By Meddie Mayanja, CODE Program Manager, in Liberia
On Monday, WE-CARE Foundation opened two parallel teacher training workshops at St. Teresa Convent in Monrovia. The events marked Reading Liberia’s project expansion to 26 schools. The workshops will run for 5 days. On the first day, participants were introduced to choral reading and discussed techniques for teaching reading and writing using simple texts. The workshops will have a strong impact on the initial outcomes of the Reading Liberia project. Ten certified teacher trainers are facilitating the workshop with ease and confidence. They are also notably balanced by gender.
I spent time visiting schools and talking to students and teaching staff. I sought to understand the nature of the challenges that Reading Liberia is faced with, where the children stand in terms of reading and writing abilities and what efforts are underway in the classrooms. The students had their eyes on the print and in some cases, particularly in group work; students used key words to write stories of their own.
It was very nice to see students working in groups productively. I was pleasantly surprised that the classes I visited, mostly grades 4 & 5, had more girls than boys or at least equal numbers of each. And, the girls were very active in classroom activities. But the painful part is that the percentage of girls will drop to a mere 10% by junior high school according to WE-CARE. And this statistic is up there among the grand injustices of our time.
If I had any doubts about the nature of the influence We-CARE has in the country, I got my answer this week. During one of our meetings, a phone rang and, on the end of the line was the Deputy Minister of Education. How did I know? I heard Mike say repeatedly “yes Minister”. When the call was done, I asked for details. The Minister had called inquiring if WE-CARE had any books he could buy. He had heard of the famous books and now a large donor was itching to spend some money on them! We then turned our discussion to finding the best way to respond to the Minister in light of our book production timelines. Things are looking up indeed. I am also wondering if 30,000 copies per title might be enough if USAID and the Ministry were to follow through on their interest to purchase books.