By Bridge Liberia School Director, Corina Totimeh*
As the world celebrates another Day of the Girl Child, under the theme ‘‘my voice, my future – the digital generation”, Bridge Liberia is joining the Liberian Government, and local partners to highlight the importance of girls’ education.
In Liberia, a girl is more likely to be married by 18-years-old than to know how to read and 63% of girls between the ages of 15-24 are illiterate.
As the largest partner supporting primary education in the Government’s (LEAP) Program, Bridge Liberia is a strong advocate of girls’ education and the importance and sees the education and empowerment of the girl child as important to the rebuilding of Liberia and the world at large. Nowhere is this more important than as the country emerges from COVID and looks to build stronger, more resilient systems – for this to be successful girls and women must be at the center of those efforts.
Bridge Liberia is a long-standing member of the United Nations Women’s Economic Empowerment Principles (WEP) and is ensuring gender equality in its school systems modeling its classroom activities to improve and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment; this starts with making sure girls can fulfil their potential in school.
Since 2016, Bridge Liberia has been supporting the Liberian Government public primary Schools in 11 of the Country’s 15 Counties. At these schools supported by Bridge Liberia, classrooms are run based on gender equality with a focus on accelerating girls’ advancement for academic excellence, leadership and participation. The result of this model is celebrated by parents and communities with girls achieving academic excellence and topping their classes at the end of the year. At Bridge Liberia, girls account for over 60% of the total students topping their schools in the 2020/2021 academic year at all Bridge Liberia supported schools.
The success of girls in school is helped by role models both in and out of the classroom. Strong female principals like Tusie Nyanneh are showing girls what opportunities are available. Bridge Liberia’s School director, Corinna Totimeh is regularly in the communities and parents’ teacher associations (PTA) have strong mothers taking charge and protecting their child’s school.
This success is proving that all the girl child needs is an equal chance to access a good school with a great teacher and a fair chance to learn.
As Varbah Kollie of the 6th grade class at Intouch Public School puts it “I could not have topped my school if I did not have a great learning environment, dynamic and well-trained teacher”. Girls like Varbah believe that they can achieve anything if they study hard.
Historically, in Liberia the poorest boy reader was scoring higher than the best girl reader. As a result of the Ministry of Education program in Bridge Liberia’s supported schools, 5th grade girls’ average performance on reading fluency increased by over 27 words per minute. Once lagging by 10 words per minute, girls now outperform boys.
Bridge Liberia designs its programming to improve opportunities for girls in and out of the classroom with gender focused teaching and classroom techniques. In a Bridge Liberia classroom, girls are tasked equally as boys, as teachers are trained to call on both boys and girls in the classroom to participate via a technique dubbed “cold calling; helping them learn equally; while gender sensitive instruction provides classroom materials that show girls as engineers. Doctors and pilots.
One of the key things taking place within the communities is that the schools are actively encouraging young mothers to come back to the classroom and finish their primary education; helping them to stay in school and build a better life for their family
The future of Liberia rests on the education of all its youth. In many communities the girl child faces serious struggles; but with the leadership of our government new opportunities are being created through programs like LEAP. These will help girls fulfil their potential and Liberia grow.
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