The Liberia Youth Task Team of the Africa Youth Partnership to advocate an equitable recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic, held its first National Dialogue on thematic area “Education and Skills” at the ICampus on Carey Street in Monrovia, Liberia.
This dialogue was held with five partners including development partners along with 36 participants from the disabled community, youth groups, advocates, journalists and students of Liberia to discuss the theme under review that would contribute to the development of those marginalized (At-Risk Youths, Visually Impaired and Physical Challenge) groups in Liberia.
The provision of vocational training is important particularly because it is one of the most significant pathways to economic empowerment for youth and other participants who have not had the opportunity to enter the higher education stream or other viable forms of economic survival. The adverse situation with regard to ‘access to’ and ‘provision of’ Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) for disadvantaged/marginalized groups is particularly disturbing when viewed from the precepts of inclusion, equal opportunity, economic empowerment, and general wellbeing. Vulnerable Groups” are marginalized from mainstream educational and training provision due to various barriers generated by economic, social, and geographic fault-lines and physical disabilities and other specific constraints.
The National Dialogue started with a sharp overview from our Team Lead, Jacob B. Swee, Jr., during his presentation he stressed about the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. He said that in Liberia, the disruption of the pandemic amplified many of the challenges that were already facing us, some of which he mentioned are: Increase in the prices of essential goods and services, Poverty, Food Insecurity, Upskill Struggles, Unemployment, etc.
He further lamented that amidst all those African government are yet to address and as such there are growing concerns about authoritarianism and the mismanagement of COVID-19 funds, thus leaving corruption, represented in the lack of transparency and accountability during the pandemic as a major impediment to inclusive and sustainable recovery for youth and others marginalized groups.
In addition, the dialogue welcomed Mr. Kollie Gray, Jr., as its Keynote Speaker. Mr. Gray is a wonderful personality with a strong academic background in the Mechanical Engineering department of the University of Liberia. As a long standing Automotive Trainer in the state with a specific reference to TVET, he pointed out the importance of this dialogue as its intends to make inclusion of various marginalized groupings in Liberia, and recommend to national government and development partners about ways through which these marginalized groups can be helped and contribute to society through all TVET programs across the country.
Mr. Gray thanked the Youth Opportunity and Transformation in Africa-YOTA through the Liberian Youth Task Team, Restless Development and the Ford Foundation for creating a platform where every citizen affected by the COVID-19 pandemic would be able to make their voices heard on the national scene.
The national dialogue also featured a panel discussion which had the below institutions as panelists:
Mr. Johann Lieberich, Project Director, capacity development and sector.
2. Group of 77
Mr. Samuel K. David,
3. Williette Safehouse
McCartherine S. Waykor
4. Liberia National Student Union
Mr. Abdulai Randolph Kemokai, Deputy Secretary
5. National Commission on Disabilities
Madam, Daintown Domah, pay-Bayee executive
6. Representatives from the Liberia National school union.
During the dialogue, there were major issues discussed.
GIZ, a German organization that provides tailor-made cost-efficient and effective services for sustainable development, represented on the list of panelists by, Mr. Johann Lieberich, Project Director, Capacity Development & Transport Sector (CDTS).
He said GIZ is open to partner with organizations that support the sustainable development goals in aspect as they work to shape a future worth living around the world through their vision.
2. Group of 77
The Group of 77 is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to promote collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity on all major international economic issues, represented by Mr. Samuel K. David, Branch Coordinator, answered a question that said, how did the Covid-19 Pandemic increase the harsh living conditions of people living with disabilities?
He answered by saying at the group of 77, there were lots of challenges experienced during the heat of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Some of these challenges include:
a. Social Challenges - which restricted movements across regions in Liberia?
b. Economic challenges - which also limited funding, etc.
3. Williette Save House
An organization that supports the training of people living with disabilities, said organization was represented by Mrs. McCatherine S. Waykor, Project Manager. During her deliberation she said, it’s their responsibility to provide training and recommendations for those trained to be employed by organizations.
