By Precious D Freeman
The Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE) is suggesting that President George Manneh Weah constitutes an independent committee to investigate the hike in tuition and other fees charged by private schools in the country.
The independent committee is to be comprised of representatives from the civil society, media, lawyers, educators, and other professional bodies who will thoroughly investigate and report the facts and circumstances regarding hike in tuitions and other fees as well as appropriately informing the schools regarding government’s policy and decisions.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday the National Coordinator of COTAE Anderson Miamen expresses his institution’s grave concern over the prevailing hardship parents and students are currently facing with the hike in tuition and other fees in the country.
This statement came about when the Deputy Minister of Education said that the Ministry of Education does not have the power to regulate school fees.
It can be recalled that, on Thursday, November 11, 2021, while addressing the Press conference at the Ministry of Information’s weekly Press Briefing in Monrovia, the Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, Amb. Latim Da-thong announced that the Liberian Government, through the Ministry of Education has no authority to regulate fees charged by Private Schools in the Country.
Miamen pointed out that such statement is not only unfortunate, but undermines the very essence and existence of the Government, especially the Ministry of Education and other actors overseeing Education related activities in the Country.
“Contrary to the Deputy Minister’s comments, the New Education Reform Act of 2011 clearly mandates the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Education to manage and regulate both public and private schools in the Country” the Coordinator stated.
He emphasized that the oversight and regulatory responsibilities of the Ministry of Education are clearly outlined in relevant chapters and provisions of the New Education Reform Law of Liberia.
Chapter 1.4.1 (under general provisions) says that the Act “shall apply to and cover the establishment, management and supervision of All Schools within the Republic of Liberia, including but not limited to all public, private, faith-based, and boarding schools, with the only exceptions, provided for in Section 1.4.2 being military training centers and police/security training institutions, COTAE boss noted.
He at the same time said under Chapter 2.2.1 (Functions of the Ministry of Education), count “f” says that the MOE is to Coordinate the education programs administered by the government, the private sector and faith-based educational institutions to ensure uniformity and Affordable Access and opportunities to education.
“Count “g” also states that MOE is to Facilitate and ensure accountability in the educational sector in line with recognized and Government-approved regulations and administrative practices and procedures. More importantly, Chapter 9 (Education Financing) outlines in count “g” that Tuitions and Fees charged by Private and Faith-based Schools shall be in accordance with the Guidelines established by the Ministry” Miamen asserted.
He explained that such statement attributed to a ranking official of the MOE is not only untrue, but extremely troubling and hope-dashing, as it leaves poor Liberian parents and students at the mercy of private school operators, many of whom have proven to be more concerned about maximizing profit from education rather than helping government to fulfill its statutory obligation of education to citizens.
“With the above-mentioned legal frameworks, what then is the Ministry of Education’s reliance when it says it does not have the authority and power to regulate fees charged by private school operators, stressing that how can the Ministry impose penalties on schools for violating certain mandates, determine and regulate timelines for school opening and closure; determine minimum qualifications for teachers in private and public schools, but at the same time argue that it does not have the authority to regulate fees charged” he questioned.
The COTAE Official added that the Ministry cannot neglect its core responsibility to regulate fees charged by private school operators, in the name of not having the mandate or power to do so, leaving poor parents and students entirely at the mercy of private school operators is as dangerous as exposing them to COVID-19, HIV and Aids and other deadly diseases.
As a longstanding partner and stakeholder in the education sector, COTAE reminded the Government through the Ministry of Education that it has an obligation at all times to seek public interest and safe them from the manipulative tendencies of profit-minded private school operators.
He also pointed out that the Budget for Education be increased to at least 20% of the National Budget to allow for schools to receive the required materials and supplies to effectively and efficiently operate, stating that the right to good quality, relevant and inclusive education must be protected in Liberia, especially in these difficult times when several parents and students cannot afford various fees charged, mainly by Private Schools.
COTAE Wants Educational
Taskforce Regulate School Fees
By Precious D Freeman