ORT America’s National Executive Director Alan E. Klugman announced that billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Institute (OSI) has made a $1 million grant to World ORT's International Cooperation Department (ORT IC) in support of its Liberian Youth Training and Employment project.
The grant will directly help 1,000 ex-combatants and young men who missed out on school because of nearly 15 years of civil war in six rural districts gain vital practical skills through an apprenticeship program. Additionally, the project will improve training and employability throughout the whole country, benefitting countless people.
Founded in 1847 by freed slaves from the United States of America, Liberia now has a population of 3.5 million, almost all of whom live on less than $2 a day. It has the highest ratio of direct foreign investment to GDP in the world but average life expectancy is less than 60 years. Liberia ranks 169 out of 182 countries in the UN Human Development Index.
Mr. Soros has given the project his personal backing. “An educated youth is the key to the future of an open society. It is my conviction that equipping young people with education and the skills needed to be productive members of their communities will be a crucial step towards a peaceful Liberia,” Mr. Soros stated.
"This project aims to help a population for which no educational program has been implemented for so many years. Joining together the strengths of World ORT and OSI, in particular in the area of education for underprivileged populations, constitutes one of the most appropriate means to help them in their daily struggle for the basic elements in life," World ORT President Dr. Jean de Gunzburg said.
An ORT IC expert is in Liberia this week to lay the groundwork for realizing the year-long program which will also provide development support to enable businesses to hire the apprentices they are currently helping to train. "We're working to develop a national framework for standards, certifications and training," said the Director of ORT IC’s Washington bureau, Celeste Angus, on her return from a highly successful trip to Liberia where she set up the terms of reference for the project with partners and stakeholders – OSI, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Core Education Skills for Liberian Youth (CESLY) program which it funds, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Education, the World Bank and the International Labor Organization (ILO).
During the war, schools were closed and teachers were killed. USAID's CESLY program currently offers young men a primary education to the 6th grade level. However vocational education programs require participants to have reached 9th grade.
"ORT will work in partnership with CESLY to fill the gap," Ms. Angus said. "We will provide support and training to both the apprentices and small businesses over a 12-month period in six rural districts, there already being more opportunities for people in the capital, Monrovia," Ms Angus said.
OSI's Education Support Programs include supporting the renewal and rebuilding of education systems in post-conflict countries, promoting equal education and inclusion for marginalized groups, strengthening critical thinking and education quality, and helping civil society play a progressive and engaged role in the education reform process. Particular focus is given to Africa, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and South East Asia.
ORT IC has implemented more than 350 non-sectarian projects to the benefit of more than two million people worldwide since its establishment in 1960.