Despite a long-standing public commitment to free education, Liberia recently made the controversial announcement that it is seeking to outsource its entire primary school system to a private provider.
Education Minister of Liberia, George Werner, is planning an unprecedented public-private partnership (PPP) with US company Bridge International Academies (BIA). On the table is a five year contract worth 65 million to manage the country’s pre-primary and primary education system. If the partnership is pursued public funding will pay for BIA’s services and parents will have to fund 5 -7 $ per term per child, excluding meals. This cost was found to be closer to 12$ to 20$ per child, entirely unaffordable for most poor households in Kenya and Uganda where BIA currently operates 400 nursery and primary schools.
Bridge Academies delivers a highly structured, technologically driven model of education in which teachers deliver lessons from scripts on tablets. BIA asserts its approach offers students access to quality education they would otherwise not have, self-reporting significant gains in reading and maths attainment among their pupils. A one year pilot programme will be introduced in 70 Liberian schools come September 2016 before the half decade deal is struck. The pilot, not funded by the Liberian government, will be evaluated by an independent study after which the partnership may be discontinued.