While doomsayers must have thought that the international community would turn its back on Liberia when the current head of state, George Manneh Weah, won the Liberian presidency, the contrary is the fact—countless countries, big and small, continue to inundate the country, particularly contributing to the socioeconomic development of the people. In delivering his State of the Nation Monday, President Weah acknowledged that many countries and international organizations were helpful during his first year in office, providing financial and technical supports that enabled his government deliver on its promise of bettering the lives of citizens. And, as The Analyst reports, the 24th President of Liberia has words of commendations for the countries and organizations.
In addition to the interventions made by the government to shift the paradigm for a better education system, President George Manneh Weah says his administration has also received more than 42 million United States dollar and 20 million Euros from its international partners to bolster the education component of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity & Development (PAPD).
Delivering the State of the Nation’s Address to the National Legislature on Monday, 28th of January 2019, the President indicated that the World Bank IDA made a grant/loan of $25 Million United States dollars for investment in Public Secondary Schools, including construction, rehabilitation, setting up of laboratories, provision of teachers’ residences in rural school communities, girls retention through secondary school, and a host of other interventions helpful for secondary school children.
He told the Legislature that the Global Partnership for Education also made an initial investment of $11.1 million United States dollars intervention in early childhood development initially covering six counties. A secondary grant of $5.9 million United States dollars was also provided to top up the initial amount, making a total of $17 million United States dollars, all of which have been dedicated to the development of Early Grade Schools, the President reported to the nation.
Besides, President Weah indicated further that the European Union Made an investment of 20 Million Euros, dedicated to the development of Technical Vocational Education in Liberia. The project, he noted, will benefit all youth, whether enrolled in school or out of school, through the Ministries of Education and Youth & Sports.
An additional 12.5 million Euros, previously set aside by the European Union for Out-of-School Youth, is being requested by the Ministry of Education to expand and continue the investment in vocational education (formal and informal). That application, when approved and finalized, will total 32 million Euros which will be targeting vocational education in several counties.
“The Swedish Government has also committed itself to investing approximately 5 Million Euros for Vocational and Skills Education in Liberia, designated specifically for reconstructing and equipping the Voinjama Multilateral High School which was destroyed during the war,” President Weah indicated, pointing out that the current commitment of the USAID to Education aggregates to $60.9 Million United States dollars.
The USAID investment, President Weah explained comprises $27 million United States dollars for the Read Liberia Project and $33.9 million United States dollars for the accelerated quality education program. “These two amounts, separately designated for education development by USAID, are designed to enhance early grade reading, particularly for Grades 1 & 2, and enrolling out-of-school children into learning programs, which is estimated to benefit 48,000 children residing in six counties.”
The Liberian Chief Executive also mentioned the investment of $30 million United States dollars in school feeding programs for five years. “The School Feeding Program which is ongoing as of 2018 is expected to benefit over 100,000 school children in 240 primary schools situated in four counties, primarily in the South-Eastern counties of Liberia, because of their special situation.
Saying that the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia mandates the government to provide education for all Liberians, the President informed that Legislature that during the period under review, we undertook new measures and mechanisms for transforming and sustaining an educational system that is adequate to ensure that the constitutional obligation of the Government is met.
“The government, through the Ministry of Education, firstly carried out a review process that included: evaluation of the existing legal and administrative framework; nationwide visits to all schools throughout the country; and the hosting of a national stakeholder’s summit. As a result of this process, several activities were implemented in a bid to enhance efficiency in the education sector,” he asserted.
The President named completion of curricular revision from early grades through high school. The new curriculum places emphasis on skills delivery, early career pathway and addressing deficiencies in literacy and numeracy; and Payroll Cleaning Exercise which netted savings of $2 Million United States dollars as of November 2018 as some of the new measures and mechanisms for transforming and sustaining an educational system.
He named other measures that include the savings enabled the government to enroll nearly 1,100 out 3,764 teachers who for nearly nine years have been paid irregularly and substantially below salaries earned by other civil servants; increase the number of scholarships awarded to more than 1,165 students, which included 129 foreign scholarships, costing the Government a total of $2.5 Million United States dollars.
He narrated that the Government of China and Morocco, and several other countries, awarded bilateral scholarships to nearly 100 Liberians to pursue studies in those countries. “This amounts to a total of 163 students in foreign countries and 1,300 on local scholarships in all universities across Liberia. “In 2018 the Government also awarded foreign sponsorship to the seven best-performing students on the 2017/2018 WASSCE Examinations,” he said.
Besides, he spoke of tuition Waiver for All Public Universities and Colleges as another measure and indicated that under the 2018 / 2019 Public Sector Investment Project appropriation; the Ministry of Education was allocated US$4 Million for infrastructure improvement and expansion, including the renovation of 33 public schools and the refurbishment of 15 science laboratories in public secondary schools. This is in addition to 78,000 pieces of modern chairs that were purchased for public schools across the country.
