“Let’s get our children off the streets and let’s get them into the classrooms”
Day of the African Child
Moses Browne meets Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Hundreds of students gathered across Liberia’s capital, Monrovia on June 16, in observance of the 40th anniversary of the International Day of the African Child.
The programme began with an early morning parade through the principal streets of Monrovia, where students presented a petition statement to Members of the Liberian legislature.
Reading the petition, student Wilnet S.Z.T. Gaye, 11th Grade, Soltiamon Christian School, said: “As we commemorate this year’s Day of the African Child, we have gathered here to draw your attention to issues that are important to the education attainment for Liberian children.
“Honourable Lawmakers: across Liberia, an estimated 500,000 children remain out of school as of today. There are many whose education has been disrupted by conflicts and natural disasters.
“While the government has made impressive gains to get children into schools, there are still hundreds of thousands of them desperate for a quality education.
“When these children drop out of school, they are left at risk of being married off as child brides, being trafficked, becoming child labourers and of extremism.
“In 2014, A World at School Global Youth Ambassadors and more 75,000 young Liberian students presented the #UpForSchool Petition to you honourable lawmakers.
“Today, we are here again to re-echo our call. We call on you to launch a new platform to fund education in emergencies so that children caught up in future crisis are in a safe school and not at risk of child labour, early marriage, trafficking and extremism.
“With your backing, the new platform can and must reach at least 200,000 children annually within five years, with a plan in place to reach every child by 2030.
“We call on you to support the 2016/2017 education budget with a 10% increment. We urge you, Honourable Lawmakers, to ensure that all children who lost their parents to the deadly Ebola Virus Disease are enrolled back in school during the next academic year.
“We implore you, Honourable Lawmakers, to promote access to technology in schools for all children in Liberia to enhance their learning in the 21st century.
“As we all are aware, the toughest year for education and attacks on children the world over was 2014. Education has been one of the first casualties of the Ebola outbreak.
“Let’s get our children off the streets! Let’s stop them from becoming child brides! Let’s get them into the classrooms! And let’s save the future of our dear country, Liberia!
“This is the time for us to act very fast before it’s too late”.
Receiving the petition on behalf of members of the legislature, Senator Jew Howard Taylor, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, committed her colleagues to ensuring budgetary increment for education in the 2016/2017 national budget currently being discussed.
She said: “We are currently discussing the 2016/2017 national budget and I believe this petition is timely for us to consider as we discuss the national instrument for development across the country.
“I will prevail on my colleagues to ensure all of what you have listed in your petition are discussed and appropriate actions taken to support quality education in Liberia.”
Before presenting the petition, the students stopped briefly and met with Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office and she promised to take some drastic actions in her last two years to improve the country’s education sector to impact the lives of every child.
President Sirleaf said: “Whilst it’s true that many students are out of school, the real issue is that many students live in small villages and towns where there are no schools and they refused to move or relocate to the central district or community where the schools are.
“However, we will continue to engage our partners to construct modern schools at those locations to reach every child. In the last two years of my administration, we will take some actions to address your plights.
“Please find the time. Let’s meet to discuss further on the best approaches and actions this administration can take to address the education challenge so that all children can be enrolled and have access to quality education.”
Moses Owen Browne, Jr., Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School, said: “We are hoping that in the last 18 to 20 months of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership, there would be a drastic change in our education system and major improvement to ensure the 1.1 million children out of school in Liberia can be enrolled and have access to quality education.
“We remain positive and engaging as we strive for better learning facilities and safe schools for all Liberian children.
“We will not stop on June 16. Several calls will be made and the engagements with both the government and education partner organisations will continue until all children are in school and learning and they can have the opportunity to realise their full potential.”
I would like to thank A World at School’s London office for providing the support to make the Day of the African Child celebrations a grand success in Liberia.