May 31, 2018

George Weah kicks off Liberia's 10-year plan for quality education

Less than 60% of primary-age children are at school in Liberia

Photo credit: United Nations

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

The former football star and now president launched the project in the West African country where four in 10 primary-age children are out of school.

Liberia's president has launched a 10-year plan to deliver quality education for all of the country's children.

George Weah - the former football star who was elected leader in January - said schooling was a key pillar of his "pro-poor agenda".

“Our kids deserve the best and we must provide them that,” he said. “There are people here who get no opportunity and are in search of it to help better their lives. 

"We, as a government, must be in the position to help lift them out of their predicaments. We have to be honest to ourselves if we truly want to change and make our country a better place.”

President Weah said teacher development, improved infrastructure and changes to the school curriculum are all crucial in achieving success.

From football star to president

George Weah was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995. He was also voted African Player of the Century. 

Weah played as a striker in the top leagues in France, Italy and England. His clubs included Monaco, PSG, AC Milan and Chelsea.

Liberia - affected by years of civil war and then the deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014 - has one of the world's worst out-of-school problems. 42% of primary-age children are not in education and over two-thirds of girls do not have basic reading skills.

Weah announced the 10-year education plan at the three-day National Education Summit last week in Kakata City.

The president, who grew up in a slum area of the capital Monrovia, tackled the issue of his own academic record. 

“I know some of you people criticised me by saying that I did not go to school. But criticisms also make you strong," he said. 

“I can remember when I decided to go back to school when my kids were also in school. I went to high school with children who referred to me as ‘hey pops.’ I was not ashamed. I stayed and graduated and went to college."

A ten-year strategic plan for the education sector has been launched

Photo credit: Julien Harneis

Education Minister Ansu Dao Sonii told the summit: “We plan to revitalise the sector and make it more vibrant. In order to build on previous gains and learn from existing challenges, we have undertaken a wide range of engagements with stakeholders and a nationwide assessment of schools. 

"This has provided us with first-hand information about the issues affecting education in Liberia today.”

A report by Liberia's education ministry in 2016 said the main reasons for children not going to school or dropping out included fees and expenses, distance to school and poverty. It said most children with disabilities do not attend school.

The report also said overage enrolment is a critical issue affecting all grades from preschool to secondary. Over 74% of early childhood education students, 82% of primary students and 85% of secondary school students were too old for their grade in 2015. 

There were more students aged 10, 11 and 12 in Grade 2 than seven-year-olds - the correct age for that grade.

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