This week the UN reported that Liberia has the worst primary education system anywhere in the world with as many as 2/3 of children never stepping inside a classroom. This is the legacy of two devastating civil wars. Though the fighting stopped 13 years ago, it continues to deprive children of an education and hamper the development of the entire nation.
Education is fundamental to the improved livelihoods of individuals and consequently their families, communities and nation. We know that each year of schooling increases an individual’s earnings by an average of 10%, for women this can be as much as 20%. We also know that children of educated mothers are more likely to be vaccinated and less likely to suffer the effects of malnourishment. Education also directly correlates to improved GDP, dramatically increases health and reduces mortality, it reduces fertility rates – which means girls can stay in school for longer, have more opportunities to pursue employment and have fewer children resulting in lower overheads. Education also increases crop yields, reduces instances of child marriage, promotes gender equality and fosters peace.
The development of schools and a better education system is critical for the future welfare of children and the entire nation of Liberia. And at this desperate moment there is a rare opportunity to pause and ask an important question; what would a great education look like in Liberia? Stop reading for two minutes and think about that question.
Welcome back. What did you come up with? Did you think it would be great to force children to sit still in a room for seven hours whilst they listened to someone talk through a scripted lesson? Did you think that it would be great if we could place a label on each child to say how well they did at sitting still and reciting facts relating to certain subjects? No? In that case we need to think again.
We want to develop a school that will inspire young people and give them confidence to explore their strengths and interest. Schools should help them to do that. Schools should be flexible to the needs, strengths and interests of the students. Liberia need schools like that. Liberia desperately needs entrepreneurs and business leaders who can create employment and invest in communities and the future of their country.
In addition to the school we are developing plans to supply better access to clean water, education around sanitation, nutrition, adult literacy and vocational training opportunities. If great education is about empowering students to thrive, great schools must provide the tools and opportunities.
You can read the UN report here.