Education Sector to Undergo Another Reform as New Minister Discloses Plans

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Liberia’s education system is expected to experience another reform, as the new minister of education has announced his plans for the sector.

Ansu Sonii, a former vice president for administration and professor of accounting at the University of Liberia, took over as minister of education after being confirmed on February 15, along with his deputies for administration and planning, Latim Da-thong and Anthony Kessely, respectively.

He has made several public appearances where he has detailed those plans, including a press conference at the ministry and a March 8 appearance at the Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs’ regular press conference.

In outlining his priorities, Sonii disclosed that swift action is underway to drive a speedy reform in the sector.

He said despite the many challenges education faces, the sector affects the lives of all persons, noting that his team must be prepared to deliver on tangible outcomes.

“We shall have no excuses. Even with the limitations – whatever they may be – we intend to use the opportunities that we have for the benefit of all the people of this country, in line with the government’s ‘pro-poor’ agenda,” he said.

Under his reform agenda, Sonii said his leadership would embark on licensing of teachers and school administrators. According to him, having degrees alone does not qualify one of having the skills and ethical knowledge needed to teach in the classroom.

When the process of licensing is completed in two years, he said a system to suspend or ban teachers from the classroom for exhibiting misconduct would then be introduced.

The minister stressed that providing licenses for teachers was crucial for the protection of the teaching profession, as it would promote quality.

In the same vein, Sonii disclosed plans to provide accreditation for all schools qualified to operate in the country. Accreditation to schools, he stressed, would be based on thorough assessments and qualification of facility and administrative capacities. Schools that do not meet standards would not be accredited to operate.

He also named school supervision as a top priority of his leadership, as it would not be left to county and district education officers alone.

“We cannot play tennis. Tennis is a one-man game. We are playing soccer or American football, when many people are playing and winning depends on all of us together,” he said; referring to the involvement of all ministry staff in school supervision.

As part of efforts to rebrand the sector, Sonii disclosed he is seeking legislation to create an academic crimes court, to prosecute perpetrators of academic crimes, including those who would violate regulations in the sector.

The new minister has also vowed to continue the Partnership Schools for Liberia program initiated by his predecessor, George Werner, as part of efforts to improve learning quality in public schools. He said his decision is based on an evaluation his team has conducted on the program.

However, he said, the ministry would only work with providers that can align their activities with the new administration’s priorities.

Sonii further disclosed that his administration intends to introduce a three-track high school learning system for students after they complete the ninth grade. The paths include Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Vocational Training.

After completing high school, a student in Liberia would then achieve a high school diploma and certificate in a specialized field, as a means of having a path towards developing a meaningful career.

Meanwhile, Sonii has announced that senior members of his team would soon embark on a nationwide assessment where his team would visit public and private schools across the country. According to him, the evaluation would focus on school infrastructure and scale the needs and priorities of teachers, parents, and students.

For his part, Latim Da-thong, the deputy minister for administration, disclosed that the ministry’s human resources system would be digitized for smooth identification of teachers and educational workers.

According to him, the system will help to ensure that teachers on the supplementary payroll are regularized and that teachers’ salaries commensurate with their qualifications.

Featured photo courtesy of the Ministry of Education

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is currently a senior student at the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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