At UNESCO Conference in France, Liberian Education Minister says Government grateful for all development partners

Liberia Education Minister Ansu Sonii

Liberian Education Minister, Professor Dao Ansu Sonii, was an honoured guest and keynote speaker at the 40th Session of the General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, France on the 15th November. He used his speech to make a rallying call about education; focusing on how it underpins peace and prosperity in his country and highlighting the importance of investment and partnership in Liberia

The Minister spoke to the international development community about the importance of education in his country and Government, saying that the President for Liberia “Has placed education at the top of his life-changing priorities calling it a major public sector investment priority.” He went onto say that “Liberia commits to education even more now, since the hosting of a national summit [in Liberia] on this subject at the inception of this government in 2018. The outcome of the summit concluded with a global call for significant investment in education, combined with the outcomes of the joint education sector review in 2018.” 

The Education Minister’s remarks came a week before the Liberian education ministry and wider education stakeholders are gathered in Ganta, Nimba county for the annual Joint Education Sector Review (JESR) this year entitled: ‘Restoring the education sector for quality outcomes through collective efforts and innovation’. One of the items on the agenda for the JSER is the recent expansion of the Liberian Education Advancement Initiative (LEAP); which seeks to improve free government public schools across the country. The programme has now moved into its fourth year and as a result of the academic success that the Ministry has seen in these schools over the preceding three years, the programme has now increased to include well over a hundred more schools impacting thousands more Liberians students. 

The Ministry has been considering interventions that are improving learning in some of the most challenging areas of the country and despite challenges from those antagonistic about using the private sector; the government remains committed to following interventions that have been proven to work.

At UNESCO, Minister Sonii reaffirmed that “The government has the political will, and has taken significant steps to respond to these {education} needs.” In a stark reminder to international delegates, the Minister referred to the difficult and often violent history in Liberia. He said: “The population of Liberia is largely youthful. 2⁄3 of the country’s 4.5 million people are under the age of 35. These are the people we must cater for, to sustain the peace and guarantee their future. In that regard, the government of Liberia is grateful for the interventions of development partners. However, enough is never enough for nations experiencing excessive need. Due to this, Liberia thanks UNESCO for its enthusiasm in meeting the SDG goals, particularly SDG 4.

Watch: Liberian Education Minister Sonii from 1:27: 36 onwards here

Many of the Ministry’s initiatives have been supported by development partners from NGOs to the private sector. LEAP itself, was originally supported by eight different partners from across the public and private sector. Independent evidence shows that the programme improved learning gains by 60% in some schools and 100% in others. At UNESCO the Minister praised the investment and partnerships of organisations that have sought to work with his team to improve outcomes for Liberian children.

Finishing his remarks to a packed audience, Minister Sonii declared that “Liberians believe that peace and stability are the foundation of education. We have come to know that the absence of peace, is poverty. The President of Liberia has repeatedly declared Liberia as a welcoming place for investment and partnership.  We urge you all [UNESCO delegates] to ensure that the initiatives of the Liberian government continue to construct the strong role of peace, tolerance and protection which are imperatives of national development, and guaranteed through education.” 

We are all too aware of the importance of education for the future and prosperity of Liberia and we applaud the Minister for continuing to call on the international community to embrace public private partnerships; invest in the country and support the Government in its ambitions.

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