In Liberia, educators and their unions are determined to fight back against the privatisation and commercialisation of education in the face of strengthened links between the government and edu-business.
The Liberian government has announced that it will continue with its plans to outsource public education to private providers led by Bridge International Academy (BIA). The process is likely to be accelerated by a new memorandum of understanding - Liberia Education Advancement Partnership schools 2019 (LEAP) which will replace the previous and controversial 2016 Partnership Schools of Liberia (PSL) agreement. The latter had allowed the proliferation of private institutions in the country, with 93 private schools soon increasing to 202.
BIA influence to grow
This expansion happened without any evaluation of its impact. It was also denounced by education unions as a breach of the Liberian constitution and an attempt by the government to elude its constitutional responsibility to provide equitable public education for all. The LEAP memorandum is a new attempt to increase the number of public schools under private providers with BIA earmarked to have the lion's share.
Upon learning about the government’s plans, Education International (EI), with the support of CTF Canada, UEN Norway, DLF Denmark and Lärarförbundet Sweden, embarked on a fact-finding mission in July 2019. This was followed by a rapid response campaign against BIA and other for-profit education providers in September and October.
EI’s affiliate on the ground, the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia (NTAL), has formed a strong partnership with other civil society organisations working in the field of education. The partnership, called the Consortium of Education Defenders of Liberia (COEDEL), undertook a successful campaign both in the regions and in the capital, Monrovia. A petition was also sent to the Minister of Education.
The Minister has promised that the union will be involved in any discussions relating to BIA and other education providers. According to union sources, the Justice Minister has also pledged to investigate if the contract with BIA was subjected to due process.
EI: Strong support
EI “is committed to continue in its support to help NTAL fight for a free quality public education in Liberia”, said EI General Secretary David Edwards.