Fourteen years of civil war ravaged Liberia between 1989 and 2003. Rebel factions kidnapped children, forcing them to abuse their own families as a way to condition them into ruthless soldiers. The UN estimates that 15,000 children fought, murdered, and pillaged during the war. Warlords gave soldiers of all ages psychedelic drugs to force their dependency and extinguish their inhibitions. Families fled to the capital of Monrovia to escape looting, rape, and murder. The city, crippled with no infrastructure or government, became overcrowded with refugees. More than 150,000 people were killed, leaving more than 50% of the population under the age of 18 – compared with America’s current 24%.
“I’ve got no Ma, I’ve got no Pa. I have no books and no learning.
Now what am I supposed to do?”
–Girl soldier, 10/30/03
This comment, taken shortly after the end of the war, captures the last ten years of Liberia’s history. After 14 years of anarchy, no infrastructure or government, an entire population said, “now what do we do?” Recovery is a process.
Liberia has been steadily rebuilding since the war ended, but still less than a third of children attend school. Government schools are full beyond capacity, suffer corruption, and offer low pay for barely qualified teachers. Modest school fees or uniform requirements for private schools put basic education out of reach for most families. A shocking 2013 news report indicates that many young girls are even turning to prostitution to pay for school.
The founders of All God’s Children (AGC) schools were compelled to help the war orphans and former child soldiers of Liberia after witnessing firsthand the atrocities of the civil war. The first All God’s Children school was established in the capital of Monrovia in 1996 as the only tuition free school in the country – and the only school focused on Christian education and counseling for former soldiers and war orphans. AGC schools operated consistently and expanded steadily – even during wartime.
As former child soldiers have aged through AGC Schools, the mission has expanded from war orphans and former soldiers to reach children who simply cannot afford to pay for school.
More than one thousand children grades K-9th are impacted each year through the three All God’s Children schools.