(COTAE Statement) The Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (COTAE) is deeply concerned about the fate of the Education Sector, especially the inadequacy of resources that continues to undermine the quality, adequacy and accessibility, and gender sensitivity of educational services in Liberia. As you may be aware, Education is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by Article 6 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, Sustainable Development Goal 4, the Abidjan Principles and other global, regional and national frameworks and policies. Such right cannot be downplayed by any nation, especially impoverished country like Liberia in urgent need of the required human capital to develop, fully implement and sustain its transformative agenda.
We wish to thank the Government of Liberia for steady progress towards increasing national budgetary support to education. Over the last two budget years, the allocation for education has increased, especially by 1 percent from 13.7 percent in fiscal year 2017/2018 to 14.7 percent in 2018/2019, as well as another percentage increment for fiscal year 2019/2020 representing 15.8%. Thanks to concerted efforts by the More 4 Education Campaign, funded by USAID through the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative; the Ministry of Education; Legislature, and other critical partners and stakeholders that made this possible.
Nevertheless, there’s not much to celebrate as Government’s support to education in Liberia lags far behind regional counterparts. A research conducted by COTAE in 2018 discovered that Sierra Leone allocated 27% to education, while Ghana and Senegal appropriated 35% of their budgets to education respectively. Besides, the actual education budget for fiscal year 2019/20 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% amounts to US$83.4 million, a US$1.9 million decline when compared to the US$85.3 million allocation for FY 2018/2019.
All of these are happening when the education sector is faced with numerous challenges due to low financing. The challenges have even been exacerbated by COVID-19, which has left schools closed for a protracted period and needing repair, fumigation, and other efforts to secure them for learning upon resumption of full academic activities. These add to existing challenges, including but not limited to lack of adequate learning facilities and supplies; shortage of trained and motivated teachers; lack of gender sensitive and responsive services; and limited opportunities to enroll and retain girls and persons with special needs in school.
Transforming education in Liberia, in part through addressing corruption and waste, decentralizing decision making and empowering local level structures; and addressing the plights of teachers, students and other educational workers require timely, collective and well-coordinated efforts. The COVID-19 outbreak has heightened the need for keen attention to the education sector, given its critical role in keeping students and teachers engaged in academic and other productive activities, especially during emergencies. With the increasing gravitation towards online education, which has become apparent due to social distancing, restriction on movement, and other relevant health protocols announced by the government, the Ministry of Education needs to devise appropriate means to keep all students engaged. While the teaching by Radio Program introduced by the Ministry and partners somehow helped to keep students engaged, the quality and coverage left more to be desired. Among other things, the program was limited in scope and coverage, as remote areas were not adequately covered. This means that homes without radio and students in rural areas still do not have access to education during this period, which is gross violation of their right to education.
As the 2020/2021 national budget is being formulated, we reiterate call for the Government of Liberia, especially the Executive and Legislature to honor their obligations to increase budgetary support to education to at least 20%. This will not only meet the minimum 20% benchmark/commitment required by the Global Partnership for Education, Incheon Declaration of 2015 and global frameworks, but enable MOE, the National Commission on Higher Education and other key players to address enormous existing challenges, which have been compounded by the emergence of COVID-19. There is no better time to substantially invest in education than now when COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of the system, especially its inability to continue with academic and other productive activities during emergency.
Government must honor its commitment to satisfactorily fund and fulfill the right to education of its citizens, in line with Article 6 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, Pillar One (Power to the People) of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), and adopted international instruments such as the UN Convention on the Right of the Child (UNCRC), Incheon Declaration of 2015, Dakar Framework of 2000, Sustainable Development Goal 4, and Abidjan Principles of 2019.
 The More 4 Education Coalition is 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 Network of Liberia (NAPTANOL), Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) and Youth Movement for Collective Action (UMovement).