After more than two years of consultation, planning and preparation, the Ministry of Education (MoE) formally launched “Getting to Best in Education” at a ceremony on August 6. The program is funded by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) through a US$11.9 million grant. Liberia can also access an additional US$5.9 million in funding from GPE.
The program was developed over the course of 2017 and 2018 following completion of the MoE's Education Sector Analysis and Getting to Best Education Sector Plan 2017-2021, and designed to advance key priorities under this plan.
Six counties will benefit from targeted interventions in the areas of early childhood education (ECE), teacher training, and monitoring and accountability. Bomi, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Cess, River Gee and Sinoe were selected based on indicators of disadvantage to ensure project funds go to communities and schools in need, though the ministry hopes to scale successful aspects of the project across Liberia.
Education is a key sector for Liberia’s development
At the program launch, stakeholders heard remarks from ministers, diplomats and development partners. Professor D. Ansu Sonii, Minister of Education, reiterated that education delivery is among the most urgent priorities of the current government, alongside roads.
Minister Sonii pointed out that both investments are necessary to ensure all Liberians are reached by public services, and praised GPE for prioritizing disadvantaged and under-served communities. He called on all education stakeholders to help guarantee that every dollar raised and spent on education in Liberia is transformative for those most in need.
As GPE project coordinator, I presented an overview of the project background and components. I led implementation of the ministry’s last GPE-funded program, which focused on construction of new schools, classrooms, teaching learning materials, textbooks provision, school based-management and provision of school grants, teacher housing, and WASH facilities across Liberia.
Focus on early education and teacher training
Under that program, school improvement grants were issued to 2,579 schools, and the project also procured and distributed over one million textbooks in core subjects for grades 5-9.
The new program will train 1,400 unqualified primary and ECE teachers in the target counties, train 60 caregivers and invest in community-based ECE centers in under-served communities. It will also fund the development and roll-out of a robust School Quality Assessment Framework to better monitor schools and hold them accountable, and train 1,500 principals in school leadership and management.
A portion of the grant is contingent on the ministry achieving specific targets to increase the proportion of qualified ECE and primary teachers and to improve teacher payroll management. The project timeline is four years, but Minister Sonii hopes to complete it within three.
Partners come together to support Liberia
Speakers from the diplomatic and development community included Dr. Hans Lambrecht of the European Union, Dr. Malcom Phelps of USAID, British Ambassador David Belgrove, Mr. Bernard Batidzirai of UNICEF, Mrs. Mary Mulbah of the National Teachers Association of Liberia, and Ms. Kaliope Azzi-Huck of the World Bank.
They praised the ministry and stakeholders for the consultative effort and launch of this long-awaited project, and reconfirmed their commitment to continued collaboration and support within the sector. Each speaker highlighted their organization’s past and current investments in Liberia’s education system and emphasized the need to build strong foundations at the ECE and primary levels in order to lay the groundwork for students’ long-term success.
Minister Sonii thanked the partners for their ongoing support saying, “this game of education can only be won by determined people with a common purpose.”
The GPE Project Technical Team departed last week for Buchanan to conduct a weeklong project planning workshop with county education officers and key ministry personnel. GPE project activities will begin in this coming academic year.