Bridge Liberia, ECOWAS, UNICEF Commemorate Day of the African Child
Every year, the 16th of June has been a special day for children in Africa, and Liberia is no exception.
The day is celebrated every year to honor children who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976 on that day. It also raises awareness of the need for better education for African children. The day was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
Despite the fact that the world has been afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Liberia's young and creative minds were ecstatic about participating in activities planned, organized and supported by Bridge Liberia, a social enterprise supporting over three hundred public primary schools across Liberia, ECOWAS and UNICEF.
Over 40 students from selected schools including Bridge Liberia-supported schools took over top radio stations in Monrovia to discuss the theme of the 2022 Day of the African Child; “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013” with policymakers.
The topics under discussion included: the harmful things that children do to themselves; the world that young people desire; harmful activities on campuses and how they may be prevented or stopped; and how policymakers can ensure that children are protected.
They also spoke with policymakers including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor; Gbovadeh Gbilia, Managing Director of Bridge-Liberia; Laila Omar Gad, UNICEF Resident Representative; and Mr. Nathaniel B. Walker, Political Advisor/Liaison Officer Early Warning for the ECOWAS Resident Representative Office.
Among the issues raised in relation to the day's theme was the need for governments in the sub-region to strengthen their child protection policies to address harmful practices affecting children, particularly young girls, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), child marriage, drug addiction, sex for grades, and child labor, among others.
Liberia’s Vice President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, reminded the children and those in the sub-region of the country's commitment to protecting their rights.
She made the remarks at a radio panel discussion moderated by the students.
She also stated that they are still dealing with issues such as female genital mutilation (FGM). Vice President Howard-Taylor stated that she is still hopeful that a bill will be passed to stop FGM soon in Liberia.
According to her, there are already rules in place that require girls to reach a specific age before entering marriage, and while some communities continue to do so, it is no longer acceptable for someone to offer their 12-year-old daughter into marriage.
“Parents used to send their boys to school and say that the girls would marry and it would be a waste of time,” she said, “but today the family recognizes that females are valued equally to boys, which is also a wonderful thing, and they are some of the few positive things that have happened in the last 20 years.”
Vice President Howard-Taylor noted that the effect of education on the entire social and economic spectrum of life in Liberia has been felt and is very robust, which is a good thing.
Bridge Liberia Managing Director Gbovadeh Gbilia also remarked during the panel discussion that Bridge Liberia is devoted to ensuring that Liberian students in public primary schools obtain the greatest possible education to build their foundation as they progress to higher levels of education.
Mr. Gbilia further stated that his organization is using education as a means of ensuring the story of the Liberian Child is changed in a positive way.
He mentioned that Bridge Liberia's methodology of teaching has positively impacted students under Bridge support, with Bridge Liberia students having an equivalent of 2.5 years of additional learning compared to their peers in other public schools.
He was extremely proud of the students from the J.W. Pearson Elementary School and Kendeja Public School at the program with their level of eloquence during the activities.
A recent study conducted by Prof. Michael Kremer, a 2019 Nobel Prize winner which focused on NewGlobe’s methodology shows the education provider’s impact is among the greatest of any rigorously studied education program.
Professor Michael Kremer’s study of NewGlobe’s methodological approach to teaching and learning, using one of NewGlobe’s programs in Kenya, found primary school students, through junior high school, after two years in the NewGlobe program are nearly a whole additional year ahead of children taught using standard methods. If replicated at scale across public education systems, the gains could be enough to put African children – including Liberians – from underserved communities on track to match their peers in countries with incomes three or four times higher.
This is the same methodology of teaching used by Bridge Liberia, which is technically supported by NewGlobe.
The Day of the African Child, according to UNICEF Resident Representative Laila Omar Gad, “clearly demonstrates that each and every single person can change the world and can change the person.”
Madam Omar Gad of UNICEF said the day was also important to recognize other forms of exploitation, such as physical and sexual abuse. “We all know that with the introduction of COVID-19, there has been a significant surge in violence against children,” she said.
Madam Omar Gad disclosed that UNICEF is working with all partners to ensure that every child born in Liberia and around the world has the opportunity to realize their destiny and reach their full potential.
Education, according to her, is one of the most important prerequisites for a child to become active citizens in a society, to release their gifts and skills, and contribute to the country's economic prosperity.