Girls' education critical to Liberia's revival, says Deputy UN Envoy as she commissions new school

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Paynesville, Liberia - Deputy UN Envoy for the Rule of Law says girls' education must be prioritized because it is critical to the revival of Liberia. Ms. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu made this statement when she commissioned a newly-constructed school in the Soul Clinic community, located in the densely populated Monrovia suburb of Paynesville. The construction project was undertaken by departing UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Nigerian peacekeepers from the seventeenth battalion (NIBATT - 17) as part of their peace-building support activities in Liberia and will accommodate about 250 school children.

Ms. Mensa-Bonsu praised the Nigerian peacekeepers for their support in reviving the educational system of Liberia by boosting the nation's free and compulsory primary educational programme. "This will ensure that more school children will enter the classroom, but let me hasten to add that the girls should not be forgotten," she noted. The Deputy UN Envoy describing the new school project as "real peace-building at work," added that, "it will bring teachers and learners together in a unique place to prepare the human mind for peace and development."

"Promotion of education is crucial in post-conflict Liberia to produce the core of professional men and women who will undertake the task of rebuilding the country, and once again position it as a pace setter in Africa," Ms. Mensa-Bonsu emphasized. She then urged the people of the community to properly maintain the new structure and use it to mould the minds of the children to create a new generation of Liberians who will bring peace, development and happiness to their country.

The Commanding Officer of NIBATT - 17, Col. J. S. Malu said the school project was conceived due to the great need that existed for a school in the area. He said the five class-room block with a principal's office and teachers' lounge, was constructed with funds contributed from every member of NIBATT - 17 totaling over US$20,000. "It is our little way of saying that we, as Nigerians, identified with the people of Liberia in their quest to rebuild their country after many years of devastation caused by the civil war," Col. Malu pointed out.

The Executive Director of the Community Empowerment Programme (CEP), Ms. Lucy Page said the school will provide learning for the children of the market women during the morning hours when the women are busy with their commercial activities. During the afternoon, the women will have an opportunity to benefit from adult literacy programme, using the new school building, according to Ms. Page. The school is run and managed by the CEP, a local non-governmental organization catering to the welfare of women and children.

Attending the commissioning ceremony were Chargé d'Affaires of the Nigerian Embassy, Mr. Essesien Ntekim, Acting Sector One Commander of UNMIL, Col. Obono, other senior UNMIL military and police officials, community leaders, women's groups and residents of Soul Clinic community.