An exploration of the challenges of access and retention: Reintegrating former refugee and internally displaced girls into secondary school in post-conflict Liberia


Publication date



Oslo and Akershus University College

Document type


Master in International Education and Development (NOMA)


In this thesis I have endeavored to explore former refugee and internally displaced secondary school girls’ challenges of access and retention in formal school in post-war Zwedru. Using a qualitative approach supported by interviews, observations and review of official documents, I attempt to create an impression of the girls’ reintegration challenges. The perceptions of secondary school girls as well as key players in the education sector are reflected in the thesis. The education system of Liberia was a contributing factor to the 14 years of war in Liberian from 1989 to 2003. The education system which collapsed at the onset of the war is currently being reconstructed with the full participation of the international community in partnership with the Government of Liberia. In presenting the process of education reconstruction and girls’ reintegration into formal school, I identify political, economic and cultural challenges as underlying factors which slow down girls’ participation and completion of secondary school. In establishing a basic theoretical framework as lens through which the focus of this thesis is examined, I take as point of departure relevant scholarly and organizational concepts as well as socialization theories and gender theories. Berger and Luckmann’s primary and secondary socialization is applied in understanding and interpreting secondary school girls’ upbringing and overall development. Gender theories including Amarta Sen’s Capability approach are at the core of the discussions on gender and education. I use Paulo Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed to interpret the point of view and comportment of the secondary school girls in the study. The new reforms in education in post-war Liberia as well as the educational interventions in Zwedru specifically are examined as context(s) within which girls’ educational processes are taking place. The international community’s commitment towards reinvigorating education in Liberia includes various programs and initiatives which are geared towards capacity building and construction of a sustainable education sector in contemporary Liberia. I draw attention to traditional gender roles as well as girls’ socio-economic environment as being among the challenges which hinder girls’ full participation and completion of secondary school. I also highlight that education reconstruction at the secondary level is dawdling due to various challenges faced by the Ministry of Education, this includes funding and limited human resource. In concluding I put forward that the Government of Liberia develop innovative strategies to fund education in the country in order to support the reconstruction of its education sector and complement the hard work of the international community. Girls account for more than half of the population of Liberia and their education is unquestionably needed in the process of reconciliation and rehabilitation. Girls’ participation and completion of secondary school in Zwedru is required for the attainment of the Education for All goals as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs.


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