UNICEF and Government of Liberia collaborate to construct town’s first official public primary school [12 June 2014]
Facility will provide a safe and child-friendly learning environment for students.
HARRIS TOWN, Liberia 11 June 2014 – Residents of Harris Town had reason to celebrate today
as they became the latest beneficiaries of a school building and rehabilitation project supported by UNICEF, the Liberian Ministry of Education and the Government of Japan. At a ceremony attended by national and local leaders as well as community members, UNICEF and the Ministry officially dedicated the new structure.
"The Government of Liberia is proud to be dedicating yet another child-friendly school to another community in need of a learning facility," said Minister of Education Etmonia David Tarpeh. "Now it is up to you, the parents and other adults in this community, to ensure your children get the most out of this structure by making sure every one of these desks is filled by a child, and that every child starts school at the right age."
Charles B. Harris Memorial School was built as part of a grant from the Government of Japan to UNICEF under which the agency is facilitating the construction or rehabilitation of 90 schools in 11 counties across Liberia. The schools were selected by the Ministry of Education, which has committed to providing educational materials and other support upon completion of each facility.
Located approximately 15 km from Monrovia, Harris Town is in a peri-urban area of Careysburg District, Montserrado County. Before it was selected for the project, it had no formal school building. To fill this gap, a local church built a community school that provided primary education to over 200 students. While this admirable effort demonstrated welcome commitment and initiative, if the children of Harris Town were to receive the sustainable and quality primary education to which the Government guarantees them access, a Government-sponsored school was required.
“Improving educational infrastructure is an important ingredient to ensuring that all children start school at the right age and stay in school,” said UNICEF Representative Sheldon Yett. “This means supporting community-based schools so that no child risks his or her safety travelling miles to and from school. It means creating schools that are child-friendly, where every child feels secure and welcome. And of course, it means ensuring quality education so that once a child goes to school, that child stays in school and that child learns.”
Charles B. Harris Memorial Primary School will serve Harris Town and two additional area communities, all with a combined population of 3,500 people. Currently, 222 students are enrolled in the school, including 119 boys and 103 girls, and eight teachers are employed there. In addition to its seven classrooms – each complete with armchairs for the students, a blackboard and a teacher’s desk – the building boasts a teacher’s lounge, a reading room, a principal’s office, a store room, gender-separated latrines, hand-washing facilities and a hand pump that provides access to safe drinking water to students and teachers.
Harris Town was selected for the Japanese-funded project based on the lack of a formal education facility, as well as the condition of the previous temporary structure and demographics and geography of the surrounding area. Situated in one of Liberia’s many marshlands, the terrain posed challenges to construction that required expert support. UNICEF and the construction companies it contracted were able to overcome these challenges, while the community members and local government representatives themselves lent support for the “finishing touches”, such as landscaping.
The community school also lacked adequate school desks. The water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were sub-standard and the roof leaked during the heavy storms of Liberia’s six-month rainy season. Finally, the peri-urban setting introduced some security threats less prevalent in rural areas, which UNICEF addressed by improving security of the site and building a storage room to keep key materials safe.
UNICEF hopes that the new, structurally sound, gleaming white and blue school building will instill a sense of pride in the Harris Town community, which will in turn take on critical roles like maintenance and security. With the Governments of Liberia and Japan, the agency has given the community the raw materials needed to ensure children go to school. What happens next is up to the people of Harris Town.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information, please contact:
• Adolphus Scott, Communications for Development Specialist
• Carolyn Kindelan, Communications Officer