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Liberia: Newsline

Plummeting enrolments and escalating violence against girls

©Chris Williams
A FAWE sign to encourage girls to get an education in post-conflict Liberia.

Bettina Yain, a grade eight student from, Liberia, hopes one day to become a nurse. She is studying at Gray D. Allison School Gray D. Allison School is in Barclay Training Center in Monrovia, where the marks of Liberia’s fifteen year civil war are clearly visible. Ringed in barbed wire and housed in an old church, the school is in a dilapidated state from years of neglect compounded by the fires and lootings of the war. Bettina, who at 18 is too old to be in grade eight, has had to show huge determination to resume her education after the years of conflict. After attending school in the mornings she must work in the market with her sister selling rice and oil in order to be able to pay her school fees and the costs of textbooks and transportation.

Before the civil conflict started girls in Liberia already had fewer educational opportunities than boys, kept out of school by discrimination, poverty and household obligations. However gender inequality in education was exacerbated by the civil conflict and instability. According to the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, between 2000 and 2002, girls’ gross enrolment ratio declined from 72.5% to 35.5% . During the conflict, which ended in 2003, thousands of girls were the targets of specific physical and emotional gender based violence and abuse and were subject to rape, forced prostitution, torture, forced termination of pregnancies and mutilation. To try to address the continuing gender disparities and high levels of gender violence against girls, in 2005 the Liberian Ministry of Education worked with UNICEF to develop a national policy on girls’ education.

Story compiled thanks to Abraham Conneh, Education Programme Officer, Oxfam GB Liberia and Heather Johnston, West Africa Regional Education Programme Manager, Oxfam GB


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