public primary schools show that the number of students is increasing every week in the districts as compared to private schools.

He said the data also shows that private schools have more expensive tuition and requirements.

Mr. Outland said "the data show that the number of girl's enrollment for this academic semester is high and similar to the last year in both public and private schools. This means that girls are taking advantage of the educational system to improve their academy status."

Parents who attended the forum said that besides the L$400 collected by the PTA board to pay volunteer teaches, the District Education Officer (DEO) of the county is requesting additional L$200 for the construction of CEO headquarters.

According to the parents, the issue of volunteer teaches is the result of the government's failure to send the correct number of instructors to various schools, something which they claimed to be a major reason why teachers do not spend the required 45 minutes teaching students.

They said the L$400 collected from partners is not enough to pay instructors so they leave classes to provide for their children.

The parents said the public schools lack monitoring and evaluation systems which also lead to instructors' staying out of classes or not spending the required time in schools.

According to them, private schools are monitored well and teachers paid on time, which gives the students more learning opportunities over public school students.

Attorney Oscar Bloh told the gathering that it is important that people understand the local government act in order to hold the government accountable to the county service center and other national benefits.

Bloh said public schools being unable to have access to quality education brings about social inequality, which was the major cause of the 14-year civil war (1989-2003).

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