- 22 Feb
D I N N E R R E M A R K S Delivered By Honorable Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. Vice President of the Republic of Liberia at the Fundraising Dinner for the Partnership Schools for Liberia Conference Hosted By the Ministry of Education
Boulevard Palace Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia Tuesday, February 21`, 2017
Honorable Members of the Legislature Present; The Minister of Education; Other Senior Officials of Government Present; Our Governance & Education Reform Partners; Foreign Diplomats; The Media; Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: Good evening. I am excited to be back here with you today as a follow up to my engagement with you back in January of last year, when I delivered closing remarks at that landmark conference on the introduction of private public partnership in education in Liberia. That forum had been convened to put into motion a new innovation to improve Quality in Primary and Early Childhood Education. We were on the doorsteps of ushering in public private partnership education in Liberia in hopes of achieving radical improvements to literacy and numeracy outcomes, while at the same time ensuring education is free and available for students. Since then, we have been hard at work, confronting challenges associated with resistance to change, and the usual suspicion over the introduction of new approaches. We have observed that the implementation which started in September of 2016 has not gone without its share of rancor. It is our hope that much of the fears and suspicions that arose out of the ushering in of this new approach have now been assuaged, and that many more skeptics have attained the needed assurance of the utility of this innovation. Let me thus thank you, Minister Werner, and your Team at the Ministry of Education, as well as our partners, for persevering thus far and for being thoughtful enough to summon us here today to review from whence we have come. And here we are today, this time around assembled at this Partnership Schools for Liberia Conference under the theme, “Investing in Education for the Future.” We come–as best practice will dictate–to update ourselves and our partners on the progress achieved on the Partnership Schools for Liberia since its launch, as well as the impact the innovative pilot has created thus far. Thank you for joining us this evening, it is a pleasure to have you all as our honourable guests in Liberia. We welcome those of you who have partnered with us over the years and those of you new comers to Liberia’s strength and beauty. I am grateful to be opening this reception as I have always cared about educating the children of our country; they are the basis of Liberia’s future development. I harbour the prayerful hope that education will gain greater priority status under the next Administration, particularly if we are the choice of the Liberian people to lead it. True, there will be difficult choices to make. But I am determined that our children must have better opportunities that our resources and capacity have enabled us to provide until now. I have watched as so many changes been tried in Liberia’s education system. One may wonder, what has worked in the ten years since the civil war? It may be hard to pin down the most important successes of either ourselves or our partners. But Partnership Schools shine out as an opportunity. In a small number of schools we are experimenting with the policies, realistic resources and school supervision needed to turn schools around. By getting it right “small small” first, we hope we will be able to expand. Thank you for your interest in learning more and supporting us. Most of you have been on visits around our green landscape today. I am from Lofa County in the north. There, and elsewhere, I have met with young boys and girls, many of whom have inspired me. I find in their faces the determination to be able to read with understanding, to go onto university or technical training, and to be future business leaders or entrepreneurs. Partners and donors have never relented in advising us that to improve education outcomes the commitment to education funds must increase to 20% of budget. This is needed to qualify for Global Partnership for Education funding and also because, as in all countries around the world, health and education take up the bulk of government payroll. Population size means a large number of teachers and health workers are needed. Given the opportunity, I will stand for gradually increasing funding to education over time. We thank those of you who have had the foresight to understand payroll underpins our system and to support us in not only cleansing payroll, but also elevating the aptitude and standard of our teachers. Our dream is a well-paid, high quality teacher in every classroom by 2020. To achieve such lofty goal, we have to accept the fact that moving to $100 per student is desirable as it will bring us on par with where much of the region is now. And this program and its rigorous evaluation can help us to ensure there are results for any funds put in. Let us not joke; no country can postpone the education of its citizens and expect to benefit from it. We must invest in the education of our children now as a sure way to development and a guarantee for quality life. Quality education is not a privilege to any citizen, it is a right. Our review over these three days should make the justification clear for our decision to think out of the box and to muster the guts to embark on this novel concept. It is indeed hearty that our review of the 94 schools involved in the pilot from 12 of our 15 counties gives strong indications of marked progress and the needed incentive to persist. We bear the hope that your activities yesterday, covering the overall partnership was as thorough, rounded, and pertinent. We are also sure the field visit of today was exciting, the spill-over effect of which should move us to achieve tonight’s objectives. We also anticipate a high level funders’ meeting that will follow tonight’s to be characterized by cordiality and candor. Let me again thank you for the invitation and urge you to remain flexible with openness to adjustments wherever the need may arise, remaining aware that it is the supreme of our young minds that matters most. Thank you for attending this evening’s event, and I hope you enjoy the evening.
God bless you all.