Liberia's education system 'a mess' - President Sirleaf

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks during an interview with Reuters at her office in Monrivia August 17, 2013. REUTERS/Tango

MONROVIA (Reuters) - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has branded Liberia’s education system “a mess” requiring a complete overhaul, days after all 25,000 high school students sitting state university entrance exams failed.

University authorities last week said not a single university applicant had achieved the minimum grade for admission, highlighting one of the many problems facing the country 10 years after the end of a devastating civil war.

“The students’ failure did not come from the university, but rather from the schools that prepared them. The result is alarming,” Sirleaf said in a statement late on Wednesday.

“It tells me that the educational system is a mess.”

Sirleaf said problems had been identified during meetings with stakeholders and fixing them would require a complete overhaul of Liberia’s education system.

Primary and secondary schools, like many of the country’s institutions, collapsed during Liberia’s intermittent 14-year civil war, which killed an estimated 250,000 people.

Nelson Sahwolo, vice-president for student affairs at the University of Liberia, said the university was eventually forced to lower the pass grade to allow some 1,600 students to be admitted.

“We had set a passing mark for English at 70, while we set the passing grade for mathematics at 50. No one could get those marks,” Sahwolo said.

Liberia has two state-run universities - The University of Liberia and William V.S. Tubman University. The University of Liberia, created in 1862, is among the oldest institutions of higher learning in West Africa.

Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Andrew Roche