Gbarpolu County - An age-old hurdle of accessibility and equal opportunity at all levels is inundating Liberia’s educational system.
Equal access and opportunity to education are indispensable elements for any serious system across the world.
And despite reinvigorated efforts aimed at resuscitating the once shattered system, access to improved learning materials and increase in primary school net enrolment rate (percentage of primary age students attending primary grades) are still mountains so high to climb especially for those in hard to reach areas.
It would seem the Camp Alpha Public School, located in Camp Alpha Town - approximately 12 hours drive from Monrovia overlooking the resource rich Gola Forest in Gbarpolu County North West Liberia is paying the price for its remoteness.
“It is difficult for us to get supplies from the Ministry of Education (MOE). Because of our location, the Ministry supply truck can only stop in Gbarma (four hours drive from the town) and we will have to rally our little resources just to get our supplies, says Alphonso K. Flomo, the school Principal.
“As I speak to you we have materials there we have not collected because we do not have money to go get them.”
Constructed 2005 through contributions and donations from community residents, the school’s congested classrooms are insufficient to accommodate its over 300 students.
Due to the insufficiency of seats, Flomo says, “Students are allowed to sit in class on a first come first serve basis.” A good number of our students stay home due to our seating problem, he says.
“We need to expand to accommodate those students. So we are thinking about adding an annex. And we will use our own resources as was done in the past.”
When contacted, the Ministry of Education through its County Education Officer, Danwolon Catakaw blamed the situation on the Ministry’s limited capacity.
“We understand the pain of the school and will work to improve the system,” he noted.
He said, “the Ministry’s supply truck cannot reach everywhere. So we establish distribution centers to places the trucks can reach easily.
“And when that happened, we communicate to everyone including the District Education Officers (DEOs), principals and communities.”
“There is even a problem with the meal distributions in hard to reach areas. Mary Meals and the World Food Program (WFP) are faced with similar challenges.
“We make sure the allocation of the materials is kept somewhere and we work with the principals and PTAs.”
By Edward Blamo, FPA Contributor