A charity organisation on Monday said more girls in Liberia were missing out on school to help their families, while those in education were pressured to have sex or pay bribes for grades.
The Programmes Manager, Street Child charity, Felicia Dahlquist, told newsmen that the problem was the aftermath of Ebola outbreak in 2014 which devastated the country.
She explained that school fees, extra costs such as uniforms, books and transport, and the need to work to boost family income are forcing many girls to drop out of school.
She said “these problems are also preventing them from getting an education.
“Ebola saw poverty levels rise significantly at the same time that education was interrupted.”
The world’s worst Ebola outbreak, which was declared over in 2016, killed 4,800 Liberians and dragged economic growth down from over 8 per cent in 2013 to zero in 2015.
“It is difficult to get children back into school, there is an expectation that if children want to go, they have to work evenings and on the weekends to pay the fees,’’ Dahlquist added.
Four in 10 girls interviewed by Street Child said they could not study after school as they had to work, while two-thirds of those who dropped out of education said it was due to poverty.
Many of these girls told the charity that they helped their families to earn money by farming, hawking and trading on the streets and even having sex in return for cash or food.
A quarter of the girls in education said they felt unsafe at school, with some having been sexually harassed by teachers, pressured to pay bribes and subject to corporal punishment.
“Some girls had sex with teachers for grades, or even just to be able to sit their end of term exams,’’ Dahlquist said.
A quarter of children aged 5 to 14 are out of school in Liberia, with girls the most affected, while the country has the world’s highest proportion of children missing out on primary school at around two-thirds.
“The challenge is to scale it up, but if we can defeat Ebola, it’s not an impossible task to deliver education, clean water and protection for every child in Liberia,’’ UN children’s agency (UNICEF) spokesman Patrick Rose said. (Reuters/NAN)