Liberia’s education system is in crisis.
Our communities are still suffering from the effects of the long civil war and the devastating Ebola outbreak. Less than 60% of school-aged children in Liberia are in school, placing Liberia in the lowest percentile of net enrollment rates in the world. Those who do attend school may not fare much better: among adult women who reached fifth grade in Liberia, less than 20% can read a single sentence. Teachers, particularly those in remote areas where there are no banks, sometimes don’t receive their salaries on time and therefore often don’t show up. And it is our children, the future of our nation, who are suffering most.
To not act now would be to fail yet another generation of Liberia’s children.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf knows that fixing the education system is a top priority for our country. So, when she appointed me as education minister at the start of 2015, she challenged me to be bold. She asked me to look for innovative education policy options that have the potential to strengthen the public education system in an enduring and sustainable manner. This government is not here to deliver empty promises: our duty is to ensure every child receives a quality education, an education that gives them real chances and choices in life.
My country defeated Ebola with strong political leadership, community engagement, proven good practice and a surge in support from our international partners. To tackle the education crisis, I knew I had to similarly bring together these ingredients, Liberia’s unique assets, in a progressive coalition to improve our schools.
Any bold policy reform will always be controversial and will attract scrutiny. This was no exception. 12 months ago, I announced Partnership Schools for Liberia and it quickly became a media sensation, with a flurry of coverage in the Liberian and global media. Unfortunately, at the time, and until now, the facts have rarely been reported correctly and ideology has driven the debate.
But with hundreds of thousands of Liberian children enrolled in failing government schools, denied the quality education they deserve, now is not the time to be ideological. Now is the time to be bold, to pilot and experiment and, of course, to rigorously evaluate those pilots before scaling.
The 94-pilot school remain public schools, regulated and quality assured by the government. PSL teachers are civil servants on government payroll, and have every right to be members of teacher associations—Liberian teacher unions. The school buildings remain the property of the government of Liberia. PSL is not privatizing Liberia’s primary schools.
Eight Liberian and international school operators were carefully selected to manage the pilot schools through a ministry-led open and competitive bidding process. Between them they bring education experience from Liberia, West Africa, the wider African region and beyond. These include organizations like BRAC, with vast experience running schools and education programs in Africa and South Asia; Bridge International Academies, which operates more than 400 schools in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and India; and Rising Academies, which runs eight schools in neighboring Sierra Leone.
These are organizations that see great value collaborating with the government to deliver better educational outcomes for our children. Any decision to scale or terminate individual PSL operators will be made by the ministry team, based on independent evidence and community feedback. Most importantly, no single organization is or will be getting monopoly rights over Liberia’s primary schools.
The Ministry of Education has exactly the same financial obligation to the 94 pilot schools as any other public school—around $50 per child per year. PSL operators receive an additional philanthropically-funded subsidy of $50 per child, which enables them to build up the teams, curricula, data systems, among other things they need to run excellent schools.
Ultimately, we expect all operators to run their schools at the government price point, but we know that takes time. We are fortunate to have a group of philanthropic partners who are willing to take on this financial risk in support of the government. At my request, PSL is being rigorously evaluated by a world class research team to provide an independent measure of the effectiveness, equity and sustainability of PSL. The research team works hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Education so we get the data we need to make sensible policy decisions about the future of PSL.
The evaluation is analyzing the impact of PSL across several dimensions, including enrolment, attendance, learning outcomes, equity and parent perception and community engagement. It is a randomized control trial, which will help ensure that differences between PSL and non-PSL schools reflect the true impact of the program rather than any pre-existing differences between the schools. I have been clear from the start that any significant scale up of PSL will be dependent on the results of this evaluation.
This is just one component of Liberia’s progressive education reform platform PSL is an important but by no means the only priority for the Ministry of Education. There is no magic bullet to fix education in Liberia or anywhere, and PSL is just one of a range of reforms we are undertaking to improve our education system. These include plans to reach out-of-school children; the deepening and strengthening of school accountability mechanisms; and an aggressive payroll cleansing program which has already achieved $1.7 million annual savings, no token amount given that my total basic education budget is just $41 million per year.
Within PSL, my task as the education minister is to make sure that the school operators are provided with the conditions they need to deliver, while holding them accountable for their performance. They are required to report regularly on pre-agreed metrics, and their schools are inspected by my team for aspects including child-safe-guarding and quality of teaching and learning.
The public side of a public-private partnership is just as important as the private side. My team is building up the capacity we need to truly be the duty bearer for education: with responsibility for all decisions to commission, scale and indeed terminate operator contracts.
