(January 14, 2020, Monrovia, Liberia): Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the press, it is with profound gratitude we extend our thanks and appreciation for honoring our invitation to attend this press conference today.
The More4Education Coalition is concerned about approved budget figures for the education sector for fiscal year 2019/2020. We acknowledge the one percent increment in the national budget for the education sector, from 13.7 percent in fiscal year 2017/2018 to 14.7 percent in 2018/2019, as well as another percentage increment for this fiscal year 2019/2020 representing 15.8%. Nonetheless, there exists little to celebrate regarding the percentage increment given that the national budget for this fiscal year 2019/20 has suffered an 8% decrease from US$570.14 million in FY 2018/19 to US$525.91 million in FY 2019/20. In other words, the percentage increment for education to 15.8% leaves a lot to be desired as it translates into US$83.4million, a US$1.9 million decline when compared to the US$85.3million allocation for FY 2018/2019. Taken on a regional scale, Liberia’s funding to education lags far behind regional neighbors. A research conducted by COTAE in 2018 found that Sierra Leone allocated 27% to education, while Ghana and Senegal invested 35% of their budget to education. This leaves us to wonder why Liberia is failing to invest considerably in education while others are investing in building a vibrant education sector. Can Liberia really brag about the future belonging to young people when we are not investing in their education?
A lot more has to be done if education must reach desirable heights. Government has to muster the political will to achieve minimum 20 percent budgetary allotment to education. The Liberian government has committed itself to financing education. Article six of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, as well as adopted international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC), Incheon Declaration, Dakar Framework and Sustainable Development Goal 4 are indications. The 2019 Abidjan Principle consolidates all of these instruments making it even compelling to deliver on these obligations. Certainly, the Education Reform Act of 2011 makes an even stronger stipulation in terms of making room for 60% of signature fees allocation from concession companies, which is albeit not forthcoming. The Liberian Government’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, especially Pillar One (Power to the People) emphasize the need to provide quality, inclusive and life-long education to the public. This begs the question: why are we investing little to education amidst all the beautiful commitments we have made on paper? As a nation, we cannot continue to sign international protocols or create documents indicating our commitment to education when we demonstrate time and time again that we are not matching our words with the appropriate funding to support the education sector that is supposed to prepare the next generation.
As a coalition, we have been involved in advocacy for more funding to education over the past 16 months, and this has exposed us first hand to the anomalies in the sector. Our education sector is faced with numerous challenges due to low financing. These challenges range from lack of adequate learning facilities and supplies to shortage of teachers, inadequate training of teachers, and ineffective school monitoring and supervision. The Education Reform Law of 2011 has not been fully operationalized giving it the teeth to bite and ensuring that there are county structures. These many challenges continue to stand in the gap of quality and affordable education for all Liberians. Education related matters have and are still being politicized and not treated as an emergency.
The 2009 Liberia Youth Fragility Assessment found that youth are currently faced with high levels of unemployment, low levels of education and skills training, a severe lack of links to sustainable livelihoods, and insufficient/improper training for the Liberian job market. The large number of out of school and at-risk children and youth put Liberia at risk of not achieving objectives in the 2015 Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan and Vision 2030. Access to learning opportunities are limited and the ones that are available do not provide a conducive environment for acquiring quality knowledge, skills and value. The system has on the increase failed to help students realize their dreams and live their potentials to the fullest. There is, therefore, a need that all education stakeholders combine and increase efforts to inject life in the education sector. The onus is also on government to meet the 20% benchmark for education. This can be done incrementally but a reduction must never be entertained. Also, funding must be sourced from the lucrative amounts allocated to the executive, legislative, and judiciary branch of government. We are convinced that significant resources can be retrieved from these branches and directed to education if the budget is adequately streamlined.
Meanwhile, given the Government of Liberia’s tight resource envelop, coupled with the huge economic challenge in domestic and foreign revenue mobilization, it is critical that greater diversity of funding is sought in order to significantly narrow the resource gap to fund education. Against this backdrop, we are calling on partners, donors, well-meaning Liberians and re-emphasizing the need for alternative strategies to support education. Other non-traditional and innovative approaches should be explored to mobilize adequate resources for education in the country. The More4 Education Coalition that seeks broader consensus on this issue and is currently undertaking a number of activities and studies to derive at alternative pathways to fund education. Our research findings will be available within a month. We, therefore, call on government and all well-meaning stakeholders to renew commitment for adequate education financing. It is high time that ideas and resources are harnessed if the sector must experience any significant improvement. We applaud the efforts of all thus far but re-echo the need for more strategic interventions moving forward.
Thanks and regards.
Given under our signatures:
The More 4 Education Coalition is being funded by USAID LAVI and is comprised of the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE), Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL), National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL), Inclusive Development Initiative (IDI), National PTA Association of Liberia (NAPTANOL), Helping Our People Excell (HOPE) and UMovement.