Liberia

USAID Field Report Liberia Jun 2005

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Program Description
The Liberia Transition Initiatives (LTI) supports youth-focused efforts to advance prospects for an inclusive, peaceful, political transition in Liberia in the context of the 2003 Comprehensive Peace Accord. By increasing public understanding of key political transition issues, and promoting participatory community reintegration and peaceful resolution of conflict, LTI is helping to build the momentum for peace. Creative Associates International Inc. implements the $16,500,000 LTI program through the Youth Education for Life Skills (YES) training program and technical assistance for the Ministry of Education-USAID/Liberia Accelerated Learning Program for over-age children. Small community-focused grants reinforce YES training and facilitate youth leadership development. Mercy Corps and a consortium of World Vision, Action Aid and Search for Common Ground are implementing partners for the YES program.

Country Situation

Truth and Reconciliation Act -- On May 12, the National Transitional Legislative Assembly passed the act to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the aftermath of the Liberian civil war. Following the defeat of a motion to reconsider the act, the Assembly signed it into law on June 10.

Electoral progress -- The National Elections Commission (NEC) announced the allocation of House of Representative seats based on voter registration rolls. Of 64 seats, Montserrado County will have 14, followed by Nimba County with seven and Bong County with six. There has been some criticism that poor roads and the slow rate of return of internally displaced persons skewed the apportioning of seats in favor of those counties where access was possible.

The NEC also announced the establishment of an inter-party dispute-resolution mechanism that is considered key to minimizing legal challenges to the electoral process. The October 2005 legislative and presidential elections will be held under a provision of an extra-constitutional measure, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and will mark the end of this political transition in Liberia. To date, 24 political parties have registered to field candidates.

October 2004 riots report -- The NEC, tasked with investigating the cause of October 2004 riots during which places of worship and schools were burned, released its findings. The report indicated that the disposition of ex-combatants toward violence; high unemployment and the pressure to survive in an urban setting, plus sentiments against the Mandingo people, were the main causes of the violence. OTI's Community Youth Peace Education Program, focused on urban youths, is a direct response to this kind of violence.

U.N. sanctions extended -- The U.N. Security Council extended sanctions on Liberian timber and diamonds for an additional six months because of failure of the National Transitional Government to improve transparency enforce regulations and confront corruption.

USAID/OTI Highlights

A. Narrative Summary

Liberia Transition Initiatives' implementing partners concentrated significant effort on completing the training of Learning Facilitators who are responsible for delivering Youth Education for Life Skills (YES) teaching at the community level. Partner Mercy Corps trained 242 Learning Facilitators and began the first cycle of training participants in 163 communities. The World Vision/Action Aid/Search for Common Ground consortium trained 140 facilitators and began preparing for community-level training during the last week of June.

Staff began training Master Trainers and Youth Team Members to administer a baseline survey designed to capture the profile of YES participants, including their current capacity for decision-making and the nature of intergenerational relationships in YES communities.

The second cycle of training in the abbreviated Community Youth Peace Education Program for urban and peri-urban youths was completed in five of seven flashpoint communities in the capital city, Monrovia. More than 500 youths completed the training in Kakata, Margibi County and in Ganta, Nimba County.

Liberia Transition Initiatives (LTI) continued to conduct teacher training for the USAID Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) implementing partners and for nongovernmental organizations providing support to public schools. The ALP Master Trainer manual was completed, and staff conducted a needs assessment in preparation for in-service teacher training. Along with a Ministry of Education representative and the UNICEF program manager, LTI staff traveled to Lofa County to monitor ALP programs. Finally, three of 15 parochial schools offering accelerated learning have been renovated with LTI grant assistance.

B. Grant Activity Summary

In collaboration with implementing partners Mercy Corps, World Vision and Action Aid, LTI issued 10 grants for community-identified priorities, which included town and market halls, water and sanitation facilities, and support to sporting clubs. Each community signed a pre-award letter prior to the execution of a formal in-kind grant, which details contributions that the community has committed to providing for the successful implementation of the project. These contributions range from provision of labor to supply of local materials.

