Hosted by UNICEF on behalf of the Government of Liberia, the one-day meeting on 16 February will come on the heels of the Liberia Partners’ Forum, a high-level donors’ conference to be held in Washington DC, 13-15 February.
The New York event seeks to highlight the transformative role that education can have in addressing the challenges of national reconstruction and development in Liberia and to secure the engagement and support of a wide range of education partners.
Years of civil conflict have inflicted extensive damage on Liberia’s population and its infrastructure. Education, especially for girls, has taken a particularly heavy toll. It is estimated that nearly half a million children, or approximately half the student population, have had significant interruption in their education and are too old for their school grade. Net primary school enrollment currently stands at 74 per cent for boys and 58 per cent for girls. At the secondary school level, these rates drop to 22 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively.
“It is essential to address the needs of the adolescents and young people who missed out on education during the more than 14-year-long civil war,” said Cream Wright, Global Chief of Education at UNICEF. “We need to reclaim the potential of these children because they are the greatest hope for Liberia’s development. Ensuring that Liberia’s children get an education is essential not only for their own well-being but for their country’s recovery.”
UNICEF has been present in Liberia throughout the conflict. As part of its general mandate to ensure schooling for children, including in times of armed conflict or natural disasters, UNICEF has worked closely with the Government and other partners to help students in Liberia by setting up special educational programmes for children formerly associated with the fighting forces, supporting girls’ education, organizing training for teachers, especially female educators, and distributing school supplies to hundreds of thousands of students.
The children’s organization will be playing an even more enhanced role in the post-conflict reconstruction phase, in particular following a major grant from the Government of the Netherlands in December 2006 to fund education programmes in post-crisis countries.
“Liberia is an example of the challenges that face countries and the international community in general in a post-conflict situation,” said Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Representative in Liberia. “We need to support the development of schools that will allow the Government and its partners to provide a variety of essential services to all children in Liberia. We also need to use education as a rallying point for all groups and ensure that the tensions that fuelled so many years of conflict do not resurface.”
The Liberia Partners’ Forum is co-hosted by the World Bank, the United Nations, the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, US Government and the European Commission and aims to review progress made by the Liberian Government on the reform agenda and to discuss financing needs to enable the country to meet reconstruction and development challenges. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will be leading a delegation of ministers to this event. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz are among the key participants. UNICEF will co-chair the education session at the two-day Forum. The Liberian Ministry of Education used the opportunity of the Forum to request that UNICEF convene a meeting of major partners on education and national reconstruction in Liberia.
Note to editors:
Top UNICEF staff from Headquarters and Liberia are available for one-on-one telephone interviews about the education component of Liberia’s reconstruction.
UNICEF is on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel.: +1-212-326-7452
Najwa Mekki, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel.: +1-212-326-7162