Issued simultaneously by ITU and UNHCR
Geneva, 21 July 2006 "” The first batch of twenty-nine students graduated after two months of intensive training in computer skills at an information and communication technology (ICT) training centre in Monrovia, Liberia. The training centre was established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the lead United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues, which pooled pooled resources with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Other partners in this project include two Liberian-based non-governmental organizations "” the Liberia Opportunity Industrialization Centre (LOIC) and the Foundation for African Development Aid (ADA) who renovated the premises and installed a wireless internet connection and payphone along with Cellcom Telecommunications Inc., a mobile operator in Liberia.
Training in ICT helps build computer skills of young people and will especially assist young refugees returning home. 'Every day was a big challenge for us. It was not easy. But now I feel very satisfied and I plan to continue my studies,' Jerome Williams, a returnee from Nigeria, said. 'We wish to extend our thanks to UNHCR, LOIC and ITU for giving us the opportunity to improve our skills. We hope that this programme can be extended to all Liberian returnees across the country, expanding it to other Liberian cities as well,' Williams added on behalf of the class.
The Training Centre serves as a model to be replicated in other parts of the country. The centre is considered by Liberian authorities as 'timely and in line with the Government's policy to return Liberia's young population to constructive learning'. Vocational and technical training are essential to jump-start capacity building and find new means of livelihood in a population whose education was delayed due to many years of instability.
The centre, equipped by ITU to train 60 students every two months, imparts training in core computer and entrepreneurial skills as well as offers training in computer maintenance.
The ICT Training Centre offers training free of charge to returnees, but charges a nominal fee for other community members wishing to be trained. Small fees are also charged for using the Internet Cafe facilities provided by the Centre, which provides ICT-related services such as E-mail and internet, word processing, photocopying, desk-top publishing and document binding services. This fee is necessary to provide revenue to meet some of the running costs for the centre to guarantee its long-term sustainability.
ITU Regional Representative for Africa Brahima Sanou expressed confidence that the Training Centre would contribute towards building capacity and help in the rehabilitation and re-integration of returnees from post-conflict situations. He pointed out that the World Summit on the Information Society called for special attention to be given to countries recovering from conflict and to vulnerable groups of people. 'Fostering the development of information and knowledge will facilitate the country to be integrated into the global economy and bring back hope to young people whose future has been clouded by the scourge of war,' said Sanou.
UNHCR Country Representative Mengesha Kebede commended the collaboration with ITU and reiterated that the ICT Training Centre would contribute towards enhancing employment opportunities for urban returnees. He called on other agencies to assist in this endeavour and noted that over 20 per cent of Liberian refugees will be returning to urban centres, especially to the capital city of Monrovia, and called for collaborative response and effective, targeted programmes aimed at enhancing their livelihood.
This collaboration between ITU and UNHCR is the first effort towards extending access to ICT services and training to returnees in Liberia. Funding permitting, similar centres will be established in other parts of the country as well as in other African states emerging from post-conflict situations, including Burundi, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
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