Johnson and Yemah: out of school since 1st grade

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Johnson Sanyon, 17, and Yemah Kolubah, 14, are both teenagers from Billy Town, Liberia. Both attended kindergarten but were not able to go on to 1st grade because their families could not afford to send them. Although school is technically free in Liberia, there are other costs including school materials, transportation, exams and Parent-Teacher-Association fees, which put school out of reach for many families.

A US$40 million GPE grant to Liberia is supporting the government to improve management capacity and accountability at the central and school levels for school construction in rural areas, procurement and distribution of teaching and learning materials, and school based management.

Johnson Sanyon, age 17

Johnson Sanyon with his 3 sisters. Billy Town, Liberia. July 2016. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Johnson does household work for his mother and helps her with her small business fetching sand and woven furniture to sell roadside. What they earn feeds their family and goes towards supporting his younger sisters and brother in school.

All of them go to primary school, except for the youngest daughter, now in Kindergarten-one. Her early childhood education fees are 3,500 Liberian Dollars (US $38.90) per child, a hard amount to come up with for most parents.

Asked what he wants to do in the future, Johnson says he is no longer interested in going to school. He wants to find someone who can teach him to become a driver.

Yemah Kolubah, age 14

Yemah Kolubah. Billy Town, Liberia. July 2016. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

Yemah had to leave school when his father lost his construction job and today works hauling sand for 50-100 Liberian dollars a day (US $0.50 - $1.11). Most of that money goes towards food, but he would very much like to return to school and become a teacher.

Although schooling is free in Liberia, the other fees associated with going to school are just too much for Yemah and his father. 

All photos by Kelley Lynch

Sub-Saharan Africa: Liberia

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The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including...

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