Signs so far are promising. Almost 28,000 children are enrolled in PSL schools, taught by re-invigorated and re-trained government teachers, supported by energized parents and resilient communities. They have the full backing of the Ministry of Education and I am proud of what has been achieved so far.
But these are early days for PSL. While I believe it holds great potential, my team and I are clear that the program will not be scaled significantly until the data shows it works and we have the capacity within government to manage it effectively.
Please challenge and scrutinize the program. We welcome that. But don’t judge PSL on ideological grounds. Judge us on the data—data on whether PSL schools deliver better learning outcomes for children.
The future of hundreds of thousands of Liberian children, their communities and our nation is at stake. We must not fail them.
NGO Advisor announced its new list of best NGOs in the world for 2017, and BRAC retained the top spot.
BRAC was ranked the number one NGO in the world for the second consecutive year today by the Geneva-based NGO Advisor, an independent media organisation committed to highlighting innovation, impact and governance in the nonprofit sector. BRAC retained the top spot as part of the 2017 Top 500 NGOs World rankings.
“It is an honour to see that BRAC has retained the number one position once again,” said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, BRAC’s founder and chairperson. “Every day, more than 100,000 of our staff across the world continue to empower people living in poverty. We are committed, now more than ever, to keep looking for answers to poverty and deprivation – to find out what works and apply the lessons.”
Each year, NGO Advisor researches, evaluates and ranks NGOs from around the world, highlighting the best in their annual Top 500 NGOs World list. NGO Advisor announced the new rankings on its website Monday, January 9. This is the third best-in-class ranking for BRAC in four years.
“Again in 2017, BRAC is the leading organisation in the Top 500 NGOs World rankings, meaning number one in terms of innovation, impact and governance. The agile giant keeps challenging itself to serve more and more communities around the world,” said NGO Advisor Editor-in-Chief Jean-Christophe Nothias in a statement.
In an exclusive interview, Sir Fazle says, “The idea behind BRAC is to change systems of inequity.”
Of more than 500 organisations worldwide, NGO Advisor placed BRAC first in its international category, based on its impact, innovation and sustainability. BRAC was praised for its holistic approach to fighting poverty, treating it as a system of interrelated barriers that must be addressed concurrently. The ranking also highlighted the organisation’s systems-based structure, ensuring sustainability through a variety of revenue streams.
“Pragmatic, adaptive, BRAC can now play any game, whether using for-profit or nonprofit approaches, to face and challenge systems of inequity,” said NGO Advisor in its review of BRAC. “BRAC ticks every box this year, with extra scoring for the clarity of its five-year strategic vision and its willingness to expand its international outreach…Today, BRAC is more than a reference; it is leading the nonprofit world toward its next degree of efficiency and leverage.”
BRAC was founded in Bangladesh in 1972, and today is a global leader in developing cost-effective, evidence-based poverty innovations in extremely poor, conflict-prone and post-disaster settings. These include programs in education, healthcare, microfinance, girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, socially-responsible businesses, a bank, a university, and the world’s largest mobile money platform. In 2016, BRAC employed more than 100,000 people in 11 countries, with a total global expenditure of about $900 million.
BRAC is also unique among the world’s major nonprofits in that its overall budget is majority self-financed. In Bangladesh, where BRAC was founded and the site of its global headquarters, BRAC financed 76% of its $682 million average annual national budget from 2011 to 2015 from its own socially-responsible businesses. However, much of BRAC’s most important work – including its schools, healthcare, ultra-poor graduation programme, climate change resilience, and most of its programmes outside Bangladesh – remains heavily reliant on outside donors.
NGO Advisor combines academic rigour with journalistic integrity and autonomy, evaluating each organisation based upon its objective merits. Co-founded by Jean-Christophe Nothias, a journalist formerly with The Global Journal, the rankings methodology was first developed in 2009.
Nothias has since enlisted experts at The University of Geneva and partners from the nonprofit sector to improve the evaluation metrics used to determine the rankings. Today, NGO Advisor presents its findings to an international audience of donors, volunteers, journalists, researchers, diplomats and nonprofit leaders to showcase best practices and mirror the evolving values of the global community.
The new rankings include several important organisations. The Skoll Foundation, a social entrepreneurship foundation based in Palo Alto, California, claimed the third spot, and Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, the number two. The Danish Refugee Council and Ashoka rounded out the rankings in the fourth and fifth spot, respectively.
