Michelle Obama, daughters in Africa to push girls’ education

FILE - In this June 1, 2016 file photo, First lady Michelle Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia are leaving Sunday, June 26 for Africa, where they will promote girls' education in Liberia and Morocco before going to Spain. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

KAKATA, Liberia (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama visited a leadership camp for girls in Liberia to launch her latest Africa visit Monday in a country still recovering from the recent Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead.

“I am just so thrilled to be here with you,” the first lady told the young women at the Peace Corps-sponsored project in Kakata.

Earlier she was welcomed to Liberia’s capital with a red carpet and traditional dancers wearing the red, white and blue colors of both countries’ flags.

After meeting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mrs. Obama traveled 70 kilometers (43 miles) along a heavily potholed road to Kakata.

The first lady is traveling with her mother and daughters Malia, 18, who recently graduated from high school, and Sasha, 15.

Education for girls is the central theme of the first lady’s trip, which also includes stops in Morocco and Spain.

Liberia was battered by civil wars between 1989 and 2003. Then Ebola swept the country in 2014, killing more than 4,800. Teachers died and schools were closed for months.

The country was founded as part of an effort to resettle freed American slaves and has deep ties to the United States. The country’s oldest vocational high school, located in Kakata, is named for the African-American civil rights activist Booker T. Washington.

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.

Mrs. Obama’s previous visits to Africa as first lady have included Ghana, South Africa, Botswana, Senegal and Tanzania.

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AP writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this story.

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