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Project 4: Contributing to access to education in Grand Gedeh County, Liberia

Located in Tchien District of Grand Gedeh County, Zai Town is a town of around 8,000 inhabitants. Situated on the main road that traverses the county, the primary activities of the population are farming, trade and businesses (tailoring, carpentry, masonry, etc.), as well as artisanal gold mining.

Zai Town has a small government school, which caters to both local children and those from several surrounding towns and villages. The school has 552 students enrolled from Grade 1 to Grade 10. While receiving authorisation and appropriate staffing from the Education Ministry to teach the two final years of high school, 11th and 12th grade, there were not enough classrooms to actually teach these additional grades and the local community asked MDI for support to build an Annexe for their school.

In a bid to build local ownership and encourage the local community to participate in the project, it was designed with two components. Firstly, the construction of an annexe according to Ministry of Education specifications, consisting of 3 classrooms with a capacity of up to 50 students, a library, storeroom and teachers office, lounge and toilet. The second component focused on social mobilisation, the objective of which was to encourage community residents to fully cooperate and participate in the project and to raise awareness about their role in local development on a wider scale.

To implement the project MDI partnered with a local construction company, BADRA, which has a strong social focus and ensures materials are sourced locally and that local labour is hired on their construction sites. The Liberian NGO, ECREP, has been working with people across Liberia since the end of the civil war to help them heal, build peace and rebuild their communities. As well as coordinating initial project preparation and community mobilisation to contribute sand and labour, they organised a campfire evening to raise awareness about local development, and destructive and constructive attitudes within the community, ran a workshop on local development with leaders from each of the surrounding towns and villages, held a series of focus group meetings on commitment and collective effort, hard work, sincerity, and transparency, and organised a football tournament to mark completion of the project.

This project was co-funded by the Australian Government, via its trial collaboration with the Australia-Africa Minerals & Energy Group (AAMEG), administered by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Without their support such a significant project would not have been feasible at this early exploration phase, and the community expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the Australian Government for its attention to, and interest in, the people of Grand Gedeh County.