Although basic education is considered a free commodity, it is still not easily accessible for young girls living in Liberia. Receiving an education for them can make an immense difference in their lives and in the lives of generations to come. Empowering these young girls will not only give them self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth but it brings with it economic benefits to their community. On many occasions, when a girl earns her education, she is most likely to return to her community to make a difference. Therefore, it is critically important that we attempt to create enabling environments to ensure that education is provided for every young girl. Also, we must strive to educate our children regardless of their sex, ethnicity, color of their skin or where they were born.
Unfortunately, the education system in Liberia has endured years of setbacks as a result of more than fourteen years of civil war, with some level of minor improvements since the end of the civil war in 2003. However, in 2014, with the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, the educational gains made by Liberia were harshly affected. It is evident that the education system in Liberia, mainly the primary and secondary systems need to be restructured. Currently, there are numerous challenges, but there are many opportunities that have yet to be explored in Liberia.
In terms of the challenges and opportunities, we have chosen to concentrate on three (3) areas:
- Liberia has an opportunity to establish an official accredited body whose primary objective will be to focus on the audit of elementary, junior and senior high schools that are currently operating in Liberia. In comparison to churches and other religious entities, there are schools (public and private) on every street corner in Liberia. However, there have been consistent reports of students performing badly on standard testing by the West African Examination Council and entrance exams at various universities in Liberia. The question becomes – are these schools functional? If so, what procedures did they undertake to become a legalized school? What are the teachers’ credentials? Are there professional development opportunities available to assist the teachers? Are these schools employing a standardized curriculum? Are their guidelines established to address overcrowded classrooms? Establishing a robust and respectable accrediting body, we believe, will definitely expose the weaker schools and place greater emphasis to further strengthen the schools that are performing better.
- Among the many educational challenges girls in Liberia face, traditional beliefs have had a significant impact on educating girls in Liberia. Parents from many of the rural communities need guidance regarding the education of girls. In these communities, significant resources must be invested to help traditional leaders and parents grasp an understand that there are several disadvantages to keeping their daughters uneducated, while allowing their sons to be sent to school. Due to the high rate of illiteracy in Liberia, most parents in rural areas do not have enough understanding about the importance of educating their daughters; that this will yield a greater outcome to their communities. Parents and traditional leaders’ participation in the education of girls in these communities are essential to the growth of these communities, and with the same opportunities; their daughters will have the potential to make a difference. At OFL, we believe that education should not be withheld because of gender. As the world is rapidly changing, and technology is quickly advancing, bridging the growing divide between the educated and uneducated in Liberia is the key to our core values; no girl child should be left behind! OFL believes that high priority should be placed on strengthening primary education, so that it creates a strong foundation for secondary education and beyond.
- The cost of education presents a significant challenge; preventing many girls from furthering their education in Liberia. Families are often faced with making the choice of meeting the basic needs of the family or paying for tuition. High tuition cost adds unnecessary burdens for many families and in turn adversely impact the education of girls. OFL’s Girls Education program offers an affordable education opportunity that is available for all, without sacrificing the education of young girls in Liberia. We believe that education for all is the key to a healthier economy in Liberia.
Challenges have been known to create ways for opportunities to prevail. There are several opportunities that have emerged because of these current challenges facing the education system in Liberia. There are three main opportunities that require our attention.
- Investing in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM);
- Funding opportunities such as scholarships, grants etc.; and
- Establishing stipends or incentives for female educators.
In today’s world, an investment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has been defined the way to compete and end poverty. However, Liberia has not positioned itself to join the race. Placing young girls at the forefront of STEM programs at an early age is necessary to eventually join the global competition. At OFL, our programs focuses on making STEM classes fun and engaging to young people and encourages young girls to believe in themselves and to make them aware that the STEM field is not exclusive for boys. They too can aspire to be pilots, engineers, scientists, statisticians etc. Young people especially girls can only have these aspirations and dreams based on how their teachers and mentors introduce these subjects in the classrooms. We are fully aware and have seen that women have the intelligence, drive and capability of making an impact in the STEM fields.
Organize For Liberia (OFL) girls education program, if placed in the hands of girls will leave a lasting impact locally and even internationally. This is why girls should not be forgotten because they play a critical role in how the world is being shaped.