The IRC in Guinea
1 April 2009 The International Rescue Committee has ended its program in Guinea after nearly 18 years of operation. During that time the IRC assisted tens of thousands of refugees from neighboring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast who had fled war and civil strife in their homeland. In the mid-1990s, Guinea hosted as many as 800,000 refugees and was the scene of one of the largest humanitarian responses in the world. Today, peace agreements and elections in Sierra Leone and Liberia have brought relative stability to the region and led to the closure of the refugee camps.
The IRC launched its efforts in Guinea in 1991 with a modest education program of three staff members who rode bicycles to 10 refugee camps and supervised instruction and provided rudimentary teacher training in schools that had been organized initially by the parents themselves. Over time, the education program grew from supporting some 12,000 students in 40 schools to educating over 85,000 students a year in 150 primary and secondary schools, employing over 1,800 teachers and school administrators. The IRC’s educational programs won praise from experts in the field who called it a model for other refugee education programs. Not only did IRC provide the basics to students, it developed innovative teacher-training initiatives, introduced child-centered teaching methodologies, incorporated health and protection programs, piloted programs that sought to increase girls enrollment and gained ministry of education accreditation for its curriculum. Moreover, thousands of students were able to take the West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams, a key education credential that enabled students to advance from primary to secondary school and from secondary school to university. Scholarships administered by the IRC helped exceptional students gain vocational and university opportunities.
In addition to its education program, the IRC launched innovative child protection efforts. IRC tracing and reunification staff members successfully reunited nearly 5,000 children with their families and their experience has been incorporated into other child protection, tracing and reunification programs.