Liberia: 'Strengthening Youth Capacities to Influence Policies' - KEEP

The Kids' Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) says 75 young people are expected to benefit from capacity-building to influence advocacy on developing a national policy on youth employment and training opportunities.

Executive Director of KEEP, Brenda B. Moore, said the program is also aimed at pushing several things with emphasis in promoting literacy and transformative learning for the young people.

Mrs. Moore said the project also focuses on youth engagement through meaningful ways, including changing their perceptions about land rights, gender, youth engagement and education.

The program seeks to provide skills training opportunities for people with disabilities and also link them to organizations that will be prepared to employ them, according to Mrs. Moore.

"We have also been attentive on including marginalized groups, including people with disabilities because most times, people forget about them being part of the population," Mrs. Moore said.

Mrs. Moore said, "We are also trying to establish whether the skills opportunities exist first and try to link youth to some of the available training opportunities, because most often people are always asked for experience while applying for jobs."

She said the program is also aimed at linking young people to businesses that exist within the communities for internships and on the job training, especially communities that the program exists.

Mrs. Moore said the program has received some positive feedbacks within the communities to incorporate beneficiaries of the program into their own businesses.

The program is a pilot project in five communities in Montserrado County, with the "hope that the results from the project will lead to bigger programs to help more youth.

Mrs. Moore said the program will collaborate with organizations and institutions that are involved in youth engagement or youth empowerment to help in making it successful. According to her, KEEP has opened 13 reading facilities in six counties in Liberia since its establishment in 2014.

She said it's not just about creating the spaces, but getting the students involved and allowing the teachers to create the passion about teaching, as well as getting the families involved to be part of their education."

She said KEEP is working with other local organizations particularly to provide skills training and computer literacy. "We provide village saving loan clubs. Education is core to the work we do at KEEP," she said.

Mrs. Brenda B. Moore with Montserrado County District #1 Representative Lawrence Morris.

Oxfam Liberia Education liaison officer, Josephine G. Urey, said she was delighted about the initiative as Oxfam sees the youth as one of its targets.

"At Oxfam, we are more concentrated on transformative education for active citizenship and it means that youth will have the power and demand for their rights or challenge the social structures, be able to dialogue and consider multiple view points, while considering that they have their responsibilities," Madam Urey said.

KEEP is the implementing partner, while Oxfam is providing the funding through the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tamba Boimah Hali, a Liberian-born former American football linebacker, pledged his commitment to work with officials of KEEP.

"My passion is in education, especially educating the young people of Liberia. I have been inspired by my father to create education programs and will be joining hands with KEEP. I will like to start a program for Science, Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM), which is a leading program around the world, particularly U.S.A.," Mr. Hali said.

According to him, given Liberia's current situation, Liberians should focus on education because once the youth are educated, they will empower themselves and do more in the world.

"I have come to endorse what is actually happening through KEEP and with a vision to continue," said Mr. Hali.

Hali played college football at Pennsylvania State University, where he earned All-American honors.

Montserrado County District #1 Representative, Lawrence Morris, called on the program beneficiaries to utilize the skills acquired as the education will stay with them for life.

Rep. Morris said KEEP remains unique in its efforts to promote literacy and called on the beneficiaries to hold KEEP to their hearts as it's about building their foundation.

"We must use our full potential to get what we want. I'm from a poor background but utilized the available opportunities to reach this level. I had to sleep in people's cars and wash cars to survive, which makes me what I am today," Rep. Morris said.

According to him, his district is been left behind in everything, including education, infrastructure and development, despite being the first district in the first county.

"With your support, determination and commitment, we can rise above this level. We can remain District #1, but it starts with everyone. Again, the youth empowerment is not just about putting money in the pocket but putting the mind to to work get the best that will keep putting money in the pocket every time," Rep. Morris added.

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