Annie Foley, LitWorld
The lush Liberian countryside takes my breath away. Squinting you can just see the small village huts enveloped in shades of emerald and jade. Today we voyaged through the trees to visit our friends at the Project School in Monrovia and Becky Primary School in Firestone. We traversed major traffic jams and deep country potholes, all the while immersed in personal and national histories.
Here school begins on September 1st. Despite the 6 remaining days of their precious summer vacation, teachers enthusiastically poured into our trainings in both schools. Some of the teachers were already LitWorld aficionados, having been to our trainings in 2008 and 2009. What an inspiration to have these old friends remember songs and strategies we had taught them in prior visits! Perpetually bearing in mind the immense class size and dearth of resources that burden Liberian schools, our workshops centered around building community with songs and learning from each other’s stories.
Despite the evident hopefulness of development here in Liberia, the educational system is desperately vulnerable. The ratio of 75 students per 1 teacher impedes differentiation severely. Absence of books, paper and writing utensils hinder academic practice. Space and furniture enough for every student is non-existent. Teachers are worried about increasing rates of bribery and plummeting test scores. In a country with a woman president, women and girls continue to fight for safety and success in schools. Teachers require professional development that empowers them to plan and collaborate effectively and to see themselves not as vessels of all knowledge but mediators of information for their students.
It is imperative to support democracy and positive change in Liberia in this precious time. Just as September is the foundation for the entire school year, the habits realized now will determine Liberia’s future. As one classroom is to one school, Liberia is to our global community.