The government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Education (MoE), has recognized three schools in Grand Kru County for the successful implementation of an eight-month garden program.
The program is aimed at imparting pupils with agricultural skills to become productive citizens.
It is being implemented by a youth organization “4 H-Liberia” with support from the World Food Program (WFP).
The schools given recognition include, George Toe Washington Elementary School, A. A. Hoff Elementary School and J. Blamo Toe Elementary School.
These schools were awarded certificates on Friday, January 31, during a program held in Barclayville, Grand Kru County.
The program was attended by officials of the (MoE), Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), World Food Program (WFP), Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), 4H-Liberia and local authorities of the county as well as parents and students.
Speaking during the ceremony, the program officer for Agriculture and Environmental Education at the MoE, Adolphus H. Collins said the Liberian government attached great importance to school gardening for the intellectual development of Liberian students.
“The national school garden program is the heart beat of our dynamic President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Therefore, she has mandated the Ministry (MoE) to ensure that school gardening activities are carried out in all public schools across the country. This is why we are working along with 4H-Liberia to promote the implementation of the program in the various counties,” he told the audience.
He said that the importance of school gardening cannot be overemphasized as it not only benefits the students and their schools but the country at large.
“This program creates an opportunity to train future farmers for the country. Whenever children acquire skills in agriculture our country’s food security can be sustained,” he said.
Mr. Collins mentioned that it was important for parents to encourage their children to take the program seriously.
“The parents and teachers’ participation are integral to the success of the program. Therefore I want to urge parents to consider themselves as an engine that drives the transformation,” he stated.
Giving an overview of the program, the executive director of 4H-Liberia, Umaru Sheriff disclosed that the school garden program is meant to be carried out in 150 schools in 10 of the fifteen counties of Liberia.
He said logistics and inadequate staff are the major challenges facing the program and that those problems need to be addressed by government and partners.
“If we are to meet the desired objective of this program, there is a need to provide more support to reach all of the schools in the country,” he recommended.
He noted that the 3 schools recognized by government in Grand Kru County for 2013-2014 met all of the requirements needed for selection.
Mr. Sheriff added that they were able to train about 750 members of the PTA to take up leadership responsibilities in the promotion of the program.
For his part, the senior program assistant for WFP, Johnson Kolubah said implementation of the school gardening program is a key component of Liberia’s school feeding program.
He noted that community participation is crucial in carrying out the program.
Meanwhile, in his keynote address, the district agriculture officer/MoA of Jrao and Buah districts in Grand Kru County, J. Cisco Wesseh, called for more attention to be given to the program in his county.
He said that there is a need for the program to be extended to other areas of Grand Kru.
According to him, the MoA sub-office in the county would give technical assistance to all schools where school gardening is being carried out.
Mr. S. Blohkwon Toe, principal of the George Toe Washington Elementary School in Barclayville, explained during the program that his school was the first to succeed in implementing the garden program due to the cooperation of the school’s PTA and technical support given from the MoA sub-office in the county.
He said proceeds from the garden were used to compensate support staff and settle other expenses for the school.
At the same time, the head of the 4H club in George K. Washington School, Saybeh Toe, age 13, thanked the government and partners for recognizing his institution.
He expressed the school’s commitment to staging the garden project every year to promote the supply of fresh vegetables to their communities.