Of recent times, there has been a lot of hue and cry about Liberia’s radical decision to allow private institutions manage primary and early childhood education through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme.
From our own National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) to the National Education Association (NEA) of the United States, and on to the Swedish Teachers’ Association, as well as the Union of Education in Norway, opposition to this bold initiative seems unanimous. Even the United Nations, through Rights Expert Kishore Singh, has added its voice to the debate. The general contention is that the PPP scheme will undermine ongoing efforts aimed at improving quality of educational services, especially at government-run institutions. Experts are of the opinion that the PPP project might force government to delegate responsibilities such as the hiring and firing of teachers and education workers, as well as the development and production of teaching material to private partners. Amongst the chief fears of the many critics of the PPP is the belief that the partners to the project could assume key roles and functions of the Ministry of Education including the determination of instructional materials that will accrue huge financial benefits. Specially, the NEA cautioned the need for detailed regulations, monitoring and monitoring, as well as specific checks and balances for factors of corruption that could crop up within the PPP regime. “I understand that US$158 million is the projected cost of this project through 2020, which will be financed by the Liberian government and external donors. Noting that contracts are being made with for-profit service providers, such as Bridge International Academies, what is the profit margin that they will take? Will any of the PPP profits be reinvested in Liberia? I implore you to carefully consider all the possible consequences of this impending transition in which profits will be made from government’s resources,” the NEA President is quoted in her communication to the Government of Liberia. For us at the Capitol Times, we agreed 110% with the many concerns of the PPP critics. There is indeed an overriding need for government, yea the Ministry of Education, to put in place all mechanisms that would ensure not only accountability, but also preserve the sanctity of quality education that this very government ascribes to. As armchair experts of education, we can vouchsafe, by dint of several research observations with our sister Capitol Insider Magazine publication, that quality primary and early childhood learning will always remain the albatross around the neck of quality secondary and tertiary education, if left unattended. This is the main reason why, while we understand the concerns of the many critics of the PPP experiment, we urge all and sundry to exercise patience. The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry Education, we seriously believe, must also ensure that its PPP partner ascribes to all of the education policies and laws. This is extremely necessary to avoid conflict of interest and to keep the keel of education “getting to best”.