Research shows that there is a significant return on investment made in the education sector. The national budget allocation for the sector, however, remains insufficient. In the pre-primary level, every 1 taka spent leads to a return of 19 taka. This was the primary focus of the seminar ‘Bangladesh education policy priorities’, held on 4 January 2017 at BRAC Centre.
BRAC, together with the international research institute, Copenhagen Consensus Center organised the event to discuss the strategies recommended for realising the Vision 2021 of the Bangladesh government. The minister for primary and mass education, advocate Mustafizur Rahman attended as the chief guest, while the additional secretary of the Ministry of Education, Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed was present as the special guest.
The programme was chaired by the director of BRAC’s education programme, Dr Safiqul Islam. KAM Morshed, director of BRAC’s advocacy for social change, moderated the first session. The keynote speakers at the event were Dr Atonu Rabbani, associate professor, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka; Dr Ahsanuzzaman, assistant professor, Department of Economics, North South University; and Dr S M Hafizur Rahman, professor, Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka. Mr Hasnuzzaman Zaman, outreach manager of Copenhagen Consensus Center made the opening statement.
The chief guest, advocate Mustafizur Rahman said, “Bangladesh will prioritise psychosocial stimulation for children and secondary education for girls.”
UNICEF representative, Edouard Beigbbeder said, “I hope the interventions discussed will be taken by the government and we can consider for implementation.”
The second session of the seminar was moderated by Gawher Nayeem Wahra, director of BRAC’s disaster management and climate change programme.
Some of the major challenges raised include the lack of quality education, high dropout rates in secondary schools, not evaluating students based on proper merits, high teacher to student ratio, and lack of accountability of teachers.
Talat Mahmud, director of education, Save the Children, Dr SM Hafisur Rahman, professor at Institute of Education and Research, University of Dhaka, Mohammed Shahidul Islam, education team leader, USAID, and Professor Abdul Bayes, director of BRAC’s research and evaluation division also spoke at the seminar.
On 4 November 2016, a team of European Union delegates including the Ambassador of Liberia, MsTiina Intelmann and two Estonian members of Parliament, Mati Raidma and Mart Nutt visited BRAC Liberia office at Tarbar community, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
The delegates visited the feed mill and poultry hatchery and met several model poultry farmers. They discussed the supply and demand of poultry and pig feed, and the poultry value chain.
The team congratulated BRAC for the new project called, ‘Supporting the poor and food and nutrition insecure to react to crises and strengthen resilience in Liberia’ that started in October 2016.
The EU delegates visited a BRAC model poultry rearer, Rachael Mama Joe at her house. Joe is known in her community for her hard work and success. She bears all expenses of raising her family and sending her children to school.
BRAC team with EU delegates in a hatchery and feed mill in Liberia.
Today on Monday (12 December) BRAC in a prompt move distributed relief among the victims of the fire that ravaged the Sattala slum at Mohakhali in the Dhaka city in the early hours today. A total of 115 families each received a blanket, a bar of soap, a sweater, two cooking and frying pots, spoons, two plates and a jar of water from BRAC staff in afternoon. Also identity cards were provided to these families which may help them receive relief assistance in future.
A meeting in this regard was also organised on the local IPH School and College premises today in which 30 NGOs participated. Facilitated by BRAC URBAN Development Programme, the participants reached a decision to strengthen the coordination of the relief and assistance activities for the Sattala slum victims.
On the other hand, BRAC has increased its time of the campaign for donations for the fire victims of Korail slum in Mohakhali. The campaign that began on December 7 will now end on December 17 (Saturday), instead of December 14, as previously announced. Under the new arrangement of the campaign, a portion of the donations received through campaign will be directed at the victims of Sattala slum. For this an additional amount of Tk 26 lakh will be needed.
Under the special donation campaign BRAC hopes to collect one crore 23 lakh and 75 thousand taka. The United Nations Development Programme has already donated Tk 65 lakh to BRAC from its own fund. The rest we expect to collect through other organisations and individuals. The fund will be distributed to 495 families who are major victims of the Korail slum fire. Each of these families will receive Tk 25 thousand if the fund can be raised as expected.
Interested organisations and individuals can send donation through bank account and bkash with details below.
Account name: BRAC, BRAC Centre, 75 Mohakhali
Bank name: BRAC Bank
Account number: 150120-2316474001
Bkash number: 01730321765 (instruction)
You are also requested to visit site for further details: response.brac.net
BRAC Uganda has been recognised for its excellent performance in financial reporting. We received the award in the NGO category at the 2016 Financial Reporting (FiRe) Awards, which took place on 10 November 2016 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
We have been recognised every year since the awards were launched in 2011. This year, we competed against 20 other NGOs. The awards also recognise entrants from various industries including financial institutions, consumer and industrial products, education institutions, insurance services, the public sector and regulatory bodies and associations.
