When President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won Liberia's first post-conflict election in 2005, the nation was in shambles. Back-to-back civil wars had devastated the nation's economy, infrastructure, and the overall moral of the Liberian people.
But it was the state of the youth that broke President Sirleaf's heart. During the wars, 80 percent of Liberia's schools ceased operation and over 800,000 students abandoned their schools to hide from the rebel forces. But not all children got away—approximately 20,000 children were taken by the rebels and were forced to witness and engage in unspeakable horrors as child soldiers.
By the end of the wars, the majority of the youth were uneducated, illiterate and damaged.
But the children of Liberia were strong, and President Sirleaf was determined. Within two years, national school enrollment increased by 40 percent, 50 schools were built or renovated, 500 teachers were trained and 5,000 scholarships were given to students. "I want to be remembered for a Liberia where the educated children smile again, knowing that they can remain at home and be whatever they want to be," President Sirleaf said in her address during the 2007 AFRICARE Bishop Walker Dinner.
While great progress has been made in Liberia's educational system, the work is not over. Today, Liberia continues to have a very high illiteracy rate, and only 50 percent of the 1.5 million children who should be attending elementary or secondary school are doing so. Those in school are often hungry and sick, and the quality of education also remains low due to a lack of trained teachers and educational materials.
This is why International Aid has decided to join in the efforts of rebuilding Liberia's youth. Our goal is to improve both the health and education of Liberian students by distributing vitamins and educational materials to key schools and school networks that IA has already identified. During a exploration trip to Liberia in January, the team from IA delivered our first shipment of vitamins to one of our partner-schools in Liberia and trained the teachers how to distribute them to their students. Later this year, IA will be sending additional shipments of vitamins and educational materials to schools in Liberia. We praise God for this opportunity to support the Liberian education system and to help improve the health—both physical and mental—of the children of Liberia!