At a glance: Liberia

UN agencies work together to build new school in Liberia

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2007/Scott
Students carrying three-seat benches to Tennebu Government School in Liberia.

By Adolphus Scott

TENNEBU, Liberia, 28 February 2007– On a dusty road in the town of Tennebu, a new seven-classroom schoolhouse is rising just behind the remains of the school, which was destroyed during Liberia’s civil conflict.

Three United Nations agencies are working together with the Government of Liberia to rebuild the school and prepare it for the 485 students – including 204 girls – who study there. “UN agencies working as a ‘one UN’ can be stronger, more responsive and effective,” said UNICEF Representative in Liberia Rozanne Chorlton.

In partnership with local authorities, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is completing the construction of the school. School feeding is being carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP), while UNICEF is supporting the school with teaching materials, teacher training, furniture, and water and sanitation, including a well and separate latrines for girls, boys, and faculty and staff.

Modern school facilities

“Besides the students from this town, we have others who travel long distances to attend school here at Tennebu,” said Tennebu Government School Principal James Y. Kota. “We are grateful to UNICEF, UNDP and WFP for the work done so far. With the new building being constructed, our children will now leave the dirt floor, and sit on school benches and drink safe water at school,” he added.

“In the past, most of the classes in our school were held in one big noisy room with partitions,” said a resident of Tennebu Town, Joseph Gayflor. “Now we have a modern building, along with water and toilet facilities.”

The Tennebu students are excited as well. “We all can’t wait to enter our new building and sit on real school benches for the first time,” said student Sarah Zubah.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2007/Scott
The new seven-room Tennebu Government School, built and supplied with the support of UN agencies, including UNICEF.

Making up for lost time

The school also offers the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP), which condenses six years of primary schooling into three years of intensive learning to enable children to make up for the years lost to armed conflict. Many educations were interrupted or curtailed by the 15-year civil war in Liberia.

The ALP serves the needs of an estimated 400,000 children, about half of Liberia’s student population. UNICEF helped to re-launch the programme with teacher training and supplies, including recreation kits, school gardens and other support. Special classrooms have even been set aside for over-age schoolchildren.

“This is an excellent example of how UN agencies can work together, each with its individual strength to achieve quality results,” said UNICEF Liberia Emergency Officer Harriet Matthews. “This sort of package support by collaborating agencies works very well. Tennebu is now an example of a quality learning space.”

Getting children back to school

The war inflicted extensive damage on Liberia’s educational system, with a particularly heavy toll on schooling for girls.

Primary school enrolment currently stands at only 58 per cent for girls and 74 per cent for boys. At the secondary school level, these rates drop to 12 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively.

UNICEF believes that addressing the needs of the adolescents and young people who missed out on education during the war is essential for their own well-being, as well as for the country’s development.


 

 

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