Liberia: Education Minister-Designate Highlights Challenges

Liberia’s Education Minister-designate Dr. Jarso Maley Jallah says the nation’s education sector faces complex challenges due to low budgetary support to the sector.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Education, Dr. Jallah told Senators on Wednesday, 31 January 2024 that low budgetary support is undermining quality education.

Dr. Jallah faced the committee for her confirmation hearing after her recent nomination by President Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

Dr. Jallah expressed concern over the current state of Liberia’s education sector. She noted that while Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation and Tourism (ARREST) aims to give Liberians an advanced system, such a goal is impossible without adequate budgetary support.

“Funding remains a major challenge – currently the national budget allocation to education lingers between 11%-14% annually, with the total percentage of government expenditure on education at 11.19%,” she noted.

According to Dr. Jallah, the 2024 budget is estimated at US$41.672 million, constituting nearly 15% short of the 2023 appropriation of US$43.891 million while US$36.770 million was reported as actual spending.

On the other hand, Dr. Jallah reported that many teachers are untrained and lack adequate teaching and learning materials.

She disclosed that both students and teachers are forced to learn and work, respectively, in inadequate or dilapidated classrooms, with hardly enough learning or teaching materials.

“These conditions are worse and especially challenging in remote areas of the country, a situation which hinders teachers’ willingness to work in these areas,” Dr. Jallah told Senators.

She said this has exacerbated the use of volunteer teachers which impacts the effectiveness of student learning.

The education minister-designate also complained about inadequate facilities, infrastructure, and resources and over-age enrolment, which affect the effectiveness of learning and skill acquisition.

According to Dr. Jallah, early childhood education suffers from similar problems, creating a ripple effect through the entire educational system as well as low primary school completion rates and a high proportion of out-of-school children, especially from poorer underserved and rural areas.

She further highlighted low learning outcomes, and inadequate and insufficient technical vocational education and training (TVET) infrastructure, including weak monitoring and supervision of schools and instruction.

“To realize our vision of an educated society, we as a people and government must increase public and private investment in education as a percentage of our GDP (gross domestic product),” said Dr. Jallah.

She noted that this involves expanding government budget allocations to at least 20%, eliminating waste and ghost employees in the Ministry of Education.

She also spoke of seeking increased bilateral support for scholarships and special projects and exploring international grants and partnerships.

The education minister-designate wants the government to work closely with local and international partners to target job-creating sectors.

She suggested that these sectors will provide formal, and informal training that equip the youth with the skills needed for economic growth and personal development.

Dr. Jallah stated that the foundation of lifelong learning is laid in early childhood, urging that the government must expand the training of specialized educators and services in this critical area to ensure a strong start for the youngest learners.

Commenting on improving the quality of primary education, Dr. Jallah noted that quality primary education is a cornerstone of society.

“We aim to improve instructional standards, engage home and family support for learners, including those with disabilities and special needs, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive,” she added.

If confirmed by the Liberia Senate, the veteran educator promised to focus on strengthening learning outcomes in secondary education, especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

“We are committed to reducing the gender gap at all educational levels both in terms of student enrolment and teacher recruitment, ensuring equal opportunities for all,” Dr. Jallah said.

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