|Students participate in a UNICEF-supported Accelerated Learning Programme in Monrovia, Liberia that helps children make up for years of schooling lost in the country’s long civil conflict.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 6 September 2007 – On the second day of their current session in New York, UNICEF Executive Board members today continued their discussion of the programmes of 17 country offices planning their work for the next five years.
Among the programmes under discussion were those in Rwanda and Liberia, two nations that are determined to rebuild after a horrifying genocide and a long civil war, respectively.
Education and health in Rwanda
“We are faced with a lot of challenges,” said Rwandan Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Joseph Nsengimana. “Rwanda has many orphans left by the genocide, and more recently by HIV/AIDS. And the country is also very poor. Nevertheless, Rwanda is committed to providing a better life for its children.”
With support from international partners, Rwanda has focused much of its attention on education and health care, both of which are essential for children’s well-being and development.
|Boys in the town of Ghisenyi, Rwanda, where a UNICEF-assisted day-care centre serves children whose families were devastated by the 1994 genocide.|
“One of our main objectives is to educate our children,” said Mr. Nsengimana. “After the genocide, a lot of schools were destroyed, and we had no teachers. Now the system is strong and solid. We are able to reach about 90 per cent of all children and bring them to school.”
UNICEF is a major partner of the Rwandan Government in its work on education and health, said Mr. Nsengimana. The agency has helped reconstruct the country’s education system and helped to bring clean drinking water to many of Rwanda’s schools.
The ambassador also mentioned the importance of all UN agencies working as one in Rwanda, which has been selected as one of eight pilot countries for implementation of UN reform.
Schools top the agenda in Liberia
Like Rwanda, Liberia has put education at the top of its national agenda. “The mantra in Liberia is ‘education, education, education,’” said Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Liberia to the United Nations Nathaniel Barnes. “We know that our children and our youth are our future.”
Mr. Barnes said the Liberian Government has channelled most of its resources to education, including making primary education free and compulsory. “It would be literally a violation of the law if people withhold their children from going to school,” he explained.
In addition, the government has looked into ways to create better learning environments for young students. Besides building teacher capacity and providing improved learning materials, Liberia has introduced a feeding programme for schoolchildren – a good way to keep them in school and attract more children to enrol.
“We are able to do all this with a lot of support from our bilateral and multilateral partners,” said Mr. Barnes. “In the specific areas of empowerment of women and children, UNICEF has done a stellar job, and we are very happy to have a partner like that.
However, Mr. Barnes cautioned, “Liberia can only be taken forward to its greatness by Liberians. It’s nice to have the support of all of our friends, but we, the Liberians, must take our destiny into our own hands.”