Global Human Rights Defence

Liberia’s gbi-doru district and its need for development

Liberia and its counties

Liberia, situated in Western Africa, is home to fifteen administrative counties with sixteen officially recognized ethnic groups. The sixteen ethnic groups are the Belle (Bella/Kuwaa), Bassa, Grandi, Krahn, Vai, Kissi, Kru, Gola, Gio (Dan), Mandingo, Mende, Mano (Ma), Grebo, Loma, Dei (Dey), and Kpelle, being the largest ethnic group situated in central and western Liberia.

Nimba County is the largest county of Liberia situated in the northeast, sharing borders with Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. The county seat is in Sanniquellie, northeast of Nimba. Nimba county consists of seventeen districts, and as of the latest official census of 2008, about 462.026 people reside in the county. The county is represented by two senators and nine representatives at the legislative branch of the government.

The Gbi-Doru District

The Gbi-Doru district is one of the seventeen districts of Nimba County. Gbi-Doru is an immensely forested land located south of Nimba, bordering the Rivercess and Grand Gedeh counties. The people of the district speak a mix of the Bassa and Gbi languages. The Gbi-Doru is part of the Tappita Statutory district, which is also where the people of Gbi-Doru pay their taxes. Prior to being part of Tappita in 1938, the people of Gbi-Doru were obliged to pay their taxes in Buchanan, located on the west coast of the country, which resulted in deaths as people had to travel for three weeks to reach Buchanan from Gbi-Doru, due to the old mandate that taxes must be paid in that city. In addition, the harsh conditions of the weather and river-crossing faced by the citizens of Gbi-Doru resulted in fatalities. Now being part of Tappita City, the Gbi-Doru citizens would still have to walk for nine hours or drive for roughly five to six hours to pay their taxes.

Photo from: WordSower Liberia

The Gbi-Doru’s Integration in Nimba

The people of Gbi-Doru have expressed their need for independence due to the underdevelopment of the district in their pleas to the government in the past decades. According to their latest petition to President Weah in February 2021, the Gbi-Doru indicated their exclusion from opportunities given to other districts in Nimba. Unlike the other districts, Gbi-Doru does not enjoy the same development of roads, schools, health centers, and housing units. However, the citizens of Gbi-Doru stated that this exclusion is not a ‘willful’ and ‘premeditated design’ of Nimba’s leadership. According to the people of Gbi-Doru, the relatively large distance between their district and Nimba county’s seat, the city of Sanniquellie, is the reason for the Gbi-Doru’s underdevelopment. In response to the Gbi-Doru’s plea, Liberia’s President Weah, during his tour of the country on 18 February 2021, made promises to undertake several projects to develop the district by constructing schools, health centers, and housing units.

Photo of President Weah visiting the Gbi-Doru district from KTV Liberia 

Consequences to the right to education

The underdevelopment of the Gbi-Doru has had dire consequences on the children’s right to education. The state of education in several towns in the Gbi-Doru district is poor. In the town of Kidka, in the Gbi-Doru district, the only elementary school in the town is in dilapidated condition and suffers from a severe shortage of teachers. Kidka town has 110 students with only one teacher tending to them, which affects the quality of education given to the children. Tiah is located southwest of the Gbi-Doru district. The town had no school buildings until the International Consultant Capital, a logging firm operating in Gbi-Doru, built a six-classroom elementary school building. This became the first modern school building in the Gbi-Doru district. The children of Gbi-Doru, especially in Tiah town, have not received proper education. Therefore, rather than going to school, they learn their parent’s trades: hunting, gold mining, and farming. In another Gbi-Doru district town named Unification, the only elementary school is in dilapidated condition with 165 students and only two teachers. The school building suffers from rainwater leaking through the roofs, so classes get canceled when there is heavy rain.

Photo: School in Kidka Town, Gb-Doru from Public Trust Media Group Liberia

The right to education is an important right enshrined in international law, such as in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which recognizes the right to education under Article 28. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), in Article 11, sets out the right to education of every child and prescribes that the State must fully realize this right by providing adequate conditions and tools for education. As a state party to the aforementioned regional and international treaties, Liberia has the moral responsibility to respect, fulfill, and protect the children’s right to education. This would include building the proper infrastructure and providing educational material in the district of Gbi-Doru. 

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, welcomed Liberia’s Education Reform Act of 2011 through their latest concluding observations. Liberia’s Education Reform Act of 2011 aims to ensure the provision of quality education to all children between the ages of 3-15. However, implementation of the CRC and the Education Reform Act is yet to be seen in the country. Specifically, the UN Committee is concerned with the unavailability of reconstructed schools and the lack of trained teachers in many rural areas in Liberia. Therefore, the UN Committee recommends Liberia allocate more funds to building school facilities, services, and training and increase schools’ availability at all levels, particularly in the rural areas.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) is the regional committee promoting and protecting the rights enshrined in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. They concluded in 2019 during their visit to Liberia that there is a lack of school structure for children and children with disabilities in rural areas. The ACERWC urged the Liberian government to implement an inclusive education policy that ensures that all children in urban and rural areas enjoy their right to education.

Conclusion

The Gbi-Doru district, throughout the years, has suffered from slow assimilation and integration within Nimba County. Although the people of Gbi-Doru did not blame the county’s authorities, it is clear that the Gbi-Doru district does not benefit from an equitable share of Nimba’s resources. The Gbi-Doru district is consequently lacking in essential and adequate infrastructures such as roads, bridges, health centers, and schools. The underdevelopment demonstrated in the Gbi-Doru district carries a tragic consequence: the impediment of the children’s right to education.

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