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At a glance: Liberia

New schools and accelerated learning help Liberian students make up for lost time

© UNICEF Liberia/2005/Johnson
Students of Bahn Elementary School carry school supplies distributed by UNICEF.

By Samuel W. Johnson

BUANPLAY, Liberia, 25 May 2005 – Thirteen-year-old Kosaye is the oldest student in her first grade class. Because of Liberia’s 14-year civil war, children like Kosaye missed the vital years of their schooling. With the guns of war now silenced, many schools have finally reopened. Despite her classmates’ constant teasing about her age, Kosaye is determined to stay in school and finish her education.

Kosaye lives in Buanplay village, a rural community in Nimba County. She attends the only elementary school in the village – a tiny building with huge gashes on the walls and ceilings. In the back row of a classroom, Kosaye sits quietly with her youngest brother in her lap. As the oldest of three children, it is her daily chore to look after her baby brother. While Kosaye is in school, her mother works in the village market and her father tills the fields.

© UNICEF Liberia/2005/Johnson
Thirteen-year-old Kosaye is the oldest student in her first grade class. She tends her brother at school while her parents work.

To improve the learning environment for Buanplay’s children, farm families like Kosaye’s are contributing to a new community development initiative: the construction of a brand new school. Neighbouring villages have collectively agreed to cut back on commercial farming and devote hours every week to making cinder blocks, which will be used to build the new school.

“Liberia is being revitalized more and more each day as peace becomes a reality. After 14 years of war, if there are people who deserve peace and reconstruction, it is the Liberians,” says UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney. “It’s heart-warming to work with communities like Buanplay who, while desperately poor, are pooling their resources together to put children first. UNICEF’s role now is to help them get the job done.”

UNICEF is providing teaching and learning materials to schools across the country. In Nimba, UNICEF has distributed school supplies for more than 200,000 students in 500 schools, including Kosaye’s.

© UNICEF Liberia/2005/Johnson
Older students, whose education was interrupted by 14 years of civil war, make up for lost time in the intensive Accelerated Learning Programme supported by UNICEF.

UNICEF has also helped launch the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) to address the needs of the children whose education was interrupted by the conflict. Almost half of the Liberia’s school children – an estimated 500,000 students – will benefit from the programme.

“ALP condenses six years of primary schooling into three years of intensive education, enabling children and youth to make up for their lost years,” says UNICEF Liberia Education Officer Tom Shafer. “Presently, UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education to implement ALP in 115 community schools in eight counties.”

“ALP also strives for gender equality and offers a golden opportunity to rapidly impact Liberia’s high illiteracy rates and low primary school completion figures,” explains Mr. Shafer.

Kosaye is looking forward to the implementation of ALP. With the construction of her new school nearly complete, her hopes for the future have been restored. Kosaye’s goal is to earn a high school diploma – a goal that UNICEF and its partners will help her and every Liberian child to achieve.



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