Liberia: House Passes Act Amending Education Reform Law to Establish Rural Teacher Incentive Fund

Monrovia — The Plenary of the House of Representatives, through a unanimous vote, has passed an Act amending the Education Reform Law of 2011 to establish rural teacher incentive fund.

Plenary took the decision on Thursday to amend the law by adding Chapter 9.2 under the title Financing Education to the existing law. The move was based on the advice of a specialized committee headed by Rep. P. Mark Jurry of Maryland County.

It can be recalled that in March 2020, Plenary discussed a "Discharge Petition" which emanated from a communication by Rep. Alexander Poure of District #1, River Gee County and mandated a specialized committee to work on the proposed amendment on the Education reform Act of 2011.

On Thursday in open session, the Committee reported that during the process of analysis, review and consultation of the amended act entitled, "Act to Amend Chapter 9 Financing Education of the new Education Reform Act of 2011, Title 10, Liberia Revised Code to Provide for Section 9.2 and all other Subsections for the Establishment of Rural Teachers Incentive Fund," it engaged key stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the National Liberia Lottery Authority (NLLA) about the amendment.

According to the Committee, the Ministry of Education expressed her approval for the establishment of the Rural Teachers Incentive Fund and indicated that it is a good step to attracting teachers to rural communities in Liberia.

"The Ministry of Education prays that the establishment of this fund will help the Ministry realized some of its plans to provide housing to teachers and incentives as pull factors for teachers to take up assignment in rural communities," the Committee stated in its report.

In the proposed Act, it is mentioned that the fund will be generated from small tax levied on certain goods and commodities and additional taxes levied on gambling.

The Committee noted that the LRA and the NLLA both agreed, adding that the LRA said the additional tax is "considerably acceptable," while the NLAA noted the amounts are "invariably infinitesimal to their clients and affordable."

Meanwhile, the amendment of the Education Reform Law of 2011 to establish rural teacher incentive fund comes in wake of an ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Education into the "alarming situation" affecting the education sector.

As part of the inquest, the Committee is requested to invite the Minister of Education, Prof. Ansu Sonii, along with his principal deputies to explain measures their ministry is putting in place to address the situation.

Plenary's decision was in response to a communication by Rep. Dorwohn Twain Gleekia (District #6, Nimba County) seeking the House's indulgence to invite the Minister of Education along with his deputies for Administration and Instruction to explain the ministry's plans in addressing the multiple problems affecting the sector.

According to him, following an assessment which included holding series of consultations with current and former school administrator, Parent, Teacher Associations, students and senior officials of the Ministry of Education, he gathered that the lack of textbooks and trained teachers were the fundamental problems affecting the education sector.

These 'alarming situation' within the education sector, Rep' Gleekia noted, are major contributing factors to the poor performances of primary and secondary school children with a trickledown effect on the results of the West African Senior School Certification Examinations (WASSCE).

In a brief remarks on the floor following the reading of his communication, Rep. Gleekia said: "The schools are in deplorable conditions and we need to put our feet down and put in place system."

According to him, most of the problems may be beyond the education authorities' reach, and as such it was prudent that they come before the House to collectively discuss the ways and mean in addressing some of the problems grappling the education sector.

Several lawmakers lauded the Nimba District #6 lawmaker for his communication and pointed out several lapses plaguing the sector in their respective constituencies.

Rep. Kanie Wesso (Distruct #2, Gbarpolu County), speaking during the floor discussion said in Gbarpolu County, the lack of teachers is hampering the smooth operation of schools; adding that in some part of the county, a teacher teaches from first to six grade, something he said was not acceptable.

According to him, an arrangement was reached with the World Bank to recruit teachers with BSc degrees but the Ministry of Education said it does not have money to pay them the required salary. He also complained that the Ministry of Education was retiring teachers and not replacing them, leaving a void in the classroom, and at the same retirees are not being paid their needed benefits.

Also joining the conversation, Rep. Joseph N. Somwarbi (District #3, Nimba County) added that retiring teachers without replacing them is also affecting the schools operating within his district. In some of the schools, he said parents are now engaging their children with at least high school education to temporarily fill in the gap left in the wake of the teachers' retirement.

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