Since the civil war, over 100 public schools in rural Liberia have persistently shown no sign of academic improvement because of the lack of trained teachers.There is a persistent gap in the performance, achievement and results between rural and urban students, except for a few rural schools run by concessions and churches, which are narrowing the gap, according to an ongoing audit of rural education by the Committee on Education and Public Administration of the House of Representatives.A member of the Secretariat of the House Committee, who requested anonymity, told the Daily Observer over the weekend that “the Ministry of Education is yet to develop a targeted and comprehensive strategy to overcome commonly understood learning barriers. These include the failure to employ qualified teachers, the lack of laboratory and library facilities needed to strengthen the rural workforce and improve the quality of life for rural Liberians.”The source said there are significant gaps in educational attainment as well as in the quality and availability of healthcare between rural and urban communities. These gaps arise in part because rural areas face several unique challenges in achieving high-quality education and health care.The source further said that in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the USAID Liberia Teacher Training Program is supporting the Rural Teacher Training Institutes in Zorzor, Kakata and Webbo. The goal, said the source, is to develop teacher standards, improve curricula, provide teaching and learning resources and, through school-based teacher training, implement Liberia’s national plan to ensure that all children are reading by the end of grade three.The House Committee on Education and Public Administration is also investigating why some of the trained teachers from rural training institutions are yet to be given assignments and placed on payroll amid the so-called search for qualified teachers to be deployed across the country.The Committee is chaired by Rep. Matthew Zarzar and co-chaired by Rep. C. Alex Grant. The members are Representatives Ben Fofana, Edward Forh, Fofi Sahr Biamba, Mariamu Fofana and Christian Chea.The Plenary of the House mandated the Committee last Tuesday, February 3, based on a communication from Rep. Johnson T. Chea of Electoral District 1, River Gee County.According to the River Gee Lawmaker, if trained teachers from reputable institutions of rural training find it difficult to get assignments and placements on Government payroll for the effective development of the children, Liberia cannot boast of any bright future for its rural dwellers.Citing the provision of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, Rep. Chea declared that education is a fundamental right for every child in spite of location, economic background or affiliation, among other things.“We cannot deny our children this right. We need to act not tomorrow, but now as we set the pace in preparing our precious jewels for tomorrow,” the lawmaker asserted in his communication.He maintained that government must take the necessary action to ensure that qualified teachers are hired and placed on Government payroll.The Committee is expected to review and advise plenary on Tuesday, 17 February. The question is, will the Liberian Government employ and deploy those 1,500 trained teachers in rural schools to improve the education sector in the interior?It may be recalled that prior to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), 156 graduates from the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) were awarded pre-service “C” certificates, qualifying them to teach at the primary school level.The Director of the ZRTTI, Dr. Advertus Orea Wright, awarded the certificates along with one of two Peace Corps Volunteers who worked with the institution during the teacher training.The graduates, mostly between the ages of 25 and 35, hailed from Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties.They are the most recent addition to a new cadre of teachers being trained by the Government of Liberia, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to ensure that qualified teachers are placed in classrooms across the country.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
CJIA expansion projectWith calls mounting for a thorough probe into the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) expansion project, the Audit Office of Guyana (AOG) has confirmed that it will be launching an audit into the controversial project.Auditor General Deodat SharmaIn an exclusive interview with Guyana Times, Auditor General Deodat Sharma noted that he has the power to conduct the audit whether it is requested or not. And according to the AG, he is currently making preparations for the audit.According to Sharma, both a value-for-money and an overall financial audit will be conducted into the airport, the US$150 million expansion project and its associated expenditure. However, he noted that it was too premature to name a definitive date for the start of the audit.“I would be doing it on my own, because it’s a very important issue right now… CJIA is part of my audit portfolio,” Sharma said, when asked if Government had approached him to conduct the audit.In 2012, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, Guyana secured a US$138 million loan from the China Exim (Export-Import) Bank to fund the expansion and modernisation project, for which the Guyana Government was slated to inject some US$12 million.Public Infrastructure Minister David PattersonUpon completion, the Airport is expected to have four air passenger boarding bridges for arrivals and departures; a 450-seat departure area, escalators and elevators in addition to an extended runway catering for larger categories of aircraft.However, the extension of works into 2019 comes in disparity to an earlier commitment by Government whereby it pledged that the works associated with the expansion would have been completed by the last quarter of 2018. Initially, the project was scheduled to be completed within 32 months of its commencement in 2013. Later on, officials were optimistic of the project being completed by 2017.The A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) when in Opposition had cut the funds the then Government – PPP/C – had allocated for the CJIA expansion.Calls have been mounting for an audit into the CJIA expansion projectEven though it inherited and took control of the project almost four years ago, the coalition Government has of late been throwing the blame for the delays at the feet of the former Administration.According to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, in a statement via his social media account on Monday last, the coalition Government is not at fault as it has done its best to make do.Claiming that the absence of preliminary reports hampered the project, Patterson went on to accuse the former Administration of allowing extra sand filling and determining the cost of the sand.But former Public Works Minister Robeson Benn had promptly responded, denying claims that the project was not supervised in its early stages and throwing his support behind calls for “a full-fledged public investigation” into the project.In a statement on Tuesday, Benn questioned how a fixed-price contract was allowed to deviate to such an extent. He noted that there have been extensive modifications to the project, with the plans for a new stand-alone terminal building being changed to an Arrival Hall addition to the old terminal building.He had also noted that instead of eight bridges, Guyana was only getting four. Benn had also observed that the mezzanine floor with escalators to a viewing gallery had been cut out from the construction; and the building’s footprint and actual total square footage are now less than what was contracted for.