George Kronnisanyon Werner

Former Minister of Education, Liberia

“Education Leadership through Crisis” is a multi-week video series featuring wisdom from a diverse group of education leaders.

Below, watch highlights from host Mubuso Zamchiya’s interview with George Werner, former Minister of Education in Liberia, on his experience leading Liberia’s education system through recovery after Ebola and how times of crisis let us reflect and reimagine what education could be.

Scroll down to watch the full interview.

“There is a clear moral responsibility to what we are trying to do and achieve here. You cannot fail the next generation of children. If we do so, we undermine the very existence of your peace, particularly in countries like Liberia; fragile nations that have gone through civil war.”

George Werner

Former Minister of Education, Liberia

Meet George Kronnisanyon Werner

George Kronnisanyon Werner served as Liberia’s Minister of Education from 2015 to 2018. As Minister, despite inheriting an education system devastated by years of civil war and the Ebola outbreak, he led bold reforms such as the “Getting to Best” program, which aimed at overhauling the education system to give all Liberian children access to free, quality education. He also launched the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) initiative, now called LEAP, leveraging the experience of local and international education providers to deliver rapid gains in education quality for Liberia’s children. George also led an initiative to remove “ghost” teachers from the Ministry’s payroll, vetting the 18,000-teacher workforce and freeing up $2.4 million per year for reinvestment in the education system.

Following the election of President George Weah in late 2017, George was selected by outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to lead the Human Development aspect of her transition team, where he played a pivotal role facilitating the first peaceful transfer of power in Liberia in more than seventy years.

Prior to becoming Minister of Education, George served as Director General and Head of the Civil Service Agency. He holds a master’s from University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a BA from Marist College, now the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. George is a member of the Luminos Fund’s Advisory Board.

View the Full Interview

Question Breakdown:

1. (00:46) How did you get into education, how did you become Minister (of education) and how did you navigate Liberia through the Ebola crisis?

2. (07:48) How were you able to navigate the financial constraints around everything that you wanted to accomplish as Minister of Education?

3. (11:58) What are the faculties and skills that a Minister (and their team) must have, to get everyone to play the same game in such a rapid process of change?

4. (17:49) How do you look into the eyes of a complex situation and distill very simple messaging and tactics around which everybody can come together?

5. (19:45) From your vantage point, how do you navigate the political spectrum?

6. (24:00) Is there a disconnect between the short-term nature of the ministerial responsibility and the long arc of education reform and development that create an inconsistency between different administrations’ pursuit of a national agenda?

7. (26:27) Where do you get your advice as a Minister when you’re making decisions?

8. (28:56) What focus/approach did your team take on the question of learning loss during the Ebola crisis? What are some lessons that can be drawn to inform conversations that are currently taking place about learning loss, school reopening in light of COVID-19? 

9. (36:02) What is the role of philanthropy in your mind, in this process of education response in a COVID-19 context?

10. (37:47) What books inspired your desire for lifelong learning as a child? What about today?

11. (40:45) What advice do you have for us as a global community as we are seeking to create a world in which every child has a real chance at a good education?

“There has to be some kind of radical movement to repurpose the meaning of this crisis. It is calling us to be radical. To reimagine what the classroom is, what it could be.”

George Werner

Former Minister of Education, Liberia

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