Johanna Suberu Svanelind, an official of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, on May 26, officially launched the Civic and Service International (CSI) civic clubs, which are in operation at some schools in Liberia.
Before Svanelind, who is the Second Secretary and Program Officer at the Swedish Embassy, officially launched the program, she stated to CSI officials that she is “very impressed” with the work CSI does.
“I like to start by congratulating Civic and Service International for launching this event. This is very successful already. I am sure we have great things to look forward to. Well done; and I am very impressed with your work that is why we accepted the invitation to be here today,” she stated.
Svanelind used the UNSC Resolution 2250 on the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda to briefly speak to her audience, who predominantly were students.
The United Nations Security Council adopted unanimously, on 9 December 2015, a ground-breaking resolution on Youth, Peace and Security which recognizes that “Young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security.”
“This Security Council Resolution urges all member states of the UN, including Sweden and Liberia, to increase inclusive representation of youths in all decision makings, including everything that affects you as youth both directly and indirectly.”
She told the young people that it is the state’s responsibility that there is a space for them to participate.
“But what can you do as youths to make sure that you are ready for this when you are offered this opportunity? How can you be sure that you are ready to fill that role to go to the table with adults and tell them what you think should be done about things that affect your lives?”
“I think the best that you can do to prepare yourselves for this is to know your rights, including what rights you have as youths, as citizens and know what rights you have as human (human rights),” the Swedish Embassy official averred. She urged the students to practice to keep raising their voices, initially before their friends.
Svanelind concluded by officially launching the CSI’s Civic Club, which is now in operation at various high schools in Liberia.
Also speaking, the 17th Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), Isaac Saye-Lakpoh Zawolo, said there can’t be anything better that is happening to Liberia than the reintroduction of civics back into Liberian schools at this time.
“Most of the challenges we face as a nation and people have to do with our understanding and appreciation of our rights and privileges. Because when we understand our rights and privileges, we will know that it doesn’t make sense to take the garbage from our houses, bring it and dump them in the drainage along the Japanese Freeway.” Supt. Zawolo also stated that those who are in high authority in government will also know that it doesn’t make sense to illegally pocket monies that are meant for development, Liberian children’s education, for better health facilities and others.
As he thanked CSI, he urged the students to take their civic lessons very seriously; and he encouraged those of them who are eligible to vote on October 10, to get out and vote. Adding: “Because the future of this country, to a larger extend, depends on what happens on October 10, 2023.”
Also speaking, a representative from the Governance Commission (GC) said prior to the Liberian Civil War, Civics was one of the key subjects in the schools.
“Unfortunately, after the civil crises this important subject disappeared from Liberian schools. Civics teaches a person his/her responsibilities to country, as well as a country’s responsibilities to its citizens.”
In brief remarks, Lawrence Yealue, Country Director of Accountability Lab, said Liberia’s biggest contemporary issue that it faces stems from a bad education system in the country.
“Until we look at our education system and take it apart, rip it completely apart, and rejoin it, where the three sectors, what I call the ‘three sectors’, be put back together.”
He named the sectors as parents playing their parts, adding: “We can’t teach civics when parents are not involved.” He stressed to the students that their part is to go to school and be serious to learn. He further emphasized that civics should create spaces for every student and not particular sections for those who are good in certain subjects, including STEM.
Yealue further stressed that the civic club should be a place where students are being trained to be advocates for themselves. He urged the students to report sexual violence issues, including sex for grades and money for grades, etc.
Speaking with journalists, College of West Africa 11th grader Faith G. Tokpah and member of the Civic Club said the club means a lot to her. “Civics focuses on the citizens and their government. With the help of the club, I have understood how our government works and how we as citizens can contribute to helping the government. I got to know understand that citizens have roles and responsibilities in promoting peace in their communities.”
Tokpah used the time to encourage the government and its donor partners to support CSI so that it can expand the program to other schools. outside Monrovia.
For her male counterpart at B.W. Harris Episcopal High School, Dennis Mulbah said civic education helps citizens to show love and respect to their country.
“One of the major questions is, are we showing love for this country? I see many Liberians saying negative things about our country. I feel sad. I hope that Liberians in and out will unite to make Liberia a better place so that we all can be proud of this ‘glorious land of liberty’,” he added.
Mulbah joined his CWA female counterpart, and also called on the donor community to support CSI so that it can expand the civic clubs to other schools across the country.
Speaking earlier, CSI’s Country Director, Otis S. Bundor who gave a background of CSI, said they were first established in 2012 as Child Steps International.
“The reason we transitioned to the new name is, all countries that have come from war, there is always the issue of bad governance, people knowing their rights and responsibilities. So, we just synchronized all of our major works on civics.” He further said that because of CSI’s founder, Ms. Tenneh Johnson-Kemah’s passion about Liberia, good governance and rule of law, she established CSI.
“We have been doing lots of things. So, we have three flagship programs: Law + You, Community Program, Radio Program and Academic Program.
He further asserted, “The purpose of the civic club is to educate students about their rights and responsibilities through role play, drama, mural design and use their skills and knowledge gained to identify problems in their communities and jointly collaborate to solve them. CSI will teach students about the importance of volunteerism, patriotism, human rights, etc. Our appreciation goes to the Open Society-Africa for partnering with CSI to launch this important program.”
LAW+YOU – Rights and Responsibilities of Liberian Citizens, which is the textbook that CSI developed, shows that with collective efforts, Liberians can do better.
The civics textbook, which is tailored at every grade level — from junior high to high school — was written by 20 accomplished authors, including Americans and Liberians.
The indoor program was interspersed with drama performance by students on peaceful elections, a band performance and a comedy session on drug abuse, which was led by Veteran Liberian Journalist ‘Aunty’ Mae Azango. The program began with a street parade and ended in the hall of iCampus on Carey Street, Monrovia, Liberia.