Friday, April 10, 2009

Education is Hope

As hard as economic times are in the U.S., times are much harder in Liberia where so many educational opportunities for Liberian children depend on partnerships with U.S. organizations. Schools like Lott Carey Mission School are experiencing crushing budget shortfalls as contributions to U.S. organizations dwindle.

One of the things that really struck us as first-time visitors to Liberia is the remarkable spirit of optimism and hope that seems to prevail. This spirit is remarkable because life in Liberia is difficult. The new government is strugglilng to stabilize, there is an entire generation adjusting to a fragile peace and the economy is extremely weak. In spite of incredible challenges, Liberians that we met are looking forward brightly to the future with high expectations for success.

Much of this faith in the future rests on the fact that Liberians recognize the value of education beyond all other gifts for their children. Liberian parents make huge sacrifices in order to pay school fees and children know that their primary duty to the family is to study and do their very best in school to justify that sacrifice. Education is so valuable that meagre family incomes often center around paying school fees first and living expenses such as food, come second. No savings accounts, no 401-Ks, no Wall Street investments -education is the typical Liberian family's investment in their future and the future of the nation.

Teachers work for months with no pay checks and school fee increases hit hard on already over-burdened Liberian families.
I worry about potential for devastating impact on Liberia's future if schools like Lott Carey Mission School cannot survive the downturn.

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