More than 600 workers of the Beaches and Waterways Project that manages Monrovia’s beaches have expressed concern over the fate of their children entering school as the Government is yet to settle their seven months’ arrears.
A spokesman for the beach workers told the Daily Observer yesterday in an interview, "We are worried about the fate of our children since there has been no indication that our arrears will be paid before the re-opening of school."
“We don’t know what to do,” said a mother of three, “but we hope that the Liberian government will hear about our plight and rescue us so that we may register our children and buy uniforms for the school year.”
The Daily Observer visited the affected workers in their various communities of West Point, New Kru Town, Popo Beach, Lagoon, and ELWA. Representatives from each community said their children may not go to school since the parents have no other income, other than what they earn from cleaning the beaches and waterways.
“I am a single parent with four children,” a parent said. “I can't get money to prepare my children for school and I don’t know what to do.”
Another parent said, “We are appealing to the Liberian government to ensure that we get our arrears so that we can put our children in school.”
The Project, which was began in 2005 by the Liberia Maritime Authority, has ensured that Monrovia’s beaches are no longer used for toilet purposes and this has helped to keep the communities clean. “We have teams of workers that monitor the beaches throughout the day and night,” said a worker. “This ensures that unscrupulous people don’t use the beaches for nature’s call.”
Slum communities lack adequate toilet facilities, and even where there are public toilets, there are people who want to use the beach to ease themselves.
Residents told the Daily Observer that the perennial presence of fever, rashes and other diseases has been reduced considerably with the management of the beaches by the Beaches & Waterways Project.
The Project has also empowered the workers, preventing vulnerable women from abuses and enabling them to become responsible in their communities.
In President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s address to the nation last year, she made particular reference to the Beaches & Waterways Project as a means to empower Liberians in the slum communities.
The Daily Observer also learned that single parenting in slum communities increases when the breadwinner is unable to support the family and children have to fend for themselves.
In a recent article, Ms. Karin Landgren, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, said the Liberian government must direct development aid to empower communities that do so much with so little as a key to building a more inclusive society.
However, the Beaches & Waterways Project has been dogged with bureaucratic red-tape making it difficult for the government to pay the workers on time. This has led to negative publicity against the Liberia Maritime Authority that initially committed itself to use the project to benefit more than 5,000 people.