Girls reading

Learning to read at 14 in Liberia

25th June 2018 | Blog

In Liberia, it is not unusual to find children as old as 11 in kindergarten. Many have started school late because of Liberia’s two civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and the 2014 Ebola crisis.

As Liberia recovers, schools like Dominic K. Hena School are working hard to help children joining school late catch up. “No matter what their age, we have never turned down a student, “ says Helena D. Kemokai, the school principal.

In addition to attending normal classes, overage pupils also take part in an after-school programme designed to build up their skills, using books you have helped to send to learn to read and write.

Here, three overage tell us more about their experience and their hopes for the future:

Grace, 14, third grade




“When I was a small girl, I was not going to school; I was working. My mother sent me to school now to learn. I am 14-years-old and was in second grade with my nine-year-old sister. Then I got a double promotion – I went from second grade to third grade. I take study classes with Mrs Helena. We are doing letter sounds and lots of reading. I love reading books. I can read Yellow Bus.”

Madilyn, 13

“I’m 13. My sister is 13 too. My sister doesn’t go to school, she works. I chose to go to school because I want to learn. I am an overaged student – I came to this school in first grade when I was 11-years-old. There are small people in our class. Sometimes I feel afraid to answer the questions because I am too big for the class. In the after-school study class Mrs Helena is teaching us the ABC and how to read. I like coming to this school because they are teaching me how to learn.”

Betty, 13, third grade




“I started school in Kindergarten 2 when I was 11. I don’t know why I started later than normal. It’s hard being one of the oldest in the classroom. I enjoy the reading and the spelling classes. Learning at school is so important because I want to go to trade school to become a tailor.”


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.


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Learn more about our work to support readers in Liberia.
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Inspired? There are many ways you can support our work! Find out more about how you can get involved.
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