Corporate Reformers Education Industry International Privatization

Liberia Needs Free Public Schools, not Privatization and Outsourcing of Its Responsibility to Children

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Liberia is seriously considering a proposal to outsource its elementary schools to foreign investors, notably Bridge International Academies, backed by wealthy Americans.


This Nigerian-born, American-educated journalist and historian thinks privatization is a terrible idea.


C. Patrick Burrowes writes that the plan to privatize what should be a government responsibility is a boondoggle.


He writes:


Poor Liberia! Few countries in the world have been as ill served by its government officials, as Liberia has been.


In the 1920s, Liberia earned the opprobrium of the world when some selfish officials opted to supply laborers by force to private foreign contractors. The cries and protests of ordinary Liberians went unheeded by them, until international pressure brought an end to their heartless scheme.


If this government is allowed to outsource the entire elementary school system, Liberia will enter the annals of infamy once again. At stake is not just the future of education in Liberia. If this proposal is allowed to pass, it will be the beginning of the end for universal public education, a concept with roots dating back to 1647. At stake is the future schooling of children around the world.


The proposal must be blocked, not just as a matter of principle. It must be opposed because it is based on faulty logic. Furthermore, its advocates provide no evidence to support their radical and disruptive experiment with the nation’s school system. Instead, they offer ideological buzzwords like “privatization” and “technology.”


But technologies cannot teach; people do. The top three factors for ensuring student success in early childhood education are: good teachers, good teachers, and good teachers. In other words, the quality of teaching and teacher-support are the strongest predictor of quality. If successful Liberians are humble and honest, we will readily acknowledge that we owe whatever careers we have today to the foundation laid by good elementary school teachers.


Throughout its history, Liberia produced thousands of such dedicated and self-sacrificing educators. The late Albert Porte and Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown-Sherman are just two well-known examples. Each of us could name several others who impacted our lives directly. Those teachers worked with few, if any, advanced technologies. Yet, their impact in the lives of students was immeasurable. So, why the urgent need now for the outsourcing of curriculum delivery and classroom management by cell phones?


The main reason is this: The Liberian educational system over the last decade has been driven by donors’ agendas, with little systematic planning based on local needs. Donors love giving chairs, buildings and other concrete objects that they can slap their logos on for all to see. It is fine to accept those inputs, but government should have its own master plan. The plan should determine allocation of resources, not the other way around….


Moments arise in history that tests the honor and moral fiber of a people. The forced-labor scandal of the 1920s was one. This educational outsourcing boondoggle is another. By our actions, let us prove ourselves worthy of the respect we want from the rest of the world and from our descendants.



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