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Liberian Teachers, Students Want More Than Books, Desks


Teachers and students in Liberia say they want more than textbooks and desks to improve their war-ravaged education system, following new aid pledges by President Bush at the end of his Africa tour this week. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Monrovia.

Wesley Kennedy, the principal of the Richard Nixon Institute, reads out instructions that he posts inside classrooms to increase discipline.

He says imposing discipline at his private school in Monrovia is difficult since many students are former child soldiers.

"Many of the students that we do have here were students that fought, and so can you imagine seeing a student who was a general during the war and come back to school wearing a uniform, being restricted," he said. "It is difficult. So it is very hard for us to get the message through."

Kennedy says Liberian schools need counselors, psychologists and disciplinarians. He says students in Monrovia need libraries more than textbooks and desks, so everyone can share books and research different topics.

Sylvester Yangbae reads out the fees for the typing classes he offers in an abandoned building in downtown Monrovia.

He says he is disappointed that Mr. Bush visited the nicer places during his short visit, rather than seeing places that really need help.

"They closed the doors, betraying the downtrodden masses and President Bush," he said. "It would have been better for Bush to enter here and see how nasty this place is than to carry them to university campus, and some other places that they faced. They went up there saying, all these things, that they are doing well, while they are not doing anything."

High school dropout and father of three, Isaiah Thomas, 33, says he is slowly increasing his typing speed to 15 words a minute. He would like to go back to high school, but says he cannot afford to.

"For now in Liberia, we are suffering because there is no job, no correct school, because of financial constraints," he said. "So because of that, we want to learn but because of that how can we learn? So for this reason, some of us, we decided to come here, so we can learn how to type, so we can get our daily bread through that."

Many Liberians said they were expecting the announcement of a big, new financial aid package from the Bush visit. Those interviewed for this report said they were grateful for existing U.S. help, but that they need much more.