From 2014-2015, the Ebola virus swept through Liberia. The disease left nearly 5,000 people dead and thousands orphaned, childless or without access to education. The outbreak, combined with 14 years of civil war, weakened an already crumbling education system. In 2014, the Liberian government closed more than 4,000 schools for six months. The action left 1.5 million children without access to sufficient education. Organizations like UNICEF, USAID and Global Partnership for Education (GPE) developed the following programs to rebuild the education system. Their hope is to provide better access to quality education in Liberia.
- USAID – Education Crisis Response program
The goal: to ensure that children had access to education during school closures and to protect children from the Ebola virus after schools were reopened.
The methodology: During the Ebola epidemic, USAID broadcast lessons on the radio for students affected by the school closures. After the Liberian government reopened schools in Feb. 2015, the organization trained teachers and administrators in Ebola prevention. USAID also assisted schools in creating response plans in case of another Ebola outbreak.
- UNICEF – The Education Programme
The goal: to make education in Liberia easily accessible for children living in poverty or with disabilities.
The methodology: UNICEF collaborates with local initiatives to make children’s physical and mental health a part of the curriculum. The program also encourages needs assessments for students and educates parents through PTA programs.
- Global Partnership for Education (GPE)
The goal: to fund student scholarships and rebuilding projects.
The methodology: After the Ebola crisis, GPE donated $40 million in grants to over 2,500 schools. GPE used the grants to supply students with textbooks, build and furnish classrooms and construct housing units for teachers. The funds were also used for teacher training and scholarships for children whose parents didn’t previously have the means to send their children to school.
In a GPE video, Elizabeth Toe, a K2 teacher, stressed the role of education in sustaining and building communities, “They are Liberian children, and Liberia needs them. They are important. Whether you are poor or rich, you are a part of this country. And you will make a difference in your country and in your family, especially for the girls.”
- USAID – Education Quality and Access in Liberia
The goal: to supply schools with a quality curriculum.
The methodology: USAID trains teachers in a curriculum that improves literacy and numeracy in primary schools. It prepares students to continue furthering their education. Two of the programs are mentioned here:
- Rural Teacher Training Institute
The goal: to certify all teachers in primary school education. According to USAID, this will “implement the national plan to ensure all children are reading by the end of Grade 3.”
The methodology: USAID trains teachers in basic curricula, with a focus on reading and math. This training ensures that students in rural areas are receiving the same education as children in larger communities.
- Liberia Teacher Training program
The goal: to assist schools with developing new administration and operations.
The methodology: USAID trains administrators in policy-making, monitoring learning and making basic management decisions so that schools can develop sustainable practices and operate without assistance.
- USAID – Advancing Youth Project
The goal: to “provide increased access to […] basic education, social opportunities, leadership development and sustainable livelihood pathways for out-of-school Liberian youth.”
The methodology: The project is for youth who have been affected by the education crisis, who either did not attend school or had their schooling interrupted. They are able to take skill-building classes to secure an occupation and contribute to their community’s economy.
- USAID – Girls’ Opportunities to Access Learning (GOAL) Plus program
The goal: to increase girls’ enrollment in school.
The methodology: GOAL Plus grants girls in grades 1-6 with scholarships to ensure their enrollment and continued success in higher education in Liberia. Educating girls is often the main focus of programs like USAID’s because educated women are able to financially contribute to their communities in nations where men have traditionally been the breadwinners.
- USAID – Higher Education for Liberian Development
The goal: to address Liberia’s development challenges.
The methodology: In partnership with the University of Liberia and Cuttington University, USAID is building “Centers for Excellence.” There, students with interests in engineering and agriculture can pursue quality higher education in Liberia. Citizens with engineering and agricultural skills are crucial to rebuilding Liberia’s economy.
- USAID – Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences project
The goal: to “improve the quality of instruction through faculty and staff strengthening, curriculum development and upgrades in instructional resources.”
The methodology: In partnership with the University of Liberia and Indiana University, USAID created a new two-year undergraduate program for students pursuing careers in medicine, midwifery, life sciences or public health.
– Rachel Cooper