US First Lady Michelle Obama has urged teens in Africa to keep fighting to stay in school.
Michelle Obama in the company of her daughters Sasha and Malia, and the girls’ grandmother, Marian Robinson, was speaking in Liberia where she launched her latest Africa visit on Monday.
After being received in Liberian’s capital by the country’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mrs Obama met with young women in Kakata at a project sponsored by the Peace Corps.
Obama told the girls and other attendants that she was "just so thrilled to be here with you."
"I'm here to shine a big bright light on you," she said.
The first lady has been on a journey to support education among girls across the world and in particular Africa where many girls drop out of school due to forced marriages, poverty, and violence. Her initiative, Let Girls Learn, addresses such obstacles that keep more than 62 million girls globally out of school.
In support of the first lady’s’ visit, USAID announced up to $27 million in funding in Liberia programming for Let Girls Learn, an initiative launched by Mrs Obama and President Barack Obama last year.
Liberia has a special connection with the US
The founding of Liberia in the early 1800s was instigated by the need to resettle slaves from the United States of America as a result of the transatlantic slave trade and the efforts of the American Colonization Society (ACS). ACS was a group of white Americas who wanted to deal with the “problem” of the growing number of free blacks in the United States by resettling them in Africa. The result of the push by ACS in collaboration with the church and other antislavery groups was a state of Liberia which would become the second (after Haiti) black republic in the world at that time. The ACS concerns were on a humanitarian, social and religious basis.
Liberia has withstood civil wars between 1989 and 2003 which paralyzed development efforts. Just as the world’s poorest country was trying to rebuild its economy, the outbreak of Ebola, almost brought the nation to a standstill. The disease which struck Liberia in 2014, killed more than 4,800. During this period, schools were closed for months, as people were encouraged to limit their travels to social gatherings which could increase the risk of infection.
In memory of the African-American civil rights activist Booker T. Washington, Liberia has named the country’s oldest vocational high school located in Kakata after him.
During the first lady’s visit in the country, the school suspended mid-term exams scheduled to start Monday "to allow the students to give Mrs Obama a rousing welcome to appreciate what the United States has done for us," principal Harris Tarnue said.
"She will be a real inspiration to the young girls around here," he said.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the first lady's visit to Morocco, US officials said that North African country's rate for girls' education is below regional averages, with a high dropout rate after primary school.
Today, June 28, 2016, Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep will join Michelle Obama and Freida Pinto for a conversation with adolescent girls in Marrakech, Morocco.
The six-day trip by the Obama’s also includes a stop in Spain, where the first lady will address hundreds of girls and women in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Image credit: Zoom Dosso/AFP/Getty Images