|Liberia's Minister of Education, Joseph Korto, talks to donors and partners at a event hosted by UNICEF on rebuilding the education system in Liberia. On his right: UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 16 February 2007 – Having emerged from an almost 15-year civil conflict, Liberia is now gathering international support to help bring hope and a better future to its children and women.
At an event hosted by UNICEF today in New York, the country’s Minister of Education, Joseph Korto, spoke to donors and partners about the mounting challenges facing Liberia’s children and asked for their help to rebuild the country’s education system.
“No nation will make social, economic progress in the absence of a strong and productive education system,” said Ms. Korto. “As the country is recovering from many years of destructive war, there are clearly enormous challenges.”
Schools destroyed in conflict
One of the greatest challenges is the ailing school infrastructure. An estimated 50 per cent or more of Liberia’s schools were destroyed in the conflict, which ended three years ago. There is also a generation of children who lost their childhood in the turmoil. A recent national census found that the vast majority of students in Grade One were over-age – some as old as 20.
Adding to the stress on the school system is the poor quality of instruction; some 60 per cent of teachers have never received proper training.
Mr. Korto pointed out that with international support, many schools have been rehabilitated and a good number of children affected by war are now back to school. “But much remains to be done,” he said.
|UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautum makes welcoming remarks at the meeting on education recovery in Liberia.|
‘First dividend of peace’
UNICEF and its partners are committed to the quest for a better education for all of Liberia’s children.
“Right after a conflict you have to ask yourself: After all the devastation and destruction, what is the first dividend of peace?” said UNICEF Chief of Education Cream Wright. “Of course, water, food, nutrition – all of these life necessities are essential. People have to survive, but survive for what?
“Education is the first dividend of peace,” continued Dr. Wright. “And the future for people who want to survive is how they can thrive. Getting children back to school, getting young people back to secondary school, even the universities, these are all very powerful signals that the society is back in the business of building a future.”
Liberia’s priorities for education
In his remarks to the many representatives of governments, institutions and non-governmental organizations at today’s meeting, Mr. Korto also presented Liberia’s priorities for education recovery in the post-conflict era.
The ambitious plan aims to build a solid foundation for educational growth over the next five years. Its central focus is the improvement of school quality through teacher training and the provision of materials such as textbooks, desks and chairs.
Mr. Korto said the Ministry of Education will focus on several other critical areas as well, including:
Not another generation lost
But the funding shortfall for the five-year education plan is currently estimated at $166 million, according to Mr. Korto, who expressed the government’s genuine interest in working with all partners – not only to close the budget gap but to deliver concrete results for every Liberian child.
“Many children hadn’t had the opportunities to go to school at all for some 15 years,” said UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton. “And we can’t afford to have another generation lost.
“It’s their right to have access to an education, and it’s our obligation to make sure that their rights are fulfilled,” she added.
16 February 2007:
Liberia’s Minister of Education, Joseph Korto, tells UNICEF Radio about the need to provide resources and not to lose sight of the importance of education.
16 February 2007:
UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton tells UNICEF Radio about the role of girls’ education and the needs of the generation that lost its schooling to conflict.
16 February 2007:
UNICEF Chief of Education Cream Wright tells UNICEF Radio about committing to education in order to ensure a better future for Liberia.