His Excellency, the Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, Mr. Rachid Belmokhtar Benabdellah
The Director of UNESCO-RABAT Office, Mr Michael Millward
The Head of the Secretariat of the International Task Force on Teachers for EFA, Dr. Edem Adubra
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I bring you greetings from the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia who are striving to come out of a great health crisis which is the Ebola Epidemic. We are encouraged by recent statistics which indicate that infection rates are coming down and are thus cautiously optimistic that our country will be back on its feet very soon.
It is a great honor for me to be here in Rabat today as this Experts Meeting on the Management of Teachers in Fragile states was supposed to be organized in Monrovia, Liberia, from the 23-25 September 2014 but unfortunately it was canceled as you all know because of the Ebola Epidemic. We really appreciate the initiative of the Kingdom of Morocco to host this important forum as there is a global consensus that Education can save, sustain lives, can restore normal activity and give people hope for the future. We also thank greatly UNESCO which is giving us a lot of support to foster our educational system.
Education for All
Education For All is a resource without which economic and social progress in all the countries of the world would be unthinkable.
The Dakar World Education Forum (2000) explicitly emphasized the rights of children in emergencies in the strategies for achieving the Education for All goals and objectives. It underlines the importance of meeting “the needs of education systems affected by conflict, natural calamities and instability and conducting educational programs in ways that promote mutual understanding peace and tolerance and that help to prevent violence and conflict”.
When it comes to the post-2015 education agenda, the Muscat Agreement calls on all countries to “ensure equitable and inclusive education and lifelong learning by 2030”. In order to accomplish this goal, it further calls on “all governments to ensure that all learners are taught by qualified, professionally-trained, motivated and well supported teachers”.
While this can be a realistic objective for some countries, when a country is facing an emergency or is battling to contain an outbreak of a virus like Ebola, meeting this goal is a more daunting challenge. For example Liberia had made some mentionable improvements in literacy and retention rates but because of the unexpected situation of Ebola these gains could be significantly diluted.
Effect of Ebola on Liberian Educational System
Sometimes when we use the term ‘Fragile States’ some people think that it is a mere cliche. But permit me for a minute to use the case of the effect of Ebola on the Liberian Educational System to illustrate just how fragile fragility can be.
Liberia is a country which recently emerged from 14 years of civil conflict and today continues to sustain a decade of peace, distracted of course by Ebola. Education has become one of the first casualties of the Ebola Epidemic. More than 1.5 million children are out of school with about 45 percent of these being young girls who already face other challenges of remaining in school. Over 12,000 schools remain close even though Government is considering reopening schools as a result of the downturn in the infection rate of Ebola. This epidemic has already destroyed years of investment in education, and human as well as material resources. Teachers have died, some had no other choice but to abandon the profession, some have moved from their communities or even left the country. Teachers, who have lost family members, friends and students can hardly be left alone when the time comes to put the education system back on track.
The physic of the students and the teachers has been deeply affected. A lot is needed to address this issue, this is why we need to reopen the schools as soon as it is safe to do so and empower the teachers in psychosocial training so that they are better prepared to offer support to students returning to the classroom after facing various forms of trauma brought on by Ebola.
The reopening of our schools would not only give children an education but it would also provide a «first line of defense in tracing and monitoring potential cases of Ebola.» The teacher will play an essential role in giving the child education and helping to monitor Ebola.
And because of these enormous economic and educational challenges which are being thrust upon our education system, there is an urgent need to consider education as THE solution and Teachers’ working condition as top priority.
Launching of the Program of Teacher Management in Fragile States
The launching of a Programme on Teacher Management in Fragile States in collaboration with the International Task Force on Teachers for Education For All, the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Republic of Liberia is a call for action, a call for education.
We must convince ourselves that education is the only productive way forward for our country and that each of us needs to take personal responsibility in giving prominence to education.
Many international organizations and agencies have been working in these conflict or disaster affected areas for decades. All these interventions are laudable in striving not only to deliver some education, but also in being more and more concerned with the quality of education as a basic human right.
However, we share in the belief that by adopting a participatory process, by cooperating and coordinating actions, we will achieve maximum synergy. The program we are about to launch will draw on lessons learned from on-going actions and identify remaining gaps in countries’ priorities.
We believe that the Programme will:
Strengthen national capacities of participating countries for the development and implementation of comprehensive Teacher Management programmes;
Increase awareness of teacher management challenges among a diversity of stakeholders, as fragile States face them;
Reinforce Teacher Management programmes in targeted countries; and
Enhance cooperation, exchange of knowledge and expertise amongst participating countries and organizations that work on fragile states’ issues.
The Government of Liberia remains committed to work with the network of the Teacher Task Force to serve the needs of decision-makers and practitioners for appropriate policy responses and capacity development for effective and efficient learning opportunities for all in so-called Fragile States.
Thank you for your kind attention.