By Janjay F. Campbell
Since its establishment, the township of Careysburg, Montserrado County on Wednesday opened the doors of its first public school building.
The official dedication of the school was made possible through the initiative of the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), the Government of Liberia and Government of Japan.
At the ceremony, which took place in Harris Town, Education Minister, Etmonia D. Tarpeh said the Government of Liberia is proud that another child-friendly school has been turned over to residents of Careysburg to enable the children acquire knowledge.
“Now it is up to you, the parents and other adults in this community, to ensure that your children get the most out of this structure by making sure every one of these desks is filled by a child, and that every child starts school at the right age,” she stressed.
“Improving educational infrastructure is an important ingredient to ensuring that all children start school at the right age and stay in school,” UNICEF Representative, Sheldon Yett said.
Mr. Yett said it means supporting community-based schools so that no child risks his or her safety travelling miles to and from school. She said it means creating schools that are child-friendly, where every child feels secured and welcomed, adding “And of course, it means ensuring quality education so that once a child goes to school, that child stays in school and that child learns.”
Charles B. Harris Memorial Primary School will serve Harris Town and two nearby communities, with a combined population of 3,500 people. Currently, 222 students are enrolled in the school, including 119 boys and 103 girls with eight teachers.
The school that is being named in honor of a prominent citizen, Charles B. Harris Memorial School was built as part of a grant from the Government of Japan to UNICEF under which the agency is facilitating the construction or rehabilitation of 90 schools in 11 counties across Liberia.
The schools were selected by the Ministry of Education, which has committed to providing educational materials and other support upon completion of each facility. Located approximately 15 km from Monrovia, Harris Town is in a peri-urban area of Careysburg District, Montserrado County. Before it was selected for the project, it had no formal school building.
To fill this gap, a local church built a community school that provided primary education to over 200 students. While this admirable effort demonstrated welcome commitment and initiative, if the children of Harris Town were to receive the sustainable and quality primary education to which the Government guarantees them access, a Government-sponsored school was required.
Harris Town was selected for the Japanese-funded project based on the lack of a formal educational facility, as well as the condition of the previous temporary structure and demographics and geography of the surrounding area. Situated in one of Liberia’s many marshlands, the terrain posed challenges to construction that required expert support.
UNICEF and the construction companies it contracted were able to overcome these challenges, while the community members and local government representatives themselves lent support for the “finishing touches”, such as landscaping.
The community school also lacked adequate school desks. The water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were sub-standard and the roof leaked during the heavy storms of Liberia’s six-month rainy season.
Finally, the peri-urban setting introduced some security threats less prevalent in rural areas, which UNICEF addressed by improving security of the site and building a storage room to keep key materials safe.