Concerning the WASSCE intervention program, President Weah reports: The government of Liberia paid the WASSCE fees for all 33,931 12th graders, and 17,679 9th graders; amounting to the sum of $2.03 million United States dollars and $41.5 million Liberian dollars respectively, as a means of relieving parents and students of the financial burden associated with the exams, and improve performance.
Additionally, to reduce mass failures among 12th graders in the 2017/2018 WASSCE examinations, the Ministry of Education with support from the national government, launched in November 2018 the “WASSCE Intervention Project”, aimed to improve Liberian students’ performance in the 2018/2019 examinations. The project provides Saturday tutorials for all 12th graders in the country, free of charge.
The cost of the project is a little over $350,000, asserting further that in addition to the interventions made by the government to shift the paradigm for a better education system, we also received strong support from our international partners to the Education component of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity & Development.
Considering the young people of Liberia the largest component of the population that hold the ultimate key for the development and prosperity of Liberia, the President recognized that youth unemployment and the lack of opportunities are not only hindrances to economic development and transformation, but are also potential threats to national security. “Therefore, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Youth & Sports, sees the provision of skills and sustainable employment to young people as matters of strategic importance for the transformation of Liberia and placing the country on a path to sustained peace.”
Consequently, the government has focused on several key strategic interventions to alleviate some of the issues in Youth Employment and Empowerment and Sports Development. “We have completed the recruitment of young people who are to be beneficiaries of youth empowerment and employment activities under our Youth Entrepreneurship and Employment Project, Youth Opportunities Project, and the National Cadet Program,” he bragged, saying “About 15,000 individuals and households are expected to benefit from these programs, collectively.
Noting that the Youth Opportunities Project has to date benefited 129 communities in all 15 counties, President Weah reported to the nation that 28 farming groups comprising a total of 3,612 youths have received the first tranche of labor subsidy cash payments of $150 United States dollars per youth, to assist with some of their needs while on the farms.
“Under the HOUSEHOLD ENTERPRISE component, 100 business groups consisting of eight members in 10 communities across the country have completed their business plans. These are now being reviewed, and accounts have been opened for each business group to received $2,400 United States dollars for business start-up,” he intoned.
Dr, Weah accentuated that under the Productive Public Works component of Youth Opportunities Project, an additional 3,612 youths in 128 communities have been recruited across the country for Round Two implementation. The Youth Opportunities Project is also expected to receive additional financing of 3.5 Million Euros from the Swedish Government and 5 Million Euros from French Government.
The first batch of 110 cadets under the National Cadet Program was deployed to various Governmental and private institutions to afford them an opportunity to gain some work experience. In addition, over 5,000 young people have benefitted from our Sexual Reproductive Health Education and Treatment initiatives. Recognizing the importance of literacy in empowerment, the Youth Literacy Program has been revamped and launched in several communities, he stressed amongst other things.
Reporting on other capacity development programs, the president said this component for the young people’s capacity development remains a matter of high priority for the government. “Our Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) institutions graduated about 3,000 students, with the Monrovia Vocational Training Center accounting for 2,709 graduates. This was the first graduation since the Ebola crisis.
Also, the government has successfully completed negotiations with the European Union on the terms of a 20 million Euro grant, which is meant for the modernization of seven TVET institutions in the country. The President said execution of this program has begun with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization as implementing partner.
“The Ministry of Youth & Sports has completed assessments for the re-opening of the other TVET institutions – Tumutu Agriculture and Vocational Training Center in Bong County; Klay Agriculture and Vocational Training Center in Bomi County; and Youth Agriculture Training Center in Montserrado County. We are currently partnering with different organizations to improve and enhance TVET delivery across the country.
“Under these partnerships, The Tumutu Agriculture Training Center, Youth Agriculture Training Center and Klay Agriculture Training Center will be beginning major activities within the next couple of months.
The ADEA, a working group on education management and policy support, has a five-year project for the development of the oil palm industry in Liberia, with emphasis in nursery development. Thirty (30) young Liberians from the western region of the Country are to benefit from the three-month intensive training in nursery development for the pilot phase of the project to be carried out in Klay Agriculture Vocational Training Center in Bomi County.
“Under Chinese Assistance 2018, the Shandong Foreign Trade Vocational College of China, as part of its Overseas Foreign Aid Training Program, is conducting training focused on electricity, auto repair and construction. This intermediate training is expected to benefit 100 youths.
The government continues to champion the use of Sports as a tool for youth development and the promotion of social cohesion,” the President reported to the nation his government’s education and youth development initiatives.