Friday, 29 April 2016

Civil Society Group takes issue with gov’t

A group under the banner of United Civil Society for Education Dialogue (UNICED) has taken the Government of Liberia (GoL) to task for what it refers to as the Ministry of Education’s unilateral decision to establish Public Private Partnership (PPP) in education.

UNICED is a conglomeration of  five organizations and platforms including the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE); National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL); Liberia Education for All Technical Committee (LETCOM); Liberia Education Monitor (LEM) and YOCEL.

It can be recalled that in early January of 2016, the Ministry of Education invited select stakeholders to an event, dubbed “collaborative meeting” at the Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor. At that meeting, predominantly graced by international development partners, the Ministry of Education presented its plan to establish Public Private Partnership (PPP) in Education with Bridge International Academies (BIA).

Under the proposed PPP, the Ministry intends to outsource public basic and primary schools to private providers in order to “improve learning outcomes, especially numeracy and literacy”. Also under this arrangement, government intends to sign a contract with Bridge International Academies (BIA), a private education service provider. Other local providers are also being earmarked.

But addressing a news conference in Monrovia in Sinkor, Monrovia on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, the Acting CENTAL, Mr. Alexander D. Miamen, said the group is concerned about the implications of the proposed PPP on Liberia’s already “messy educational sector,” in which significant resources have invested to resuscitate

Mr. Miamen said the involvement of other local providers is just a cover up to divert public attention from the Ministry’s engagement with Bridge International Academies and the huge amounts and profits they hope to reap from this process.

According to him, when established, the proposed PPP will violate Article 6 of the Liberian constitution as it discriminatorily seeks to improve learning outcomes in would-be selected public schools, especially at primary and basic levels, leaving out vast majority of the schools and students populace not covered by the program.

“Consistent with the democratic principles of participation and consultation, which we subscribe to, the Ministry of Education has not adequately consulted with the broader spectrum of relevant stakeholders in the educational sector.  For example, the unilateral abrupt post-Ebola schools closure, which seriously embarrassed the educational system and is giving WAEC tough time to administer tests to many unprepared students,” he said.  

“Also, during the January 2016 reported consultation at the Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor, among other relevant stakeholders, the Federation of Liberian Youths (FLY), Liberia National Students Union (LINSU). How can you make decisions that will directly affect the wellbeing of students and youths and exclude them from consultation around such process/decision?” the UNICED official questioned.  

He averred that the Ministry’s handling of the PPP process violates relevant provisions of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission’s (PPCC) law, especially parts IV and V, which provide for open, transparent and competitive bidding processes in the award of public contracts.

The Acting CENTAL boss pointed out that establishment of the PPP will somehow compromise the future of Liberian children by introducing a system that not holistic and sustainable. Will we have donors to continuously provide resources for the PPP.

“Therefore, we urge the Ministry to abandon its planned PPP and redirect its attention to adequately funding and effectively implementing and monitoring relevant policies and laws on education, like the New Education Reform Act of 2011 and the National Policy on Girls’ Education, intended to ensure equal access to educational opportunities for all as well as improve the quality of education and learning outcomes in the Liberia,” Mr. Miamen explained.

“The ministry must commit to the development and implementation of sound policies, some of which already exist like the decentralization plan, to ensure the provision of inclusive and equitable quality education for all, consistent with Sustainable Development Goal 4 and its stipulated targets,” he among other things stated.

For his part, the Executive Director of Liberia Education Monitor (LEM), Mr. Jonah Nyepam asserted that the failure for the government to reconsider its decision to drop the proposed plan, they will have no other alternative, but to run to the Supreme Court of Liberia for redress.

Located on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, the Supreme Court of Liberia is the final arbiter of justice in the country.

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