FOCUS AREA
FUNDS OBLIGATED
(June 2005)
FUNDS OBLIGATED
(TO DATE)
# OF GRANTS
(June 2005)
# OF GRANTS
(TO DATE)
Civil Society Org. Support
$ 281,080
17
Community Impact Activities
$ 51,903
$ 1,247,822
10
64
Conflict Management
$ 699,686
28
Election Process
$ 170,405
7
Justice/Human Right
$ 412,332
18
Media
$ 367,612
12
Good Governance
$ 1,013,536
36
Youth Training / Reintegration
$ 231,390
8
Total
$51,903
$4,423,863
10
190

C. Indicator of Success

YES training started in 163 communities in Margibi, Montserrado, Bong, Bassa, Sinoe, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties. Implementing partners indicate that women, attracted by the literacy and numeracy components of the YES curriculum, account for a sizable percentage of participants.

More than 800 youths in urban and peri-urban communities have completed the abbreviated Community Youth Peace Education Program. In a number of communities, "graduates," participants and residents are working together to identify small projects that can be supported by LTI grants. Preparations are under way for an assembly of program participants in July. In view of the upsurge of violence in certain Monrovia neighborhoods, an expansion to four other communities is under consideration.

Nongovernmental organizations and the Ministry of Education have asked LTI to continue Accelerated Learning Program teacher training because the demand for ALP classes and qualified teachers far exceeds what is available.

D. Program Appraisal

The start of YES training in 163 communities along with the broadcasting of YES messages via community radio is an accomplishment. However, the quality of the training delivered by Learning Facilitators is uneven because there is an acute shortage of skilled personnel. Implementing partners continue to struggle with providing necessary support to facilitators and their Master Trainers. It is clear that not all Master Trainers and Learning Facilitators understand the content of the YES curriculum, which has been revised twice in order to simplify it and enhance its relevance to Liberia. In view of the average education and skill level of the facilitators and Master Trainers, one implementing partner has proposed, for example, that the module on HIV/AIDS be removed or additional sessions added. All other partners agreed to consider expanding the coverage of the HIV/AIDS component in recognition of the qualification issue.

Partners continue to report the challenge of providing adequate lighting for the YES classes because all training is held in the evenings after participants conclude their workday. One partner has established a small-grant mechanism whereby Learning Facilitators purchase kerosene locally for lanterns. Because the local price of kerosene is higher than the cost calculation used by the partner, a shortage remains. Learning Facilitators have been advised to purchase as much kerosene as is possible with the money provided until the partner can sort out its funding.

Transportation also remains a problem. The rainy season has begun, and most roads and bridges are in poor condition; thus, access to training is limited in some areas. Further, the increase in ritualistic killings in certain parts of the country during the run-up to the elections will limit Master Trainer monitoring visits.

Identification of projects and community contributions for LTI small grants has been slower than anticipated due to: bottlenecks in the complex structure of the LTI program (four OTI-contractor implementing partners and three local sub-implementing partners); some communities hampered by resource capacity in implementing their share of the program; and the necessity of procuring items outside Liberia. For example, simple machinery such as grinding mills must be purchased from other countries in the sub-region.

The Community Youth Peace Education Program is going well. During its assembly in July, it is envisioned that graduates will identify the next steps in their own development as peace agents and position themselves to play a role in the crafting of the national youth policy being planned by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

While the Accelerated Learning Program is expanding through LTI efforts both in teacher training and the renovation of ALP schools, the overall lack of training for teachers has crippled the educational system. The failure of the National Transitional Government to pay teachers regularly is also a serious impediment. As USAID/Liberia develops a post-transition strategy, its ability to build upon the ALP will depend on the availability of qualified teachers, the payment of their salaries and an improved capacity of the Ministry of Education.

NEXT STEPS/IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES

- Placement of contractor staff outside of Monrovia in order to strengthen the delivery and monitoring of YES community-focused reintegration activities.

- Increasing the pace of YES grant development and implementation.

- YES training conducted in all partner communities.

- Accelerated Learning Program teacher in-service training.

- Community Youth Peace Education Program assembly.

For further information, please contact:

In Washington: Donna Kerner, Senior Program Manager, 202-712-0716, dkerner@usaid.gov