MONROVIA — After an intense and prolonged period of civil unrest, alongside public health crises like the Ebola Viral Disease outbreak in many West African countries in 2014, education in Liberia is beginning to recuperate. During the 14-year conflict, 80 percent of schools were damaged or destroyed. During and directly after the Ebola outbreak, many markets and systems were shut down out of fear. Thus, Liberia remains behind most other African countries in almost all educational statistics, including literacy rates and success in math or science.
An issue for education in Liberia that predates and continued through both of the aforementioned periods of struggle, is the problem with enrollment. UNICEF reports that the ages of children, the grades they are in and the amount of work they actually achieve differ by incredible rates.
According to its report, the primary enrollment rate is just 44 percent and the majority of six-year-old Liberian children who should be entering primary school are still in pre-school. “There are ‘children’ aged over 20 still in primary school, even in Grade 1. This shows a huge hunger for education, a hunger not being satisfied,” the report states.
The problem with enrollment and completion of school is one that many developing countries have, where children are needed in order to get household chores and basic labor done, as opposed to encouraged to go to school.
Although there are supposed to be primary, secondary and tertiary levels to education, the ages and grades of students became mixed up, as UNICEF outlined. Civil unrest, viral outbreak, enrollment and completion issues all are paired with lack of continuous governmental investment in education in Liberia. There are groups and organizations that aim to reduce the presence and effects of these issues.
Originally responding to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the Mercy Corps continues to provide mental health recovery programs that help youth to cope with the emotional effects of the viral epidemic.
It also teaches people proper hygiene and ebola-preventative measures, which can keep from systems like education from shutting down for similar reasons. By teaching and mobilizing healthy sanitation processes, Mercy Corps is giving the young in Liberia opportunities that otherwise might not exist.
USAID has also been making a significant difference in the educational system of the West African nation. Its programs focus on improving education, especially in early grade reading and math, and creating safe learning opportunities for girls and youth whose education was disrupted by postwar reconstruction.
With countries and organizations, like the U.S. and Mercy Corps, assisting citizens and the Liberian Ministry of Education, rebuilding the educational future for Liberian youth is a reality instead of a blueprint waiting to be put into motion.
– Gabriella Paez