Emergency education in Liberia

Years of civil conflict had a crippling effect on Liberia’s education system. An influx of refugees fleeing violence in Cote d’Ivoire in early 2011 worsened the situation. But, as Victoria Morris explains, Unicef helped to ensure that children could continue their education, even during an emergency.

In 2011, Six-year-old Julien sits in class at the UNICEF-supported Ganta Public School in Nimba County, Liberia.In 2011, Six-year-old Julien sits in class at the UNICEF-supported Ganta Public School in Nimba County, Liberia. © Unicef/NYHQ2011-1768/GIACOMO PIROZZI

The scars from Liberia’s paralysing civil war remain visible: 48% of the child population have never attended school. While Liberia was struggling to rebuild its education system, early in 2011 more than 180,000 refugees fled from Côte d’Ivoire to escape the violence that erupted after the presidential elections. This influx of refugees put a huge strain on Liberia’s already insufficient resources.

All children have the right to an education. In emergencies education gives children safety, stability and protection from risk of abuse or exploitation when they are at their most vulnerable.

Unicef Liberia worked with the Ivorian Education Ministry and Unicef Côte d’Ivoire to produce 315,000 primary textbooks in French, an Ivorian curriculum and teacher guides. Early childhood development programmes and primary education served both Liberian and Ivorian children, and they provided adolescent girls and boys with access to vocational training programmes too.

Eric, 11, was able to carry on with school in Liberia after escaping violence in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011.Eric, 11, was able to carry on with school in Liberia after escaping violence in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011. © Unicef

Eleven-year-old Eric came to Liberia with his family to escape the violence in Côte d’Ivoire. “My three sisters cried all the way and we had to cross the river, but finally we made it safely”, he explains. Eric wants to be a teacher, and now attends school in Liberia. He says he does not want to go back home – at least for now. “I want to stay here because it is safe and I can go to school and learn. I got a new bag and books from Unicef and I don’t want to miss my classes!”

Unrestricted donations were critical in Unicef’s immediate and effective response to the education needs of both Liberian children and Ivorian refugee children. Unicef’s support was 89% funded by unrestricted donations, and meant continued learning for over 48,000 children. Simply put, these resources met a critical funding gap at a time when other emergency funding was unavailable.

Victoria Morris is in Unicef UK’s Donor Relations Team

This case study comes from Unicef’s 2011 Regular Resources report.

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