Harris Town, a town in the Municipality of Careysburg, was a place of jubilation and excitement when students, residents, family members of the late Charles B. Harris gathered to witness a ceremony marking the dedication of the C. B. Harris Memorial School.
The seven-room elementary school was constructed by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education with funding from the government of Japan.
Although the population in this area is huge with youth dominating, the newly dedicated school is the first to be built there.
The plot of land on which the school is built on was donated by children of the late C. B. Harris, who initially established a school in the vicinity for unfortunate children prior to the Liberian civil crisis. He was a great help to his people prior to his demised, several accounts said. He was a prominent businessman and farmer was killed along with his two son and other relatives in August 1991 during the civil war.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony on Wednesday June 11, Education Minister, Etmonia David-Tarpeh said the government of Liberia is proud to be dedicating another child-friendly school to another community in need of a learning facility.
“It is now up to you, parents and other adults in the community to ensure that your children get the most out of this structure by making sure that your children fill the desk, and that every child starts school at the right age of three,” she said.
“Residents of Harris Town have reasons to celebrate today as they become the latest beneficiaries of the school building project supported by UNICEF, with funding from the government of Japan,” she continued.
She lauded the Harris family for making the donation for the construction and also for keeping their father’s dream alive. “We have been working on this project for what some may consider as a very long time, but you people remained firm and ensured that we reach this far, I’m very proud of this family,” Minister Tarpeh said.
“Improving educational infrastructural is an important ingredient in ensuring that all children start school at the right age and stay in school,” said UNICEF Rep, Yett. “This means supporting community-based schools that are child-friendly, where every child feels secure and welcome. And of course, it means ensuring quality education so that once a child goes to school, that child stays in school and learns,” Yett said.
Representative Yett further said the school was constructed to educate children, therefore, the community should ensure that all the children are sent to the school.
“With the turnout here today, I’m convinced that this community is a unique one that supports the welfare of their children, especially in terms of education. I want to be grateful to the Harris family for conceiving such a good idea that will contribute to improving the community,” she noted.
Careysburg City Mayor, Anna Urey Phillips expressed her gratitude to UNICEF, MOE and the Harris family.
Giving some background about how they started the dream, she said, “We visited the C.B. Harris Memorial School with our friend, Mrs. Watchen Harris Bruce, and we observed that it (school) was growing without help from any external help. In fact the school was being operated in a church building,”
“We asked Watchen if the Harris family would give us a parcel of land to build a school and she agree and give us two lots, but under one condition, to keep the name C. B. Harris Memorial. We conveyed this to the Minister of Education and she accepted it, thus providing the opportunity to erect a building that you are seeing dedicated.”
Christine Harris Idiokitas and Watchen Harris Bruce, daughters of the honoree, said their dream has come to reality because they wanted the legacy of their deceased father to remain alive, something they claimed they have fought for over the years. They lauded UNICEF and MOE for buttressing their efforts.
“Educating less fortunate children in this area was dear to the heart of our father and that he always thought of ensuring that they have the opportunity to education,” Watchen H. Bruce said.
The school is located about 15 km away from Monrovia. Prior to constructing the modern school building, a local church operated a school support by the Harris’s family. It hosted about 200 primary students.
The school will serve Harris Town and two additional communities, all with a combined population of 3,500 people.
Currently, 222 students are attending the school, including 119 boys and 103 girls with eight teachers employed therein.
In addition to the seven classrooms all occupied with armchairs and other teaching materials including blackboard, there are also teacher lounge, a reading room, principal’s office, a store room, gender separated latrines, hand washing facility and a hand pump that provides safe drinking water for students and teachers.