Education and school apostolate in Liberia: challenges and achievements

Mission
Typography

When the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) assumed their mission in Liberia, the Bishop specifically asked our confreres to be involved in the educational field. Our confrere Fr. Joseph Addai, bringing in his long experience in education, was assigned to oversee the Education and School Apostolate in this new mission.

Background and profile of the school system in Liberia
With the coming of a civilian government, a result of the 1997 elections, there were several schools, colleges, and universities that were reopened. Most of the schools in the country are being administered by churches or Christian missions, among which are the Catholic Church, Methodist, Episcopal and a few others. Others are under the supervision of the Monrovia Cooperative School System (MCSS). Because of the lack of good roads throughout the entire country, most of the schools are found within the Monrovia area. Christian missions have also opened schools in other parts of the country. However, a majority of the students can only afford to attend the public or government schools or university because of the high tuition fees involved. Students in most of the schools being operated by the government have demonstrated a poor performance. This is due to the low salaries being paid to their instructors and the lack of good teaching materials. Instructors, in most cases, pay little attention to the students. Unlike the public or government schools, the private or church mission schools are offering a better quality of education to most of the students.

Schools administered by the SVD
Bishop Julie High School (BJHS) and St. Philomena Primary School (SPS) are private schools belonging to the Diocese of Cape Palmas. Both schools accept boys and girls and are the two schools administered and managed by our confrere Joseph Addai. There are fourteen part-time teachers in BJHS and sixteen full-time teachers in SPS. The two schools have ten supporting staff. Despite these figures, the student population has gone down due to the Ebola disease which caused many people to flee from the area. There are also financial constraints due to the broken down economy of Liberia.
Challenges in Administration and Achievements In BJHS, all the teachers are on a part-time basis. Hence, there is little supervision of students in the High School. The teachers only teach and leave the students on campus. In the SPS, the biggest problem is the payment of school fees.

The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of SPS promised to increase support for the school in the future. The number of students who were promoted to the next grades was about 85%. This is a vast improvement over the previous years, taking into consideration the outbreak of the Ebola disease. The two Schools interact with many organizations and individuals such as NGO's, UNICEF, ACTION AID, Community radios, other schools, Grand Gedeh County authorities, and several individuals. Such established relations proved cordial and rewarding for the two schools. BJHS and SPS have also benefited from workshops which supply equipment for teaching and learning. Our schools took part in academic competitions, sporting activities, and the like. There has been a good working relationship with the Catholic Education Secretariat (CES). Various workshops for teachers, administrators, and certificate training programs have been organized in the course of the academic year. These programs have had the following impact on our schools: personnel’s positive attitude toward work, increased interest for record keeping and lesson planning, the importance of a checks and balance system, among others.

Current needs
SPS needs more classrooms and a library to avoid overcrowding, especially in the classrooms. The asbestos roofing in BJHS needs replacement because of leaks. And most importantly, the teachers' salaries need to be increased to serve as incentives for better results and to work harder. Fr. Joseph is thankful to the CES for their supervision and support for the full time and part time teachers. He gratefully considers the immense contribution of organizations and individuals who were instrumental in this year’s achievements in both BJHS and SPS.

By: Fr. Joseph Addai, SVD

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