You can help Liberian children write the next chapter
Liberia was devastated by two periods of civil war between 1989 and 2003. Over 250,000 people were killed, 80% of schools were destroyed or damaged and most teachers fled. The country was still in recovery when the Ebola epidemic struck in 2014, claiming nearly 5,000 lives and forcing more than 4,400 schools to close for six months.
Despite these challenges, Liberians place a great value on education and today, schools are slowly recovering. However, they now face new challenges including an acute shortage of books, overcrowded classrooms and mixed age groups as teenagers and adults left out of education are able to go to school for the first time.
Helena D. Kemokai is the principal at Dominic K. Hena School in the Kakata District of Liberia. Here she tells us how books are helping her pupils to learn, some for the very first time.
This is not a wealthy area. This is just a rural community. Most of the children’s parents produce goods to be able to sustain their children’s educations.
This is a community school. Community schools are run by a proprietor who’s the founder of the school and they give subsidies, just a little. We’ve got a lot of students – 1,142 – because we don’t really charge school fees here, just some minimal fees to sustain the teachers. Parents of our children can’t afford to pay more to go to a private school so our classrooms are very crowded.
We have some overage girls. In first grade we have 14-year-old girls.
Mostly it’s due to the civil war – children were not going to school because of the war. The Ebola outbreak was one of the causes too. Some of them lost their parents. Some parents can’t afford sending them at the earlier age. They want to learn. So now we have to create the avenue for them to learn. It is never too late to learn.
The overage girls programme is so amazing. After school we conduct special classes to build up their skills and capacity. We came up with a literacy programme – learning the alphabet, pronunciation. They are reading now. Because of the programme, their level of reading increased so we had to promote them to the next class.
Getting the books from Book Aid International has been like a healing.
We had a library but it was not active. Before, the children wanted to read but we had no books, especially for younger children. Now it’s always busy, the children love to come here.
Since the books from Book Aid International came, children are taking books home. We can’t have them only in school. They have no books at home. When you go home, you should have access to reading which alone will build up their skills.
The library is making a great difference in their reading and writing. We saw the difference when we took part in a competition – we won almost all of the titles! It took over all of Liberia and we came second place in reading and first place in writing. It was so great. We know that we are getting better – and it’s all starting from right in this library.
We always need more books because the children love the books so much, they want to borrow them all the time!
School libraries like the one at Dominic K. Hena School rely on the generosity of our supporters to help stock their shelves with up-to-date books. Thanks to your support we sent 23,091 brand new books to Liberia in 2017 but many more are needed. With your help, we can give more readers access to the books they need in Africa and beyond.