Viewing cable 07CONAKRY1256
Title: EDUCATION MINISTER PLANS TO TEST CONTRACT TEACHERS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07CONAKRY12562007-11-21 11:40:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Conakry
VZCZCXRO2460
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHRY #1256/01 3251140
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211140Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY CONAKRY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1893
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CONAKRY 001256 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12598:  N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV SOCI GV
SUBJECT: EDUCATION MINISTER PLANS TO TEST CONTRACT TEACHERS 
 
REF:  CONAKRY 1215 
 
¶1.  (SBU) SUMMARY.  During a November 16 poloff courtesy call, the 
Minister of Education was enthusiastic about his job and optimistic 
about his program to improve education in Guinea.  In response to 
teacher demands to address contractor problems, the Minister said he 
plans to hold a national exam to test all teachers with permanent 
employment to be offered only to those who pass.  He also commented 
on efforts to reduce corruption during the September national 
university exam process, which resulted in the arrest of a number of 
teachers and students accused of bribing and cheating.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
¶2.  (SBU) On November 16, poloff met with Guinean Minister of 
Education, Elhadj Ousmane Souare.  One of two union members 
represented in Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate's cabinet, Souare was 
relaxed, informal and eager to dispense with standard protocol.  He 
expressed appreciation for his close working relationship with the 
Embassy in the past and said he is looking forward to continued 
collaboration. 
 
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BIO NOTES 
--------- 
 
¶3.  (U) Born in 1946, Minister Souare has a degree in physics from 
the University of Kankan.  He completed two post-graduate study 
programs in France: one on solar energy at the National Center for 
Scientific Research and one on scientific research management. 
Minister Souare also spent two years doing specialized training in 
scientific research policy in Brussels, Geneva and Paris.  The 
minister has extensive experience as a consultant for a number of 
national and international organizations including UNESCO, the 
National Committee for the Fight Against AIDS, and the World Bank. 
His previous government positions include National Coordinator on 
Women's Civil Rights and Deputy National Director for Scientific and 
Technical Research. 
 
¶4.  (U) As a founding member of the Guinean Teacher's Union (SLEG), 
Minister Souare actively participated in the union negotiations with 
the government during the January/February strike.  He also has 
extensive experience in conflict resolution and negotiation and has 
used this experience to resolve issues within the unions. 
 
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BACKGROUND 
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¶5.  (SBU) Severely under-resourced, the Ministry of Education 
receives less than 5% of Guinea's operating budget (the amount 
available after debt service payments).  Many schools are in 
deplorable conditions with classrooms designed for 30 students 
housing more than 150.  Inadequate numbers of qualified teachers 
coupled with corruption pose additional challenges.  A 2006 German 
study found that about 30% of contractual teachers cannot read, 
write or do math beyond the 4th grade level. 
 
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HELP IS WELCOME - AND NOT JUST MONEY 
------------------------------------ 
 
¶6.  (SBU) Minister Souare emphasized that U.S. assistance in the 
education sector is critical to democracy.  He said that Guinea's 
high illiteracy rates (greater than 70%) create a substantial 
barrier to effective civic education.  Souare clarified that while 
financial assistance is welcome, U.S. assistance in other areas can 
be just as helpful.  Specifically, he said the U.S. plays an 
important role in democracy advocacy, informal education campaigns, 
and by providing advice and support to both the government and the 
private sector.  Poloff told the Minister that the Embassy is 
exploring a number of different ideas to support civic education, 
including radio bulletins and public outreach to schools and 
universities. 
 
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PUNISHING CORRUPTION 
-------------------- 
 
¶7.  (SBU) Although the national university exam process has been 
fraught with corruption in the past, the September 2007 exam results 
were widely seen as the most transparent in recent memory.  Poloff 
congratulated the minister for his leadership role in administering 
the exams.  Souare, visibly proud, said that corruption within the 
exam processes will no longer be tolerated.  He added that an 
unspecified number of students and teachers who had been caught 
cheating or accepting bribes, were currently in jail awaiting trial. 
 Minister Souare emphasized that Guinea's political environment is 
very different than it was in the past - 'people will no longer 
accept poor management, abuse or betrayal,' he said.  'We have to 
aim to satisfy base needs' he added, 'and education is one of those 
needs.' 
 
 
CONAKRY 00001256  002 OF 002 
 
 
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AND WEEDING OUT UNQUALIFIED TEACHERS 
------------------------------------ 
 
¶8.  (SBU) Regarding ongoing labor problems with teachers (reftel), 
Souare said that many of the problems are more than 20 years old.  A 
union member himself, he said he understands the underlying issues 
and had just met with the unions the previous day.  The biggest 
problem is large numbers of teachers employed as contractors, which 
represent more than half of the total education workforce.  These 
contract workers lack benefits and job security and the employment 
system invites corruption.  Souare said he plans to hold a national 
exam in December or January to which all contract teachers will be 
invited.  Those teachers who pass the exam will be offered permanent 
employment no later than March, he said.  Souare added that the exam 
should help weed out unqualified teachers.  According to Souare, 
union members agreed with the proposed solution. 
 
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INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGES 
------------------------- 
 
¶9.  (SBU) When asked about efforts to address infrastructure 
inadequacies, Souare said that he is trying to identify appropriate 
facilities within the private sector in order to rent them and 
convert them into schools.  However, he added that assistance from 
donors may be needed to implement this plan. 
 
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COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶10.  (SBU) Despite significant challenges facing the education 
sector, Minister Souare is energetic and enthusiastic with clear 
ideas of what needs to be done and how he wants to do it.  His 
success in improving the national university exam process, which was 
due in part to USG assistance, testifies to his commitment and 
follow-through.  Based on initial impressions, Minister Souare seems 
to be a willing, pragmatic partner who is looking for assistance but 
also working to identify what he can do on his own.  The Embassy has 
been working closely with the Ministry on a number of programs 
including developing a civic education program to develop a 
curriculum for the formal school system as well as an informal mass 
education campaign via radio broadcasts and other mechanisms. 
 
¶11.  (SBU) As to Souare's plan to hold a national test for contract 
teachers, it is critical that the exam be well written and well 
administered because if the Ministry offers permanent employment to 
unqualified contractors, it risks further crippling the education 
system for decades.  At the same time, ministry refusal to employ 
long-time contractors based on exam results is likely to be 
unpopular.  END COMMENT. 
 
CARTER