With the Ejo project ("Tomorrow" in Kirundi), PLAY's ambition is to contribute to the construction of more inclusive societies and to allow each child to be an actor of his or her future. In Liberia, the issue of school retention is a real challenge for the country's children, as 73% of them leave school between primary and secondary school. The high cost of schooling, health and sexual violence are all factors that explain the difficulty of accessing and keeping Liberian children in school. PLAY works in partnership with Mercy Corps, whose institutional and programmatic presence in the country has enabled the training of 155 education professionals and 5,782 children have benefited from the project. Yiwah is one of Ejo's beneficiary children.
Access to education for girls in Liberia is a challenge for many families. Therefore, Yiwah did not start school at the required age of 3 years as per the Educational Policy of Liberia. She started school at age 7 making her one of the overage children in the nursery. Her age made her a subject of mockery by other children and even the teacher and caregivers. “As they were laughing at me, I only paid attention to my lesson. Because I was doing well in my schoolwork, I became the class president many times. Therefore, I like the game “Skool’s Cool” because it reminds us of how a determined mind can overcome any hardship.” Yiwah.
Typically, a Liberian girl in the rural community experiences many hurdles and disadvantages to succeed in life. Opportunities for well-being and developmental growth are very limited or in most cases, lacking. These challenges expose them to abuse of their rights; hence, most school dropouts are girls. The girl child, as regulated by the social norms of the community, are supposed to support the family’s livelihood activities. For example, by engaging in street peddling or farming activities. Consequently, there is high rate of teenage pregnancies or early marriages in the rural communities.
Yiwah is now a seventh grader at the Lower Hardlandsville Public School and is a consistent participant in the socio-sports games implemented under the Ejo Liberia Programme in Grand Bassa. The Ejo Programme seeks to provide a platform for children to find solutions to barriers, learn new skills and prevent discrimination. Yiwah finds her voice through the games to fight against the acts of bullying which she also experienced during her early educational sojourn. Today, she is one of the children who assist the trained teachers in her school to mobilize the other children and materials for the socio-sports sessions. Interestingly, she and other children are deploying the games in their residential communities with other children who are not in the Ejo targeted schools.
Yiwah expresses that her confidence in what she does is improving greatly because of her interactions with other children from diverse backgrounds.
“Today, I can freely express myself in this meeting because of self-confidence. From the debates after each play session, I feel my views are important. This is all due to the Ejo games. For example, the game “Road to Success”, you may be challenged to get your skills, but you must work hard so that they don’t tag you because you will be out of the game when you are tagged. Similarly, in real life, success does not come by so easily.”
While, yet a child, Yiwah has great dreams to change the situation of her family and community. Currently, she is also enrolled in a vocational training institution where she is learning interior decoration. She believes that by gaining skills, a girl can achieve her personal goals.