Liberia: 'Education an Opportunity for All, Not a Privileged Few'

Says Sara Buchanan

Madam Sara Buchanan, a prominent Liberian woman, said being differently able in society should never be a reason to deny anyone the opportunity to learn; defining education as an opportunity for all, not a privilege for a few.

Madam Buchanan made these statements when she witnessed a beautiful drama and acrobatic African dance performed by students at the Oscar Romero School for the Deaf (ORS) located in Tubmanburg, Bomi County. The demonstration, through sign language, was intended to portray the importance of educating a differently able person, especially girls who are being afflicted by deaf disease.

On July 6, 2019, ORS held its seventh pre-graduation exercise; of which 15 students successfully completed the Ministry of Education (MoE) prescribed curriculum. The graduates comprised students from Kindergarten (K-II) and the sixth grade, including eight girls and seven boys.

According to Madam Buchanan, everyone deserves a better education, no matter their condition or status in life. She told the ORS students: "Let me tell you today. You have the right to education, this is also an opportunity for all, therefore, kids who are differently able should be given the opportunity at all times."

She further said it was important to note that being deaf, visually impaired or physically challenged does not mean that such people are less important in society. "Communication is key in every society; this means that you have really shown a lot of love in educating them," she told the ORS administration.

Madam Buchanan used the occasion to encourage the graduates to remain focused, stating that nowadays people around the world automatically assume that people with disabilities cannot make any impact on society, something which she refuted, saying: "I challenge you today to disprove it; say to yourself; I can make a difference and be an ambassador to show to the world that somebody who is differently able is not less," she challenged the graduates.

She also challenged the administration of the school to continue the hard work, and do even better for the kids because they, too, can become leaders for tomorrow. "This should be a lifetime mission that ORS must live up to -- ensuring that the life of these children is improved through better communication skills, and that is the commitment we need," she said. She further cautioned parents to protect the kids at all times and give them the necessary support that will help to impact the society tomorrow.

She also called on both the private and the public sectors to support the kids, not only on an individual basis but globally in bringing out their education that will make people to know that they are valuable contributors to society.

Kenneth Y. Best, publisher of the Daily Observer newspaper, expressed disappointment at the absence of prominent citizens of Bomi County at the program, including the District Education Officer who, according to the ORS administration, were invited but failed to attend the event.

Mr Best frowned upon the failure of prominent Bomi citizens and MoE officials to honor the school's invitation. "We Liberians," he said, "must stop taking such invitations lightly. We must always strive to encourage people who have come all the way from their countries to Liberia to help us."

He pledged that the Daily Observer will, from henceforth, support to the ORS for the Deaf by highlighting their programs and outputs.

Despite the absence of prominent citizens and government officials at the program, the event was well attended by parents and other special invitees who witnessed a beautiful drama and acrobatic African dances performed by the ORS students. The educative drama, which was intended to portray the importance of educating a differently able person, especially the girl child, was performed through sign language.

Oscar Romero School for the Deaf (ORS) was founded by Mary's Meals and officially registered in 2008. It was named after St. Oscar Romero, the archbishop in El Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 because he would not stop speaking out against injustice and oppression.

ORS is a boarding school for children who are deaf and hard of hearing. The school runs from ABC to grade 6, as an elementary school and supports deaf students up to high-school. The school is also tuition-free. Sixth grade graduates are later sent to other schools that offer secondary education to differently able students. One such institution is situated in Brewerville, Montserrado County.

All girls and boys under age 16 years are hosted on the ORS campus, while boys aged 16 and older stay in the community. ORS has instructional and care staff currently totaling 45 persons. In an effort to ensure the future employment and income generation prospects of ORS graduates, all students are trained on a skill that they can use to generate income as productive members of Liberian society.

During the academic year 2018-2019, ORS had 82 students and apprentices (43 boys and 39 girls). Enrollment for the new school year will start in August; deaf or hard of hearing children aged 5 to 10 are welcome to enroll as new students.

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