Despite constitutional provisions that mandate educational opportunities for all—regardless of tribal or religious backgrounds, many Liberian children, for a number of social reasons, are still denied those opportunities.
Article 6, under the General Principles of National Policy, provides that, because of the vital role assigned individual citizen under the Constitution for social, economic, and for the political well-being of Liberia, all Liberians shall have equal access to educational opportunities and facilities to the extent of available resources; emphasis shall be placed on the mass-education of the Liberian people, and the elimination of illiteracy.
Though excited about the prospect of going to school, many children, nowadays, lack the opportunity. For some, there is no money. Others are used as breadwinners for single mothers, or are simply kept at home—as domestic servants.
Views solicited from some children selling in Central Monrovia suggest that they are faced with a number of challenges beyond their parents’ or guardians’ control; and so, they are compelled to sell along the streets and forgo school.
Children in Monrovia and other parts of the country are faced with different challenges, thus making them breadwinners at an early stage.
Some parents rely on the daily income of their children before the family finally gets a meal for the day.
The Act creating the right of the child was created to protect the interest of young children and create an atmosphere that will provide them the opportunity to be brought up in a save society.
These young children—that you meet on the streets—have the potential to transform the society and make major contributions to the betterment of Liberia. Roaming the streets as they do—with cold water bowls, candy buckets, biscuit trays and baskets full of peppers and other items—I don’t see them realizing their full potential or even have the opportunity to live like normal children, slowly getting prepared for the future.
In a chat with little Alvin Thomson, 13, a resident of central Monrovia, he was excited about having the chance to visit a school campus, sit in class and at the end of a semester, receive a grade sheet.
13-year-old Alvin sells bananas and ground-peas around the city. He reveled that his mother also sells bananas along the Waterside Market. His father is dead.
The child told this paper that he has never had the opportunity to sit in a class room.
“I have not been to school before; but I would love to go to school. I like school because when I see my friends wearing uniform every day, I am not satisfied at all that I am not a part of them. But I also have to help my mother because there is nobody around us.
She is getting old now; unfortunately, I don’t know her age. She always tells me that when I sell and we save more money, I will go to school. I want to become a doctor when I grow so that I can save lives,” he said.
Like Alvin, every child has a dream and potential. But how many of them are in the position to increase their interest in education, and their passion for learning, to realize that dream?
If we must have qualified and competent youths tomorrow, they must be given the necessary support and the atmosphere that offers such opportunity to succeed.
Michael, Sayeh, 15, who sells cold water on the Capital By-Pass, is a 5th grade student and lives on Camp Johnson Road.
He is not satisfied roaming the streets in the evenings to sell his wares.
“I have to sell when I return from school and by the time I am done selling, I go straight to bed. My parents are not able to send me to school alone so I have to help them in the process; that is why I sell every day.
“My mum is not working, and my father is only a security guard. His salary is not enough. When I grow up, I want to work in a company to help other children too whose parents cannot afford as much as mine.
“I do not have time to study my lessons, but I know I will become who I want to be in the future.
“I am used to selling every day. I make sure to report plenty money to my mother so she can be happy with me,” he said.
Like Alvin and Michael, there are many other children out there that we could not talk to or talk about; but they all share similar stories and experiences.
As young as they all are, they are becoming responsible men and women. What if they are given the chance to learn well? They will become responsible citizens, knowing that their country, society, and family, depend on them for a safe, healthy, and happy Liberia.