After visiting a school named in her honor, former British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reporter Elizabeth Blunt, has called on Liberians to invest in education, which she considers the best investment that anyone could make that benefits all.
As the BBC’s chief correspondent on the ground in Liberia and the West African sub-region, Elizabeth Blunt was frequently heard on the Focus on Africa radio program, giving interviews with the key actors and providing comprehensive coverage on the Liberian civil war including the various meetings where important decisions were made toward ending the conflict.
Having retired from the BBC, Ms. Blunt now works as a London correspondent for IRIN News and Election Observer (EU) respectively. She is in Liberia visiting the two schools that were established in 2003 and named after her.
Taking a line from the United Nations education slogan, Liz, as she is affectionately called, said “When you educate a girl, you have educated a nation.” She made the comment over the weekend on the campus of the Elizabeth Blunt Elementary and Junior High School located in Gardnersville, Chocolate City, Monrovia. The Elizabeth Blunt Elementary School is located in Nyeweililahun (bright people) Town, in Lofa County’s Kolahun District.
The school in Chocolate City carries the motto, “Education: The Soundest Investment.” It has a computer lab, library, cafeteria and principal’s office, where Ms. Blunt donated several reading, mathematics and history books for junior high students.
“I am happy to see the school running because it was once devastated, and rebuilt when the administration consolidated. Then Ebola struck and the faculty with the students survived,” Blunt told the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview.
One event the school encountered that Ms. Blunt could not forget was the death of the school’s founder, James D. Mamulu. Mr. Mamulu died June 5, 2015, but his daughter, Ms. Kebbeh Mamulu has stepped into her father’s shoes to run the school.
Amidst all the challenges, the renowned retired BBC Africa correspondent emphasizes education as the most important tool for rebuilding Liberia.
Her visit on Friday to the Chocolate City campus was climaxed with a welcome ceremony, during which Ms. Blunt was gowned by the school administration.
Liz is not the only one on the trip to Liberia. She is accompanied by another retired BBC journalist, Peter Nettleship. While with the BBC, Mr. Nettleship was assigned with the United Nations in Serbia and India, but ended up in the newsroom in London.
The Elizabeth Blunt Schools
“When the Liberian civil war started in 1990, I was the West Africa correspondent. Reporting it was exciting and scary and a big responsibility. The local papers grew thinner and eventually disappeared, as they ran out of newsprint. The radio and TV stations went off the air when they were overrun by the fighting or had no more diesels to power their transmitters. The BBC became the only way for Liberians to find out what was happening in their own country.
So it was that, at the end of a terrifying afternoon cowering in the middle of a gun battle, I was the one to tell them that their president had been carried off by one of the rebel warlords.
“And it was my voice, the next morning, which told Liberians that President Doe was dead, and his mutilated body put on public display. I tell you this just to explain how it was that, in this small rather battered corner of the world, I got to be so famous that they called a school after me.
“The first letter came after I had left West Africa and was back in London. It was from someone called the Reverend Anthony Mbolonda, who wrote to say he was starting a primary school, and would I mind if they named it after me. Of course I wouldn’t mind, I replied, I would be most honored. He promised to invite me to the official opening. Then there was a long silence.
“The fighting in Liberia ebbed and flowed. Charles Taylor mounted a big attack on Monrovia; the Nigerian peacekeepers launched ‘Operation Octopus’ to drive him back. When, eventually, another letter arrived, it brought bad news. The school had been in the full path of the offensive and had been trashed.
Every couple of years a letter would arrive. The story was really the story of almost everyone in Liberia, of getting knocked down, time after time, and picking themselves up and starting again. Last year a letter came saying that the school was back in Monrovia. I asked our local correspondent what he knew about it, and about the Reverend Mbolonda. He’d never heard of either of them. But then, one Friday afternoon in January, I got an email. And this time it had an identifiable address and a photograph attached of a crowd of extremely real-looking children.
“Mark Doyle was about to leave for Liberia. A rapid shopping trip for picture books, a quick rummage in my desk for some left-over dollars, and he was on his way, with pleas to ‘try and find my school’ ringing in his ears,” Liz Blunt narrated.