CONGO TOWN, Montserrado â€“Â The National Education Coalition of Liberia, NECOL, says it is setting the stage and charting a roadmap to push for universal education in Liberia.
With support from OXFAM Ghana, the organization launched a three-day awareness campaign on Wednesday, October 30 during its general assembly at the Millennium Guest House in Congo Town. The aim of the awareness is to encourage a broad-based and locally-driven civil society participation in delivering the sectorâ€™s goals.
More than 100 active participants in the sector, including the National Teachers Association of Liberia, various parents-teachers organizations, education workers, human rights advocates, and student organizations, as well as the media and local and international organizations attended the event.
NECOLâ€™s acting chair, Moses Jackson, disclosed during the event that there was already a consensus that all people need to be educated regardless of their economic status, gender, and other social conditions. Jackson says this the Education Coalition supports this vision for Liberia.
â€œWe have gathered here to formally introduce and present NECOL, and to articulate its vision and mission, as an amalgamation of skills, advocacies, and talents committed to the improvement of education in Liberia,â€ he said.
â€œWe also want to solidify its links and relationships with local and international development partners and education stakeholders.â€
He said the establishment of the coalition was also inspired by a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals and its precursor, the Millennium Development Goals. Under these goals, he said education remains a permanent goal for countries in the world.
However, Jackson believes that many countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, have remained challenged in achieving the goal, because they have not adequately invested in the sector. This challenge, according to new projections by UNESCOâ€™s Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report of the U.N. High-Level Political Forum, could impede the achievement of the global targets in education if progress and the needed investments are not accelerated ahead of the 2030 deadline to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
UNESCOâ€™s Institute for Statistics estimates that some 258 million children and youths were out of school by the end of the 2018 school year. This total included 59 million children of primary school age, 61 million of lower secondary school age learners, and 138 million of upper secondary age.
These figures, Jackson said, reflect the real global and local challenges, and must serve as a rude awakening for the educational sector in Liberia, which only recently in 2013 was described by former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as a â€œtotal messâ€ when more than 25,000 high school students failed the University of Liberiaâ€™s entrance exam.
Jackson also decried the severe lack of investment in the sector by the government.
He said instead of committing more resources and energy to â€œclean the mess,â€ the government was continuing to budget minimal and unrealistic resources to education, which he believes does not incentivize teachers enough. Additionally, he said students can hardly access badly needed learning materials in a conducive classroom environment.
Jackson said the governmentâ€™s failure to invest more in the sector results in crowded classrooms and underpaid teachers and school administrator, especially within public schools. Additionally, he said these problems are compounded to create the conditions for bribery, sex and money for grades, and other ills in the sector.
He described a recent incident where administrators at the Soltiamon High School in Monrovia flogged a female student, as a reflection of the growth in school administrationsâ€™ willingness the test the limits of the governmentâ€™s supervision.
At the gathering was OXFAMâ€™s regional finance and grants manager for Africa, Lawrence Akubori, who stressed the need for greater advocacy within the sector and the need to set long-term goals.
â€œThe results will not be felt immediately, but will certainly bear fruits after 15-20 years,â€ Akubori said.
Despite regional and global agreements mandating governments to allocate a 20 percent minimum of their gross domestic products towards education, in line with the Dakar framework of the 2015 Incheon Declaration, Liberiaâ€™s allotment to education in the national budget has remained below 17 percent.
More-4-Education, an advocacy campaign platform which has been calling for the full implementation of the 2011 Education Reform Act, has also advocated for at least 20 percent of the countryâ€™s national budget or 6 percent of the GDP to be allotted to the sector.
The platform is a component of the USAID-sponsored Liberia Voice Accountability Initiative, which was being implemented by 10 civil society organizations, such as Youth Movement for Collective Action, the National Teachers Association of Liberia, Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia, National PTA Network of Liberia, Helping Our People Excel, Inclusive Development Initiative, and the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education.
Featured photo by Magdalene Saah