Recovery of the Primary Education Sector in Liberia
Gratefully contributed by UNICEF, Liberia
Seventeen year old Stella Kessellie is a grade six student at the crowded Paynesville Community Primary School in Monrovia, Liberia. She smiles as she holds a schoolbook in her hands for the first time in her life. She shares it with her class mate Wesley. “Without a textbook, it’s very difficult to keep up with the lessons taught in class. But this year has been good.” Her classmate Wesley adds, “We have enough textbooks, at least one for every two of us.”
In 2008, that was different. The school had virtually no textbooks in their classes and the children had to share one book for the whole class during most of their lessons. Stella was ten years old when she first attended school. Due to the dire consequences of the civil war, a whole generation of children enrolled into school at very late stage. “I joined school late, so I want to learn as much as possible to make up for it,” she says. Stella wants to complete high school and enroll in a nursing college. “There is so much sickness here. I dream of becoming a nurse one day,” she says.
Paynesville Community Primary School teacher Fritz Nagbe has his own ideas about how to improve school education in Liberia. ”It is not only textbooks. We need more desks and chairs, more classrooms and teachers. I feel happy to see the increasing number of children enrolling, but we have to make sure that we are able to provide good education.”
There has been an increase in primary school enrollment as the national school census 2007/08 and the 2008 national population and housing census show. The gross enrollment ratio in primary schools decreased to 89 percent (from 155 percent in 2006) and net enrollment ratios are 33 percent (from 25 percent in 2006). The net enrollment is low due to many children like Stella starting school late as a result of the war. But with the first batch of six year old children starting school in September 2009, the net enrollment will increase as a result of the recent free and compulsory education policy of the government. The challenge is to ensure that there are enough schools, trained teachers, desks and textbooks to provide quality education.
Liberia is a country recovering from a devastating 15-year civil war. When peace was declared in 2003, the education system had to be built up practically from scratch as most of the schools had been looted and destroyed, with many teachers displaced or even out of the country. In 2008, the Government of Liberia had little money to buy books for its schools yet books are so precious for improving access to, and quality of, education. Just one year later, primary schools are benefiting from the Education Pooled Fund which was set up by the Ministry of Education (MoE) with contributions from UNICEF through a grant from the government of the Netherlands and the Open Society Institute (OSI). The funds from the Education Pooled Fund, totaling US$16.25 million, have been used to equip three rural teacher training institutes, supply about 1.2 million textbooks and is currently funding the construction of 40 new primary schools. The creation of the Education Pooled Fund in 2008 has improved government-donor collaboration, the development partners helped the Ministry to carry out an Education Sector Review in June 2009 and have been contributing towards the completion and appraisal of a comprehensive education sector plan.
In 2007, Liberia joined the EFA FTI Partnership, but was not granted support for its Liberian Primary Education Recovery Programme (LPERP). The LPERP is a three year program focused on the rehabilitation of primary education. Liberia’s institutional capacity has been weak which is a common feature with many post-crisis and transition countries. With support of the EPDF, EFA FTI has provided technical assistance to produce a comprehensive education sector plan as well as support for capacity development for the MoE for implementation of the LPERP and financial management.