Young people march to the House of Representatives to demand the right to education for the most marginalised children.
100 Million Liberia and the Liberia National Students’ Union (LINSU) have been working in partnership over the last two months to engage their different networks of young people, including children in schools, university students, and children and young people in communities who are denied their right to education, and often forced to work instead. Together, they have built a powerful movement of young people who are marching today to ask: “When Will Every Child Have Education?”
MOBILISING YOUNG PEOPLE IN SCHOOLS
In November, the two organisations visited Willie K Greene Memorial High School and GW Gibson High School, both in Monrovia, to explain the challenges faced by marginalised children in Liberia. Liberia faces an enormous amount of challenges: at present, it is undergoing a severe financial crisis, which has placed the most marginalised children and their families at serious risk, in a country which was already one of the world’s poorest and enduring the impact of the Ebola crisis. 63% of primary-aged children are out of school, only 7% of the government budget goes to education (instead of a globally recommended 20%), and only 6 years of education are free and compulsory (instead of the globally recommended 12). Although the law prohibits child labour for those under 16, 14 is the age at which education is no longer compulsory, meaning that younger children are likely to participate in illicit child labour, including the most hazardous forms.
LINSU and 100 Million Liberia discussed the campaign with around 50 students in each school. Initially, the campaigners faced a challenge from the students, who wanted to understand more about why so many children were not in school. The two organisations worked hard to explain how children end up being excluded from the most basic of public services, including education, and the students felt compelled to join the march in solidarity.
MOBILISING OUT-OF-SCHOOL CHILDREN AND CHILD LABOURERS
100 Million Liberia regularly works with children who are out of school and in child labour, and helps them to understand their rights to freedom, safety, and education. This includes children living in the informal settlements of Buzzy Quarter and West Point, where the impact of neglected public services, the Ebola crisis, conflict, and enduring poverty are all too clear. During a recent visit to both communities, 100 Million Liberia activists worked with groups of children who are all out of school, with many engaged in child labour, including the worst forms. The activists helped them to understand that they have a right to education, and encouraged them to take action for their rights on International Human Rights Day, 10 December.
MARCH TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Marching side by side, hundreds of young people from universities, high schools, and from Buzzy Quarter and West Point travelled to the House of Representatives to deliver their petition demanding the rights of every child to be free, safe, and educated. Given the enormous number of children out of school and the lack of legislation for free and compulsory education beyond the age of 14, the petition focused heavily on the urgent need to address the right to education.
The marchers arrived and were met by District 6 Representative Matthew Jones, who received the petition directly from the children and young people who had created it. LINSU and 100 Million Liberia will maintain pressure and demand a response from their decision-makers.