It can be recalled that on Thursday, November 11, 2021, while addressing the Press and the Public at the Ministry of Information’s weekly Press Briefing in Monrovia, the Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, Ambassador Latim Da-thong announced that the Liberian Government, through the MOE, has no authority to regulate fees being charged by private schools in the country.
The group, in a statement issued Wednesday, November 17, 2021 in Monrovia, stated 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 educational related activities in the country.
“During these challenging economic conditions, when many persons are already struggling to address their basic needs (food, clothing, access to electricity, shelter, etc.), it is mindboggling that access to education has become significantly hindered, mainly due to arbitrary hike in tuition and other fees by private school operators. The most appalling of all is the fact that services provided by majority of these institutions do not commensurate with various astronomical fees charged, from time to time,” the group asserted in the statement.
“COTAE is even more astounded by recent comments attributed to a Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Education that the Ministry lacks the power/authority to determine or regulate tuition and other fees charged by private schools in the country. 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 her citizens.”
The rights group pointed out that the Deputy Minister’s assertion contravenes the New Education Reform Act of 2011 that clearly mandates the Government of Liberia (GoL), through the Ministry of Education to manage and regulate both public and private schools in the Country.
“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,” indicated the statement.
In disagreement with the Ministry’s “groundless” assertion, COTAE has recommended several actions for a way forward.
As part of the recommendations, the education advocacy group urged President George Manneh Weah to constitute an independent Committee, to thoroughly investigate the hike in tuition and other fees charged by private schools.
“Such independent committee, comprising of representatives from civil society, media, lawyers, educators, and other professional bodies, will thoroughly investigate and report the facts and circumstances regarding hike in tuitions and other fess as well as its implications for the right to education in Liberia to inform appropriate government policy and decisions,” the group furthered.
COTAE also urged the Legislature, especially the Committees on Education in the Senate and House of Representatives effectively exercise their oversight responsibilities effectively supervising activities of the sector.
“In part, this entails conducting their own investigations into reported hike in tuition and other fees by private school operators in Liberia to inform their decisions and actions. Such arbitrary hike in fees, especially by private schools, undermine the right to education; the affordable access provided for in Chapter 2 of the New Education Reform Act of 2011; and professed commitments of these private school operators to complement government’s efforts to increase access to education and eradicate illiteracy in the country,” it said.
“As Government’s supervisory and regulatory authority over private and public schools cover all aspects of their operation, including fees charged for services, the Ministry of Education must perform her duties and stop giving flimsy excuses about not having the power/authority to determine fees charged by private schools,” COTAE indicated.
Among other things, COTAE urged 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.