Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh has said that "quality education requires quality schools," and as such there are urgent needs for government and partners to invest in the construction of more schools across the country.
The Education Minister said the improvement of academic infrastructure and introduction of technologies in the school system will help Liberia returns to its pre-war academic status and as well help Liberian students compete with peers in the region and beyond.
She spoke recently in Boe Town Morweh District in Rivercess County when she and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Country Director, Sheldon Yett, dedicated a newly constructed seven-classroom primary school in that rural town. The school is known as the Boe Town Public School.
The school was constructed by UNICEF in collaboration with the Government of Liberia. The project was funded by the Government of Japan. The school serves three communities and has an enrolment of 215 students, of which 100 are girls.Prior to its reconstruction, the school was a mud structure unfit for children.
In 2010, the Japanese Government joined forces with UNICEF to decrease barriers to education with a US$ 8.6 million grant under which 90 schools in 11 of Liberia’s 15 counties would be constructed or renovated with people of Boe Town the latest beneficiaries.
The school has not only been transformed into a modern structure, but also equipped with desks, chairs, blackboards and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, including gender separated latrines and a hand pump to guarantee students and teachers access to safe drinking water.
"We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with UNICEF to ensure that more schools like this one are built, and most importantly, that within those schools, students gain relevant, appropriate knowledge and skills,” Minister Tarpeh said.
“We are calling for quality education in Liberia, but this does not come without quality schools, quality teaching staffs and the requisite teaching materials, and we must strive to ensure that these things are available. This is why we want to be grateful to UNICEF and the Japanese people for this gift,” she said.
She called on the community leadership to ensure that the students make use of the facility by constantly going to school. She challenged the community to protect the facility and keep it up to date.
She noted that this will ensure UNICEF and Japanese government’s efforts won’t be wasted.
Also speaking, Sheldon Yett of UNICEF said Boe Town Public School was a prime candidate for the UNICEF-supported project because of its remoteness. The town is difficult to access, the nearest paved road ends in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. From there it takes two hours to reach Boe Town by car via secondary dirt roads that can be rendered impassable during rainy season.
“I am thrilled to be here today to hand over this school to the Boe Town community. But a building alone is not enough to ensure access to education for children. Dedicated teaching staff, sufficient educational materials and sustained support from the government and the community are crucial to any school’s success,” Mr. Yett said.
“Today, UNICEF is calling on all of you to maintain this structure and ensure that it serves as an institute of learning,” he continued.
Head of the Boe Town Women group, Sarah Bonoe, lauded UNICEF for the initiative and called on the children, especially the young women, to take full advantage of the opportunity.
“We are happy that UNICEF has constructed this school here. When we were young some of us never had the opportunity to go to school. I happy that our children will have this beautiful building,” oldma Bonoe said through an interpreter.
Meanwhile, despite government’s compulsory primary education legislation, many children remain outside the classroom. Some children lack access to adequate educational facilities; others begin formal schooling late, placing them at higher risk of drop-out. In 2013, over 90 percent of primary school students in the country were over the appropriate age for their grade level.
Rivercess is one of Liberia’s most impoverished counties with some of its worst education indicators. Rivercess is tied with River Gee County with the fewest primary schools in the country and scores the lowest on gender parity (roughly 59 percent male students against 41 percent female).