Q&A: Transforming education in Liberia

30 May 2024


Abdallah Housseini from Liberia's Education Ministry participated in the IIEP Education Leadership Seminar 2024.

Abdallah Housseini recently became the Director of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in Liberia’s Ministry of Education. He also just completed two IIEP programmes, which he says have transformed the Ministry’s approach to leading change in education, particularly when it comes to using learning assessment data and stakeholder engagement.

What are the biggest challenges in education in Liberia, and how have IIEP’s training courses, including the Education Leadership Seminar, helped the Ministry to better implement reforms?

Policy implementation and design are critical issues in Liberia. We usually develop policies based on feelings and sentiments, rather than data and evidence. When policies are developed, we do not typically think about the roadmap and what it takes to have this policy fully implemented at all levels. We do not consider the issues that we are learning now relative to inclusive stakeholder engagement, whether we have a conducive environment – especially for the institutions that would be implementing, and whether they have the capacity or skills, or logistics to implement the policies. And that is how most of the policies are stagnated at the central level.

You recently took part in IIEP-UNESCO’s Foundations of Education Sector Planning programme. How do you think the two courses complement each other?

The module and the programme and activities are a good follow-up to what we learned during the Foundations of Education Sector Planning programme. It perfectly aligns with the roles and responsibilities that I play as a Director of Planning at the Ministry.

The first programme had a huge impact on my performance upon returning to Liberia. Data evidence was an issue we looked at. The experience and lessons helped me to identify education indicators that were not even reflected in our annual reports, such as issues relative to the out-of-school rate. It is clear that there is a capacity cap at the Ministry.

I was so happy because when I came back after the course, at a programme that I attended at UNICEF, the data that I presented was utilized as the data of the government for a report on their interventions in Liberia. So that was huge.



Can you think of a specific situation where you needed to exhibit strong leadership skills, and on reflection after these two courses, would you have approached it differently?

This course has allowed us to get a better understanding of our leadership style. In the Education Leadership Seminar, we did an evaluation, and I sincerely believe that this assessment fits perfectly well with my personality. I was also able to identify other people’s leadership styles. Before the report, I frankly could not handle certain scenarios. Later, a few instances came up where I had to change my way of leadership to listen more, to be the last to make the final decision relative to people within my office whom I was supervising.

What have you learned from the realities of the countries where your colleagues work?

During the Foundations of Education Sector Planning programme, we had a group assignment where we connected with three other colleagues from other countries. That was great because we were able to get some understanding of how other systems work. I got to understand their roles and responsibilities. I figured out that we have similar challenges across countries, irrespective of how huge the system is or the budget that they have – there are issues that remain similar whether it is over curriculum, teaching and learning materials, issues of teacher management, strategies, data, and evidence.

I met a colleague from Egypt. We have 6,000 schools in Liberia and in Egypt, they have 55,000. Despite this difference, we have the same issues.

The course has strengthened my relationship with other colleagues. We believe much more can be done. I hope that we can continue this network, which could be a good space to pose a question and see which countries have done something toward a certain challenge so that we can learn from each other, and share experiences, and resources.

How do you think that this seminar will help you in your work back in your home country?

One thing that I love is that we are getting resource templates. For example, the assignment that we are doing in the leadership seminar has to do with developing an implementation roadmap, which is a template that I can utilize whenever we are developing any policy moving forward.

In the Foundations of Education Sector Planning programme, there was a template on educational data that I am using to generate indicators. I am very grateful that it is helping me to plan better. The tools we are receiving will enhance our performance.