It was an exciting moment for Juliet Saah, a female classroom teacher in the WalkerTown Public School, Careysburg, when she, among hundreds of teachers, received an honor from the USAID funded program, Read Liberia, implemented by the Ministry of Education.
Read Liberia is meant to prepare primary school teachers to teach students to read effectively and fluently, observing phonetic rules and syllabication. In three honoring levels, including teacher, student and school levels, the Ministry of Education has been recognizing teachers and students. Juliet had ascended from the student level to the school level; meaning that she had achieved a successful evaluation for her level of teaching students, competed among teachers and won. Now her school, the Walker Town Public School, has come top among public primary schools as the best in reading because of her efforts to bring up her second graders.
“I am very happy today that the Ministry of Education and the Read Liberia Program have honored me. I started at the student level and up to the school level in Montserrado County. This honor gives me the courage that I should always do my best, even if there are challenges in the teaching profession,” Juliet expressed her excitement on September 29, 2021 during her honoring program at the AWARE International School in Paynesville.
The Read Liberia Activity, under the Ministry of Education, is founded by USAID to prepare students of grades 1 & 2 in 640 public primary schools in six counties; namely, Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Montserrado. It is designed to help prepare grades 1 & 2 students, including kindergarten, to become proficient readers and, over the five-year period, it has been able to reach out to 172,000 students in the six counties.
“The goal of the program is to prepare teachers to go by the revised curriculum of the Ministry of Education to teach students to become fluent readers,” said County Education Officer of Montserrado 2, Harrison Darwolor.
The honour, marked by words of praise and expressions of challenges in reading in Liberia’s education sector, permitted Ms. Juliet Saah to also receive packages of of tissue, napkins and chairs from the Kumba Bendu Toiletries Company that has shown up to support the reading program for Liberian children.
Unlike pre-war days when, according to educators, there were many reading programs and systematic teaching methods to get students to perform better in reading and writing, the post-war condition of education has many challenges.
District Education Officer Elijah G. Freeman says “One major challenge the students of Liberia face nowadays is reading, and the program was designed to prepare beginners to turn the situation around for the upcoming generation, since those who are ahead have already grown into it.”
According to him, the program prepares teachers to be knowledgeable in reading and to, in turn, prepare students to read fluently. Fluency in reading involves the right pronunciation of words using syllables and correct phonetic sounds, while observing punctuations.
This essential fundamental of literacy seems to be quite the challenge among the student population in Liberia nowadays, as several reports by the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders have painted the country’s education system in a bleak perspective, from student evaluation.
Many reports have suggested that Liberian students on the average -- even at the university level -- are challenged when it comes to the fluency of reading and writing. And many have attributed the mass failures of students in public examinations to such challenges.
This intervention of USAID to promote reading is essentially their response to these reports, and it is intended to prepare students from the early stages to adapt a culture of reading since Liberia has declined from reading culture.
Juliet has ascended up to the teacher level in her performance as a Reading Teacher for Grade 2 and, as the competition continues, the six counties benefiting from the reading program supported by USAID are to also be evaluated to find out which county is doing its best in meeting the benchmarks set by the Ministry of Education.
Therefore, the challenge remains for Juliet and Montserrado County to showcase their performance to claim the trophy when the county award is ready.