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News note

Back to school program underway in Liberia to reach 750,000 children

MONROVIA, 23 October 2003 – Distribution of the first batch of 4,662 School-in-the-box kits is set to begin today for 372,960 Liberian children, initially among six counties: Montserrado, Bomi, Bong, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Margibi.  The Back to School supplies, valued at US$1.3M, are being transported from the Free Port of Monrovia to Careysburg and Todee children.  

The Back to School program, the first of its kind in Africa, is an enormous emergency response to revitalise education in Liberia. The program will provide 750,00 children, their 20,000 teachers and 3,700 schools with basic supplies.

"These school supplies are priceless considering the opportunity they will provide Liberian children who have seen too much and suffered too long.  With this BTS program, the government of Liberia, UN agencies and educational partners are one step closer together to getting Liberian children back to School," UNICEF Representative to Liberia, Dr. Cyrille Niameogo, said.

"This is a great day for Liberian kids who have been deprived of basic education for many years following the conflict.  Simply to get children together, rather than to continue roaming the streets, will bring the start of their healing process," Dr. Niameogo continued. 

"This is a difficult, but clearly worthwhile effort.  The education infrastructure is in dire need of development.  At this point in time, we are working as an emergency response.  We are focused on training teachers in emergency education, including numeracy, literacy, sports and recreation, psychosocial and counseling principles, music and drama education and scheme of work preparation; providing temporary learning spaces so that they will have shade and shelter; and supplying chalk boards, copy books and other basic school materials so that the education can begin," Dr. Niameogo added.

These school supplies will help the government of Liberia ensure the immediate resumption of educational services for Liberian children between the ages of 5 to 18 years.  Additional supplies are expected to arrive in the country next week. UNICEF's plastic sheeting for approximately 180 temporary learning spaces, creating shelter for additional 9,000 students, also arrived yesterday.

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For further information, please contact:

Durudee Sirichanya, Communication Officer,
UNICEF Liberia, dsirichanya@unicef.org  06-524978

MacArthur S. Hill, Programme Communication Officer,
UNICEF Liberia, mhill@unicef.org  06-516182



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