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Liberia's New President Says Education A Top Priority


A commission that works on behalf of women and children says Liberia’s new president is committed to education -- and is willing to do what it takes to achieve it. Members of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children recently traveled to Liberia and met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The commission, based in New York, wanted to see how well the country is educating its children.

The leader of the delegation, Lori Heninger, met with Ms. Sirleaf to talk about Liberia’s needs. English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard spoke with Heninger, who said Ms. Sirleaf is “very, very committed to getting Liberia on the path to development through education.” She quoted Ms. Sirleaf as saying, “The education sector will drive the development of the country; this will move Liberia into the new Millennium.” She says, “The education system over the last 14 years of civil war … really has been decimated; schools have been destroyed; there’s a huge lack of teachers and teacher training institutions.” She says there are about 500,000 young people called “overgrown,” meaning they’re “over-age for traditional education.” Some are former child soldiers.

According to Heninger, Ms. Sirleaf says she will see to it that these children will at least “have limited access to education.” She says Ms. Sirleaf says she intends to fight corruption by appointing qualified people to fill government positions. Heninger says, “That is the first step toward getting education that is appropriate and quality and suits the needs of the children and youth of Liberia.” She quotes Ms. Sirleaf as saying the funding for this must come from Liberia’s rich natural resources and from donor nations.

She says the commission recommends tailoring education needs to the various age groups, including life skills education, a trade, HIV/AIDS prevention, human rights training, conflict resolution, an increasing number of teacher training institutions, and adequate pay for teachers. Heninger says donor nations “really have to step up to the plate on this” because “Liberia has such an extraordinary opportunity right now with the new president …” She says, “Now is the moment.”

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