How we got 75,000 signatures and spread #UpForSchool message in Liberia
Up for School or #upforschool campaign
As part of the Global Youth Ambassadors programme, A World at School has launched several global education initiatives and campaigns drawing world leaders’ attention to the plights of the 59 million children out of school.
The #UpForSchool campaign was launched in September 2014 to galvanise support in promoting quality education and ensuring every child is in school and learning.
I used my negotiating skills to pursue several businesses in Liberia to support the #UpForSchool campaign. At first, many businesses and individuals thought the campaign was insignificant and did not warrant their support and that was blamed mainly on the Liberian government’s approach to education.
However, through the engagement of the media, community and stakeholders, many understood that the campaign was not only geared towards addressing the education needs of all the children in the world but it would ensure that Liberia’s estimated 1.1 million out-of-school-children gain access to quality education, thereby reducing poverty.
Students from St Peters Lutheran High School sign #UpForSchool
Liberians now understood that the campaign was targeted at every single citizen and not just students or a government thing. We successfully got two businesses – Developmental Media Inc., (DMI) and Associations of Liberia Community Radios (ALICOR) – which supported our campaign financially with the provision of transpiration, printing of petition signing sheets, radio slots and airtime as well as feeding and accommodation.
Today we are proud to report that our collection of signatures did not only happen in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, but across 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties – amounting to at least 75,000 signatures from students, teachers, educators and government officials.
In order to achieve the success we share today with the #UpForSchool campaign in Liberia, we had to engage the communities in the 13 counties where we travelled. We worked along with local leaders, town chiefs, school administrators and the students’ leadership to educate them better about the campaign and the benefits thereafter.
We organised several town hall meetings with the above-mentioned stakeholders and engaged the media specifically for information dissemination to the wider audience and areas we couldn’t reach. Given Liberia’s damaged infrastructures, with bad road networks and limited public transportation facility, community radios were our primary medium to reach out to impassable communities.
Moses Liberian Student Union presenting open letter for president of Liberia on safe schools
We used our existing skills in community mobilisation and stakeholders’ engagements, coupled with support from the A World at School team in the United States, to engage at least 30 Liberian youth from 15 community radio stations in Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Grand Bassa, Cape Mount, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh, Rivercess, Margibi and Montserrado counties.
We showed them how to use social media to get students sign the #UpForSchool Petition and also report on the benefits of acquiring quality education.
I want to make a difference in the world and my beloved country, Liberia. The difference that will reduce the percentage of illiterate people in Liberia and make lasting impact on their lives. I expect to learn new approaches to solving the educational problems my country and others are faced with. I want to learn best practices and new ideas from working with other young people across Africa and the world at large.
I believe – with the support of the Global Youth Ambassadors programme and other international advocacy organisations – that in 10 years we can reduce the huge number of out-of-school-children around the world, especially Africa.
High school students excited about the #UpForSchool campaign
In 10 years, I should be Liberia’s next education minister, sitting over and driving the policy decisions in the education sector to benefit every single child, and getting involved in leading major education initiatives at the global stage, at the United Nations and other regional bodies.
My goals for the future are to help the government of Liberia with educational policy direction and strategies to improve on its delivery methods of programmes and projects for the education sector. I intend to pursue advocating, planning, researching and writing policies, and strategic programmes for the education sector that will help my country and even other countries that have similar challenges.
Ultimately, this is geared towards making changes in the world around me. Whether it is to touch the life of one individual or strive for larger social change within Liberia’s educational sector and the society at large, I want to achieve this to the fullest. It is who I am and what I will strive to be better at through advocacy in the education sector.
At the beginning of the #UpForSchool campaign – coupled with the Ebola outbreak in Liberia – many communities, villages and towns did not get the information on how we intended to collect signatures. The bad road networks prevented us as well.
Liberian education activist Civicus Barsigiah signs #UpForSchool
Community people and stakeholders alike did not see us as serious with the campaign. They thought it was a government initiative that needed no further involvement with them. We couldn’t travel to many communities due to limited funding and self-supported activities leading to the campaign.
However, we learned that media work, especially with radio stations and our community engagement approach were therefore the best ways to inform population subgroups in remote areas about the campaign. The involvement of youth journalists has been pioneered by A World at School’s Liberia Team. We worked tirelessly with several community-based organisations and civil society movements to help us reach remote areas and tell them about the #UpForSchool campaign.
These organisations were used to organise town hall meetings and panel discussions on the essence of education and its benefits. We engaged community radio, appearing on different radio programmes, talk-shows and media engagements.
We set up petition signing points at main community entries where students, teachers and community people could sign without stress and we printed information provided by the US team to explain clearly our goal for education.
Moses travels by river to a school in a rural area to get signatures
The Global Youth Ambassador Liberia Chapter is now working on post-Millennium Development Goals activities. We are reaching out to our targeted communities to explain the Sustainable Development Goals and their impact on Liberia’s education sector.
How we can better engage the government and stakeholders to prioritise education ahead of the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations in September 2015? We have developed a three-pillar strategy with an estimated budget of $15,000. We have received commitment from two local businesses and individual donors to contribute $5000. These donations will fund the effective implementation of our expected outcomes in the strategy.
Our media engagement and outreach created sustainable results and is an example of a cost-effective way of spreading information and providing education to the population on development and advocacies. Within the national coordination of Liberia’s education sector, A World at School is being recognised highly for its community-based approach and engagement. We are co-ordinating with other civil society and community-based organisations to achieve our goals.
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