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Liberia: UN hands over school and vocational centre to help cement peace

Liberia: UN hands over school and vocational centre to help cement peace

Brig-Gen Edi, Alan Doss, Lt-Gen Obiakor  (left to right)
In its latest moves to help the Liberian Government fulfil its pledge of free and compulsory primary education as well as providing young adults with work skills, the United Nations mission has handed over a three-classroom complex built by its Nigerian contingent and a vocational training centre constructed by Bangladeshi peacekeepers.

“Education is the key to peace and development, education provides knowledge, education dispels ignorance, and education is the only human asset that can not be stolen,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Alan Doss said at the inauguration of the Nigerian-built school in Monrovia, capital of a country that has known little of either peace or development in the past decade and a half.

“By building this school, our Nigerian colleagues and peacekeepers are giving the children of this community an asset that they will use and cherish long after UNMIL has left Liberia,” he added, using the acronym of the UN Mission in Liberia which, with some 15,000 troops, helped oversee the country’s transition from civil war, culminating in the democratic election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf a little over a year ago.

Since the war ended in 2003, the Government’s free and compulsory primary education programme has seen a terrific surge in the number of children enrolling in primary schools, Mr. Doss noted. “Government can’t provide everything. So I am very happy that one of our contingents, NIBATT 10 [the Nigerians], has made this contribution. It will go some way to help overcome this problem of overcrowding and lack of school facilities,” he added.

NIBATT 10 has been in Liberia for the past six months and is winding down its activities in UNMIL. Its commanding officer, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Nimfas, said the nursery and elementary school to the St. Paul Bridge community was the battalion’s humble contribution towards peace building and the reconstruction of Liberia.

Funds were contributed by NIBATT 10 soldiers. The school has an enrolment of 618 pupils and the new building will enable more pupils of school-going age to enrol. The St. Paul Bridge community suffered much during the conflict in 2003 because it was situated on the frontline between forces battling for control of Monrovia. This fight led to the destruction of the community’s infrastructure, including schools.

A couple of days earlier and 240 kilometres to the northeast, Mr. Doss and President Johnson-Sirleaf presided over the inauguration of the vocational centre in Ganta, Nimba County, hosting a permanent skills training centre and an internet café, built by the Bangladeshi Contingent (BANBAT-10) through funding from UNMIL’s Quick Impact Projects and with computers provided by the Education Ministry.

Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, praised the contingent for going beyond their call of duty to help young people reach their potential in life. “Surely what they have done today, they leave behind something for which they will always be remembered,” she said. “As a government, our commitment is strong; our commitment irreversible. I don’t care what they say. I don’t care what they do; but this government is going to develop Liberia to the aspirations of the Liberian people.”

Mr. Doss noted that the project was a small but symbolic gesture of a much larger ambition to give Liberian youths hope for the future. “This centre is an investment in hope because young people will gain skills, skills that they can use to compete and become entrepreneurs,” he said, adding Liberians must not wait for the Government to create all the jobs needed, but must take the initiative themselves to generate employment.

The centre provides skills in basic computer learning, health, hygiene and first aid, tailoring, carpentry, electrical and generator maintenance. Meanwhile, 450 students received certificates during the 4th cycle graduation ceremony after the dedication ceremony. Since the programme was initiated by BANBAT-10 last April, over 2,000 people including ex-combatants, war-affected and unemployed have benefited.