Liberian Children Start New School Year In IRC Classes
Over 13,000 children and youth began IRC-supported classes last week as the official school year got underway in Liberia. For many, it was the first time they were able to attend school in more than two years as a result of the fighting.
More than 2,000 students, a combination of Sierra Leonean refugees and displaced Liberians are taking IRC classes at Banjor camp northwest of Monrovia. "How many vowels are there in the English language?" teacher Togba Swen asks one of the classes.
"Five," one boy says. "Seven?" another student tries. "No, four," someone shouts from the back of the class.
"I am so happy today," says student Asmon Tarnue during a break. The thin 19-year old fled his native Sierra Leone with his parents ten years ago and has not been to school since February when the unrest in Liberia escalated in the area. "Now I want to study hard," he says. "I want to become a doctor so that I can help poor people."
His friend Blamah Kanneh escaped fighting in Bomi County west of Monrovia last year. The 18-year-old, wearing a Britney Spears T-shirt says he dreams of becoming an accountant. "I like numbers," he says. "I am also interested in typing."
Joseph M. Kolbah, who helps administer IRC's education programs in the area, says the students range between five and 24 years of age. "There are a lot of older children and grown-ups in class because the ongoing wars in both countries frequently interrupted schooling," he explained.
The IRC is providing education assistance at four settlements for displaced Liberians and three refugee camps in Liberia's Montserrado and Bong counties. The support includes conducting teacher training sessions and paying teacher's salaries, helping rebuild damaged school buildings and distributing school supplies, such as notebooks and pens.
In addition, the IRC is funding 192 selected students between 17 and 25 to receive around $400 a year for tuition, transport allowance, uniforms and supplies to attend secondary high school training at private institutions in Monrovia, according to IRC's education program manager Fred Farwenel.