They also encourage personal development, which is a person living with disabilities to keep seeking new opportunities and be available to it. It was a wonderful time spent discussing issues relevant to the growth and success of people living with disabilities, she stressed.
All thanks to the Liberia Youth Task team of the Africa Youth Partnership for their role in advocating for technical vocational education for people living with disabilities.
4. Liberia National Student Union (LINSU)
LINSU is a protective umbrella of all students in Liberia, its Representative said its role is to advocate for and on behalf of students. In the past years, she has been advocating for people living with disabilities, providing education to at-risk youths but hasn't been able to attend to the visually impaired and deaf but is hopeful this time to include them in some of its programs.
LINSU partners with other development organizations including Group of 77. It has an ongoing advocacy plan called the "refund Agenda" which aims to address all students and youth groups irrespective of age, gender and social status.
LINSU has a scholarship slot in all high schools (public and private) and hoping to include the visually impaired and deaf community. In recent, LINSU has launched the first edition of the National Youth & Student Summit-(NYSS). The NYSS is a signature project of the National Student movement with the foremost objective of contributing to the development of human capital of the young people and students of the republic in diverse professional disciplines, arts and culture, entrepreneurship, civic education and many others.
In its pilot phase, the 1st edition of the NYSS will gather not less than (300) young people and students from across the fifteen political subdivisions of the country, and it’s our target that the impact of the summit will grow chronologically by the years. In this program, LINSU vowed to make inclusive these marginalized groups fully represented.
5. National Commission on Disabilities (NCD)
National Commission on Disabilities is a governing body of all disabled groups across Liberia. . Representing NCD, Amb. Daintowon Domah Pay-Bayee said the Commission was founded in November of 2005 during with the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
It sole functions include:
a. seeking to support the welfare of people living with disabilities
b. Develop policies that would advocate for the good living conditions of people living with disabilities. Currently, NCD works with 78 organizations that are registered under the umbrella of the government to ensure that the voices of disabled groups are heard.
a. Technical vocational education
b. Startup businesses
d. Interpreter for the deaf
e. NCD employment rates- for this aspect, according to the United Nations goal, for every 100 employees, there should be 4% of people living with disabilities but Liberia is still striving to reach this mark. The government of Liberia through the office of the NCD has been able to address a few of these challenges by increasing the budget allocated for the disabled community which currently stands at approximately $600,000.00 USD in the national budget.
The National Commission on Disabilities would want to see Adaptability. Adaptability builds on accessibility and acceptability and focuses on the extent to which TVET can be tailored to learners’ individual needs and adapt to changing trends in society and the world of work. This requires careful, self-critical analysis within TVET institutions about hidden exclusions in curriculum, facilities, language use by staff, etc. to check whether formal inclusion of the disadvantaged and marginalized is undermined by informal exclusions and discriminations.
1. LYTT should extend the advocacy towards tertiary education for people living with disabilities and not only TVET.
2. Establish a mechanism to regularly compile within TVET (widening the current database), sex disaggregated data of training provision on access, retention, participation, etc.
3. Make the Database accessible to public and concerned agencies through links with the TVET database.
4. Conduct (commission) research on demographic and socio-economic profiles, aspects related to barriers for participation of disadvantaged women, girls and boys and tracer studies to identify strategies for increasing participation, and to monitor relevance, effectiveness, and impact of training programs.
5. Raise awareness on the services of TVET and job opportunities in both formal and informal sectors through special community based target group focused career guidance programs so as to increase participation of vulnerable women, girls and boys in mainstream TVET programs.
6. Conduct awareness programs to reach out to young women with higher secondary education promoting participation in technical training courses that provide higher income earning opportunities in the formal sector.
7. Establish partnerships with agencies supporting youth in entrepreneurship development and facilitating micro enterprise creation, etc.
At the Africa Youth Partnership, we challenge all to embolden young people to escalate their contributions to the African recovery agenda by spearheading a network of local catalytic solutions, supported by regional advocacy and policy influencing. We adhere to the fact that there should be no recovery efforts on the continent without the youths.
Source: Africa Youth Partnership – Liberia Youth Task Team