South East Literacy Project (SELP) existed in three years as the wing of Alfalit Liberia, enabling the literacy giant to expand to all southeastern counties including River Cess. In 2009, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf linked Alfalit to McCall MacBain Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland to help support Alfalit’s efforts of eliminating illiteracy in Liberia. Under the leadership of Rev. Emmanuel Giddings, Alfalit piloted the South East Literacy Project in 2009, with a total grant size of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000). The pilot project covered Grand Kru, Maryland and River Cess Counties. The outcome of the project was overwhelmingly mind-blowing. An independent evaluation funded by the donor found out that the project achieved its purpose. Moreover, youth and adults, mostly women who enrolled in the program had begun to appreciate the significance of literacy in their daily lives, the evaluator recounted.
Having realized the project impact in one year, the donor renewed and increased the grant size for a two year implementation period (2011-2012). The second phase then covered Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Sinoe and River Cess Counties. Sixty-five (65) literacy centers to enroll at least 6000 students in six counties was the new target for two years. The project at the end of 2012 graduated 90% of the enrolled and retained students to a maximum skill book level of three, equivalent to third or fourth grade.
An exciting experience in the middle of the project was to see literacy students applying their newly acquired skills of reading, writing and working with numbers as local election workers in 2011 in Grand Gedeh County. Additionally, all literacy students who voted in those elections had the power to exercise their votes with less or no guide.
On a monitoring visit, the team learned that a literacy Student named Esther Farley of Pour Town, Grand Gedeh County had organized a village savings club, with decent daily entry and cash flow chat. Another female level II student was the recording secretary of Behwein City, Grand Kru County. Her basic task included recording names and tracking village due payments among other responsibilities accorded a secretary.
On the outskirt of Greenville is Grigsby Farm that hosted one of Alfalit’s literacy centers in Sinoe County. A tribal chief enrolled in the program up to level II. She testified at one of the local graduation exercises in Greenville that she felt empowered, because of the literacy training she had undergone. In addition to affixing her signature to official communications from her office, she could attempt to read letters addressed to her. “I’m a new person”, this local official expressed her emotion.
It is important to acknowledge the partnership from the Ministry of Education through its adult literacy Coordinators in those counties for locally supporting Alfalit staff in the implementation of the South East Literacy Project. The education of citizens of a nation is solely the responsibility of the government, but it is understandable that partners like Alfalit are sharing in some of these cardinal responsibilities of the government for the sole intend of improving the lives of people.
Alfalit Liberia’s experience in both rural and urban literacy service cannot be overemphasized. There is always a vast difference between urban literacy and rural literacy program. The teaching approach or method remains basically the same, but the culture and terrains are uncommon. Planting centers in remote and hard-to-reach communities like Rock Town and Glofaken in Barrobo District, Maryland County is distinct. Delivering supplies, conducting periodic supervisory visits and tracking project progress and cohesion are challenging. The impassibility of road network was one tough constraint with which project staff reckoned. On the overall, the target beneficiaries for whom the project existed satisfied all reasons for the sacrifice.
I conclude today by answering your concern regarding the closure of the South East Literacy Project. Well, the project is suspended as the result of funding. McCall McBain Foundation (MMF) set the pace for three years; an effort that is laudable and indelible in the lives of all direct beneficiaries. A way forward is to reactivate the Southeast Literacy Project to cover more people, villages and towns of the unreached population of that region. Alfalit Liberia desires partnership in this regard.
One of the milestones for which Alfalit can proudly celebrate ten years of consistent literacy work is the resilience and tenacity to dare obstacles like bad roads to ensure people in faraway villages and towns learn how to spell their names, know their rights and vote their leaders all by themselves. Happy 10th Anniversary to Alfalit Liberia and team!