Strengthening Teacher Training in Liberia
Since 2002, the Teacher Enhancement Programme (TEP) has been in the business of developing educators. The programme has trained more than 5,700 educators from: Kitui, Bungoma, Nyeri, Kajiado, Murang’a, Machakos, Turkana, Kisii, Taita Taveta, Mombasa, Kilifi, Narok, Kisumu, Kakamega, Makueni, Nairobi, Busia, Homabay, Meru, Nakuru, Kiambu, Tharaka Nithi, and Embu. TEP has also diversified into regions in Uganda, Nigeria, and Tanzania, and now seeks to raise the levels of educator training in Liberia.
The TEP team – Margaret Roche and Mercy Mukulu – set out on a week-long pre assessment trip on invitation from Fr. P. Sumo-Varfee Molubah, Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia Education Secretary, and Sr. Grace Boro, a Consolata sister from Kenya, and a Kianda College and Strathmore alumna. The Consolata Missionaries run the St. Peter Clavers School, whose alumni are current students at Strathmore.
In the over 20 years she has been in Liberia, Sr. Grace has used the knowledge acquired through the postgraduate diploma offered back then in Strathmore College to train the teachers under her. In her view, the best way to start tackling the problems they encounter is by provision of training. “It is difficult to get trained teachers. In most schools, the brighter students, after completing high school, stay on as teachers. Given that most of them have no formal training, anything we give them will be very effective and impactful.”
The preliminary visit was undertaken in Monrovia, located on Cape Mesurado on the Atlantic coast. The capital city of Liberia is named for the fifth US president, James Monroe. The TEP team met with the Archdiocese Education team and assessed the needs that would inform the development of a programme and sourcing for donor funding for a long term project. They held a workshop that handled topics ranging from classroom management to reflection on practice to financial management and psychosocial support. The team also heard from the local teachers the challenges currently assailing the education sector in the country that was historically designated as a colony where slaves from the US were resettled back to Africa.
Liberia, the country that gave Africa the continent’s first woman president, Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, is yet to fully recover from the economic meltdown that resulted from subsequent civil wars. The wars were followed by the Ebola Virus outbreak that ravaged parts of West Africa in 2014. In 2020, the country, like the rest of the world, began battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
The archdiocese of Monrovia currently has 4 elementary schools, 6 junior high schools and 17 senior high schools. The schools admit students regardless of their religious, cultural, ethnic and any other social affiliation. The total population of school going children in Liberia is about 900,000. It is estimated that up to 25% of school age children are out of school.
Owing to the poverty rates and high cost of living, schools grapple with low fee payment rates and acquiring teaching resources. For instance, a textbook typically costs $50, which, when weighed against other day to day needs, becomes a cost that many cannot meet. This, coupled with low pay that leads to low morale among teachers, compounds the problems faced by the education sector. However, it’s not all doom and gloom; the schools excel in timely payment of salaries, social security and taxes, and payment of vendors. They’ve also had funding to construct and maintain new buildings in a number of schools.
TEP now hopes to collaborate with the Archdiocese of Monrovia education Secretariat in developing training that suits the educator needs structured in different phases. “This is with the hope of bringing a group to Kenya to not only attend training but also brainstorm with some schools that TEP has worked with and are doing their best towards steering their schools to centers of excellence.”
In a letter sent by Fr. Varfee, the archdiocese expresses its gratitude to the University for this initiative that will strengthen the training of teachers in Liberia.
“The Catholic Education Secretariat (CES) expresses sincere thanks and gratitude to you for the workshop conducted at the Archdiocesan Resource Centre (ARC), on the St. Teresa Compound for some personnel of the School System in the Catholic Archdiocese of Monrovia, during the assessment visit to Liberia. This kind collaborative undertaking of Strathmore University has been quite educative for the participants; it has also refreshed and stimulated them to work assiduously in the School System.”
Below is a the story of Samita Mwanicky – founder of Yuna Initiative on breaking barriers & bringing African countries together through community service. Samita is a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies and Philosophy student at Strathmore University.
This article was written by Wambui Gachari and Mercy Mukulu.
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