(Left to right) BRAC Uganda finance manager, Ronald Kasozire, accounts manager, Sachindra Ghosh, chief finance officer, Richard Kigozi and country representative, Bhuiyan Imran from BRAC received the award.
As one of the largest development organisations in the country, serving over four million people and employing over 2,400 Ugandans, we are engaged in poverty alleviation initiatives that include, but are not limited to, microfinance and small enterprise development, community healthcare and nutrition, agriculture and seed distribution, education and youth empowerment and livelihood programmes. We have established reporting systems to ensure transparency and enable successful implementation of our multi-sectoral programmes. These also ensure that we adhere to international financial reporting standards. It encourages more organisations to embrace quality financial reporting to improve their operations and comply with application financial reporting frameworks.
The FiRe Awards aims to promote financial reporting in compliance with international standards set out by the International Accounting Standards Board. It is organised by the Council of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, Uganda Securities Exchange and the Capital Markets Authority.
As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, BRAC, Australia, and the UK reiterated their commitment to investing in girls’ empowerment and working with the Government of Bangladesh to end child marriage. This joint statement is released as part of the activities undertaken by the partners with the Government of Bangladesh.
In issuing the statement, BRAC’s Executive Director, Dr Muhammad Musa said, “Every day, BRAC helps girls in Bangladesh reach their full potential through a comprehensive approach which includes creating economic, health-related, educational and leadership opportunities. After over 40 years of experience in advancing women and girls’ rights, we are determined now more than ever, to ensure that no girl is born into a community where she isn’t given the chance to learn and become a leader.”
Jane Edmondson, Country Representative for the UK’s Department for International Development Bangladesh said: “Children need learning and play in a safe environment to reach their potential. Too many girls and boys still miss out. And for some girls, harmful practices in society such as child and forced marriage and domestic violence make it doubly hard. Girls are less likely to finish school and less likely to find work. Changing all this is essential to reducing poverty in Bangladesh and to achieving sustainable economic growth”.
“Helping young women and girls to reach their full potential is critical to Bangladesh achieving its economic and social goals”, added Australian High Commissioner, Julia Niblett. “This is why Australia, together with the UK, is proud to support BRAC’s efforts to empower girls, supporting them to achieve their full potential”.
With the support of Australia and the UK, BRAC’s social and economic development programmes empower adolescent girls through the largest network of adolescent development clubs in Bangladesh. Girls who have been members of these clubs are more likely to be involved in income-generating activities and avoid early marriages, than girls who did not join the clubs.
In Bangladesh, considerable progress has been made in improving the lives of adolescent girls over the last 15 years. More girls than ever are enrolling in schools and access to health care has improved. But while 69 per cent of girls enrol in secondary education, almost one in two drop-out before completing their schooling. This is linked to the continued prevalence of child marriage. Though the proportion of girls marrying in their teens has been declining for 10 years or so, the country still suffers from one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with over half of women currently between the age of 20-24 having married before their 18th birthday; and almost one in five having married before their 15th birthday.
Coordinated and focussed efforts are being taken from both the government and civil society groups to fight what has been termed as one of the most critical barriers to large scale development efforts. The government’s present commitment to reform the 1929 Child Marriage Restraint Act and set the minimum age of marriage at 18 is an important development in line with other international and national laws and policies protecting the rights of children. Similarly, the initiation of drafting a National Plan of Action to End Child Marriage demonstrates that along with its neighbours with similar socio-cultural contexts, such as Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, Bangladesh too is moving ahead on its child rights and gender equality agenda.
Australia, BRAC and the UK are focussed on continuing their work together to address these issues through effective programmes and also developing new programmes that address emerging social problems related to child marriage.
Adolescent girls are one of the most powerful agents for change in the world. Educated adolescent girls are able to fight child marriage, protect themselves from teenage pregnancy and build healthier futures for themselves.
BRAC was ranked the top International Charity of the Year for 2016 by the Charity Times Awards on 28 September. The award is organised by Charity Times Magazine, a trade publication for the UK non-profit sector. Lewis Temple, CEO of BRAC UK, received the award on behalf of BRAC.
The award highlighted BRAC’s history of designing and implementing solutions at scale, particularly the ultra poor graduation approach, which helps the poorest graduate out of poverty.
