Wednesday, September 7, 2011

School or Starve...

The beginning of September brings the beginning of a new school year.  Here in Liberia, the roads of Monrovia are busy with little and big kids in their school uniforms heading off to school.  That is the normal scene here in Monrovia-but in the rural areas of Liberia, such as Foya or the Bokomu jungle this is not always the case.  Most children do not get the opportunity to go to school-but the reason is not always that their parents do not have enough money to send them (school is not free here), but it's because they are needed to work on the family farm so they can have enough eat.

Kids working on the farm (photo by Matt Powell)

Imagine you live in a rural little village in the Kolohun district (an area where we work).  You are the mom of 5 beautiful kids ranging from 2-12 years old.  Your family has a farm that is about a 2 mile walk outside of the village.  The area needs to be cleared (trees chopped-bush cut), weeds pulled, rice planted, rice harvested and the process starts all over again.  You need your children to help you on the farm-to get everything done so you have food to eat.You and your husband have to make a decision-what child do we send to school-which ones work on the farm...Imagine if you had to make that decision-what child out of 5 or 3, do I send to school-while the rest of them work on the farm?

This past week I was able to see many mom's in 'school' too.  Literacy classes are well on there way and new classes have started.  These are the moms that work all day on the farm and come at night to learn how to write, read, math and business skills. 

Learning for a better future...(photo Joni Byker)

These women at our CLP classes are the ones that were not chosen to go to school when they were younger.  They had to work on the farm or because they were girls were not given the opportunity to learn. 20, 30 for some 50 or more years later, here they are at a Literacy classes learning what they missed so many years ago. 

Many of our programs assist rural Liberians with income generation, better farming techniques and sustainable livelihoods.  These projects are helping rural families not have to make the tough decision of which of the kids gets to go to school.  These projects help families generate more crops and income which then eliminates the necessity of their kids to work on the farm.  Families can grow enough food to eat and have the opportunity of second incomes to send all their kids to school.

It is my hope that 20 years from now there will be no need for Literacy classes because girls are getting the opportunity to go to school today.  The projects that we are presently implementing are for the future of Liberia-for the children.

As I type this, my little sister is taking a huge step-after being out of school for 10 years and 4 kids later, she is heading back to University to take nursing.  I am super proud of her-it will not be easy-but like the women of Liberia she will juggle the demands of motherhood and school!  As for me, the past thirty minutes or so I have been procrastinating finishing the last chapter of my school work, my PhD.  What a blessing-what an opportunity you, your children and myself have to have access to education.  I will never take it for granted! 

Today as you pack lunches for you little ones or hit the books to study-think of the women and kids of Liberia-who face the tough decision of who goes to school and who doesn't.  Education or Food-I pray that soon these families don't have to choose one over the other. They are why I ran and will continue to run-their strength inspires me to push harder and further everyday.

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