Hey Givologists! The country we’re covering this week is Liberia, a place that is especially close to my heart after traveling there this summer to start up a science program with a local non-profit, Live Life Liberia. I’ll be drawing on a lot of my personal experiences in Montserrado County, Liberia to describe how their education system operates.
[b]1. Liberian education has previously been severely impacted by civil war.[/b]
The education system in Liberia was limited by 14 years of civil unrest, causing the number of schools to decrease from 2,400 in 1989 to 480 in 2003. During this time, very few people went to school; some were recruited to be child soldiers, and the country was completely torn apart due to conflict.
Though peace has been established in Liberia for more than ten years, the infrastructure and school systems have not recovered to even a fraction of what they used to be. USAID reports that in most education aspects, Liberia is behind the majority of other countries in Africa.
[b]2. Liberian education holds great value.[/b]
[i]With some students from my village class.[/i][b]
[/b]I had the amazing opportunity of teaching at three schools in Liberia over the summer, all of which were very different. The locations varied from inside a Firestone community (where Liberians work on rubber plantations), to a primary school by a major intersection, to the rural village where I stayed.
At all of these schools, the students were incredibly polite and attentive, and I think this really speaks to the culture of Liberia in general. Because of limited education and schools for 14 years, education carries great significance. Even with 12 years of peace, the memory of Liberia’s civil war is very present.
The Liberian government has put a lot of effort into promoting education as well. When I first arrived in Liberia in June, there were graduation parties every week going on for students of all ages, from kindergarteners dressed up in suits to high school seniors. Education is something that is so celebrated and joyous in Liberia; I would see recent graduates driving their friends around and standing on the roofs of their cars.
[b]3. Liberian education is limited. [/b]
The typical Liberian teacher follows the textbook very strictly, and has very limited resources. While developing the science program at the three schools, we focused on doing experiments with the students that used products that could be bought from grocery stores, such as baking soda and vinegar (no students had ever done this experiment before). Even so, the question of how to make these projects sustainable came up, as most teachers would have to purchase these experiment materials out of their own budget.
How funding can and should be allocated by schools in Liberia to make learning more interactive is still unclear. Many people told me that the majority of high school graduates in Liberia choose to go into business, because “science is too hard.” As a result, certain areas- healthcare, engineering, etc.- in Liberia are lacking; in light of the ebola epidemic, Liberia currently only has 50 doctors serving a population of 3.5 million.
[b]4. Liberian education is being rebuilt. [/b]
Shortly after I left Liberia at the end of July, all schools were shut down as an attempt to curb the ebola epidemic. This was especially devastating because of Liberia’s history with the civil war and previous setbacks in education. However, the good news is that schools in Liberia will open again this February as the number of reported ebola cases has decreased in recent weeks.
One of Givology’s partners, [url=https://morethanme.org]More Than Me[/url], is doing amazing work in Liberia on the ground. The founder, Katie Meyler ([url=http://racingheartblog.tumblr.com/]whose blog you can find here[/url]), has been working in Liberia with community partners for the past few months to help with the ebola response, and recently just returned to the US. With the start up of schools in Liberia in less than a month, More Than Me aims to open up a boarding school in the West Point community.
[i]I got to visit the More Than Me Academy during my last week in Liberia! [/i]
As always, feel free to leave questions/ comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!
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