The award now in its 17th year was held in London. The event works to shine a celebratory light on the sector, raise standards and offer ongoing professional development to the thousands engaged in charitable work in the UK. BRAC was pleased to share the short list for International Charity with six outstanding organisations, including Hospices of Hope, Send a Cow, Shivia, United World Schools, Vision for a Nation Foundation and Y Care International.
Charity Times is a leading business and management magazine for UK non-profit professionals. It offers a wide range of in-depth, independently-written features and news analysis. Each year, the Charity Times Awards work to honour the outstanding professionals in the varied fields of charity management; recognise, celebrate, and promote best practice; support continuing professional development; contribute to raising the standards of charity management; promote and raise the profile of the charity sector; and provide recognition for those who are providing effective support to the sector.
To know more about the awards, please visit: http://www.charitytimes.com/awards/index.php
It is with great regret that we inform that Mr Md Mainuddin Ahmed (44), Senior Area Manager, Small Enterprise Programme (SEP), BRAC Uganda was killed on 27 September, 2016 by unidentified miscreants. The Uganda police post-mortem report confirmed that he died due to strangulation.
Mr Mainuddin and our service staff Mr James Aworu were found unresponsive in the area office in Lira town on 27th morning. They were immediately taken to the Lira Regional Referral Hospital where the doctors declared Mr Mainuddin deceased.
Mr Aworu was admitted in critical condition and is now out of danger.
Mr Mainuddin’s laptop and phone were missing from the office. Uganda Police has commenced the investigation, but no arrests have so far been made.
BRAC Uganda office is coordinating with the Uganda government and Bangladesh consular office in carrying out all necessary official procedures involving the incident.
BRAC has informed Mr Mainuddin’s family in Bangladesh, confirming that the BRAC family stands beside them in this hour of terrible loss. He served the BRAC Microfinance programme for 18 years. Among his dearly loved ones, Mainuddin leaves behind his wife and two sons. His permanent residence is Kollyanpur, Dhaka.
BRAC started its operations in Uganda in 2006. It has around 2400 staff, of which 98 per cent is local staff members, making it the largest NGO in Uganda. To date BRAC has served 4.4 million people, which is almost 12 per cent of Uganda’s population. To know more about BRAC Uganda please click here.
Research findings from LANSA-BRAC examines the relation of agriculture and nutrition
Bangladesh achieved remarkable success in alleviating poverty but lags in the field of nutrition. Presently, 7.3 million children under the age of five are stunted while 2.9 million children are undernourished. To overcome this, experts are stressing on the diversity of agricultural production and agri-food value chain beyond farm to ensure food security, and fight against under nutrition.
On Tuesday, speakers shared such findings at a seminar titled ‘Nexus between Agricultural and Nutrition: Bangladesh Case’ at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka. The seminar was organised jointly by BRAC’s research and evaluation division, and international research partnership Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) which is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, was present as chief guest at the seminar. Welcome speech was given by Prof. Abdul Bayes, director of research and evaluation division, BRAC. Dr Md. Sirajul Islam, programme head of BRAC's agriculture and food security programme presented findings from a research on the potential of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in curbing under nutrition in Bangladesh. The session was led by the head of BRAC’s impact assessment unit Andrew Jenkins where International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s Chief of Party Dr Akhter Ahmed, BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Division’s senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty, researcher of BRAC-LANSA Dr Uttam Kumar Deb also presented papers. The presentations were followed by open discussion.
Addressing the key points of the research, Dr Md. Sirajul Islam said, “We need to focus on how the process of agri-food value chain and market distribution can be developed. That way, nutrition and food security for poor people can be ensured. This is going to be the next success of farm under food distribution management." He also mentioned that orange-fleshed sweet potato, which contains Beta-Carotene can play a vital role to preventing under nutrition problem.
Dr Akhter Ahmed said that the main objective of IFPRI's Agriculture, Nutrition, and Gender Linkages (ANGel) project in Bangladesh is to increase investment in agricultural activities and enable women to play a crucial role in curbing down under nutrition.
About nutritional wellbeing in Haor areas of the country, Barnali Chakraborty said, “Nutrition problem is extreme in Bangladesh, and 45 per cent children are stunted in the Haor areas. To prevent this situation, BRAC initiated a pilot project in 2013 in the upazila level.”
Dr Uttam Deb's paper indicated that diet diversity has increased in recent times and involvement in diversified agriculture (crop, horticulture, livestock and fish farming) contributes towards better nutrition (measured through BMI) and low income inequality.
Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, said, “Government has taken different initiative to develop and increase nutrition for mass people. Ministry of Agriculture is evaluating various methods for nutrition enhancement through Agriculture, Nutrition, and Gender Linkages (ANGel) project.