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At a glance: Liberia

Liberia launches Girls’ Education National Policy with support from UNICEF

© Eric Kanalstein/UNMIL
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, with students after launching Liberia's National Girls' Education Policy. The girl standing directly in front of the President, Hawa Kamara, 10, officially introduced the President during today's ceremony in Monrovia.
By Patrick Slavin

MONROVIA, Liberia, 18 April 2006 – The education of girls is to become a “cornerstone” of development in Liberia, according to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, who officially launched a Girls’ Education National Policy today.

Speaking at the launch the President thanked UNICEF for its leadership in helping to formulate the policy, which calls for providing free and compulsory primary schools for every Liberian child.

President Sirleaf said that Liberia is working “to see a new country with a shared vision for girls’ education…to free humankind from poverty, discrimination and disease.” The President also stated that the government’s new policy will serve as a “catalyst to end illiteracy and underdevelopment to create literacy and development.” She was speaking at an official launch ceremony held in a red, white and blue balloon-festooned Monrovia City Hall.

A unique opportunity

The President told the assembled audience of government leaders, diplomats, United Nations officials, NGO partners and dozens of girls from government schools that her government’s commitment to girls’ education is a “commitment to our children and a unique opportunity to chart a new course of education for the girl child and for women.”

“If there is a global messenger of the maxim of when you educate a girl, you educate a nation, it is you, Madame President,” said Alan Doss, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and the Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia.

President Sirleaf is the first elected female president of an African nation. “The education of the girl child in Liberia is critical and an urgent matter. It is actually about human rights and human dignity," she said. "It is about peace and the development of the country. That’s why achieving universal primary education for all girls and boys is one of the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the member states of the United Nations.”

© UNICEF/Liberia/2005/Grossman
A girl looks up from her schoolwork in Liberia. UNICEF has helped the Liberian government develop a Girls’ Education National Policy.
The girls’ education policy, the culmination of more than two years of work by the Ministry of Education and partners, including UNICEF, calls for:

  • Meeting Millennium Development Goal 2 by providing free and compulsory primary school and reducing secondary school fees by 50 per cent
  • Recruiting and training more female teachers
  • Providing counselling in schools for girls
  • Ending the impunity of teachers who commit sexual abuse and assault  of students
  • Offering life skills at schools  to raise  the self-esteem so girls can say no to sexual abuse
  • Increasing the availability of small scale scholarships for girls
  • Strengthening health systems in schools
  • Opening new parent-teacher associations and girls clubs
  • Promoting adult literacy.
Conquest of poverty

“We applaud the Government of Liberia in making girls’ education a clear priority,” said Mr. Doss. “The policy is consistent with Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, and therefore all of us at the United Nations must exert all efforts to achieve the goals of girls’ education. Quality basic education for the girl child is the essential prerequisite for the conquest of poverty – which has become the over-arching goal of the United Nations and the international community in this new century.”

The President was introduced at today’s launch by Hawa Kamara, a 10-year-old third grader at JWA Pearson Kindergarten and Elementary School in Monrovia. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she thoughtfully paused and gathered her thoughts. “I want to be a nurse.”

UNICEF places a great deal of emphasis on education reconstruction in post-conflict states, as discussed at last week's UNICEF-Oxford University Conference on Education and Conflict. Optimism like Hawa’s is a huge step in the right direction towards children one day achieving their dreams and, through education, helping to free their countries from poverty.




18 April 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter hears about the launch of the Girls’ Education National Policy for Liberia from UNICEF Liberia Representative Angela Kearney.

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