This year’s 2000 Guineas winner ALI BABA reports well-refreshed from a three-month absence and should win the Fontainbleu Trophy open allowance feature over 1500 metres at Caymanas Park today.Interestingly, ALI BABA, from the stables of champion trainer Wayne DaCosta, is one of four classic winners this season vying for top honours in a 14-horse field. The others are the 1000 Guineas winner PUDDY POOH, Oaks heroine MOM’S STUDENT, along with SUPERLUMINAL who scored a huge upset in the July 4 St Leger over the distance.All four have trained well in preparation for this race, but the Harry Parsad-trained SUPERLUMINAL obviously needs it longer, and Parsard will be looking more to his proven campaigner PETE’SWILDONE with in-form Wesley Henry aboard to take home the bacon.The two three-year-old fillies PUDDY POOH and MOM’S STUDENT were not disgraced behind the speedy FORTUNEONEHUNDRED on September 12 in the Saint Cecelia Cup over 1300 metres and should give good account of themselves, but neither was as good as ALI BABA during the three-year-old campaigns and with the likes of two-time Gold Cup winner COMMANDING CHIEF under returning champion jockey Dane Nelson, UNCLE TAF, and FRANFIELD present, they cannot be given the edge.Back-to-back winsIndeed, ALI BABA scored back-to-back fast-time wins (1:31.1) over this trip early in the season before winning the Ash Wednesday Trophy over 1300 metres in a fast 1:18.3 in March. He then beat subsequent derby winner SEEKING MY DREAM in the 2000 Guineas on Easter Monday, clocking a fast 1:37.4 for a mile, and although beaten going two turns n both the derby and St Leger, is more adept at middle distances, and this should manifest itself today.Although racing for the first time since his close fourth to SUPERLUMINAL in the St Leger on July 4, ALI BABA has been taken to task at exercise by DaCosta, turning in bullet work after bullet work. The 3-y-o cot by Fearless Vision out of the 2009 ‘Horse of the Year’ Ahwhofah obviously has the class to topple this field, and having secured a favourable draw on the outside, will not be easily denied with 51.0kg and in-form stable jockey Robert Halledeen aboard.Other firm fancies on the 11-race programme are FORCE DE JOUR to make it five in a row in the 10th race over 1300 metres for the Cecil C. Charlton Memorial Trophy; REGALLY BOLD in the ninth; JESSE’S FAVORITE in the sixth; and PERFECT FLYER in the eighth.
His Excellency Honorable Education Minister George K. Werner in his “Partnership Schools for Liberia: Building a Better Future for our Children” attempts to make the case that outsourcing the education system of Liberia to private actors will produce better outcomes for especially the poorest children. Liberia’s plan is to outsource all primary and pre-primary schools over the next five years. It is a deeply unsettling policy that Minister Werner proposes. Outsourcing education would have consequences for future generations of children, parents, educators and society as a whole. Therefore, it is imperative and a matter of public accountability to be mindful of the potential effects of such a policy and examine the evidence from elsewhere. Minister Werner asserts that the new policy, to be launched in September this year, aims to bring lessons to Liberia from South Africa, Kenya, the US and UK.Unfortunately, Minister Werner has got it wrong. It is unclear what Liberia could be learning from those lessons, except how not to design a policy with the objective of providing quality education for all students. The recent critique from Kishore Singh, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, is completely justified. Abandoning one of the core functions of the state to the commercial benefit of a private company violates Liberia’s legal and moral obligations, including international obligations under the right to education and the fourth UN Sustainable Development Goal. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion; however, everyone is not entitled to his or her own facts. The facts are that there is no evidence whatsoever from anywhere in the world to support the claim that outsourcing education would be in the interests of our children. Indeed the poorest children would be worse off. Minister Werner writes that the first inspiration for the policy came from New Orleans, in Louisiana, USA, and the non-government charter school system installed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In particular, the Minister argues that the poorest children have benefited most. However, the facts about the New Orleans experiment are quite clear. It failed.Research by the renowned Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education found thatunder the charter model, the organization of schools in New Orleans is highly stratified. Schools sort students by race, income, and special education status, with the most advantaged students at the top tiers and the least advantaged at the bottom tiers. This takeover of the system without public dialogue or consent, combined with the resulting high levels of stratification currently in place, illustrate that turning a school system over to non-governmental or private actors has not, in the case of New Orleans, helped students.Furthermore, the experience from Sweden, one of the global reference countries for private sector involvement, also offers several lessons for the Liberian government about what not to do. As part of a decentralization overhaul of the education system, school provision in privately run for-profit “free schools” was introduced in 1992. In recent years, the effects of that policy have become clear with increased educational inequality, variation of academic performance, social and cultural segregation. It took several scandals, including the collapse of a prominent provider, related to the short-term time horizon of private education suppliers, (many of which are owned by private equity firms), and a slide in PISA results, before Swedish government realized that it had no choice but to reverse its course and abolish the profit motive.So, why is it that the purveyors of these types of governance reforms advocate a losing formula? Kishore Singh, the UN Special Rapporteur points out that it is ironic that Liberia does not have resources to meet its core obligations to provide a free education to every child, but the government can find huge sums of money to subcontract private actors to do so on its behalf.Minister Werner concludes his argument for outsourcing education by stating that “To not act would be an injustice.” The truth is that Liberia faces vast challenges in provision of quality education for all. However, to put into action a programme of outsourcing of education in Liberia is likely to prove an act of injustice that will haunt the country for decades. Andrea Gabor of the New York Times reviewed all the research and evaluations of the schools around Katrina and concluded that “For outsiders, the biggest lesson of New Orleans is this: It is wiser to invest in improving existing education systems than to start from scratch.”Liberia needs to strengthen their education system, build capacity and invest in the professional capital of the people who will lead Liberia into a better, wiser and more prosperous future. Now, that’s a fact I think we all can agree with.We call upon the Government of Liberia to suspend any further action and commit to a national consultative process so that every citizen can contribute towards the development and implementation of sound policy aimed at improving educational opportunity and outcomes for all children.Samuel Y. Johnson, Sr.Secretary General-NTALShare this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)