Liberia for the Promotion of Academic Excellence (LIPACE), a local organization that works in the education sector, has conducted an assessment for academic year 2017-2018 under the theme, “Liberia Reads! (LR) Educational Program,” and is poised to present its findings.
LIPACE, which is a statistics-driven institution that analyses and interprets data, recently sent out scores of assessors to various schools under the LR program, to see how students are coping with their lessons.
The program is to create a strong foundation of literacy and integrates skill learning, especially reading and pronunciation.
Being an initiative of Liberia Reads! an NGO founded by ex-Peace Corps Volunteer Geraldine Melosh, who served for many years in the 1970s, and her husband Bob Melosh. Their effort is aimed at increasing awareness of the central role that reading plays in the lifelong process of education.
As it is often said, reading brightens one’s mind and sharpens the intellect, so this is exactly what is playing out for several kids in 24 schools in three of the 15 counties under the LR program. The initiative helps train teachers, principals, and reading coaches in reading instruction.
Liberia Reads! country director Lyn Gray, who spoke to the training volunteers for the end-line assessment for 2017-2018 in Paynesville, said the culture of reading needs to be enhanced in Liberia if the education sector is to become vibrant. The day-long training was intended to ensure that the assessors had a better understanding of the data. The seminar was conducted by Mrs. Gray.
“It is no secret that reading is the cornerstone of education, and one cannot do it without knowing the basic fundamental ingredients,” she noted.
The founder, Geraldine Melosh, holds a doctorate in education and is a successful educator who, though based in the US, frequently visits home every July.
“After many years of success in the USA, she thought to give back to a country that helped develop and shape her professional career as a Peace Corps volunteer,” she said.
She noted that prior to the crisis in Liberia, reading and education were not much problem in the country as the sector was striving towards excellence. “But now it is a huge problem and we are seeing how this is being reflected in our students’ performance in public tests in the country,” she said.
Some noted that much of the problem in the sector, from the academic side of things, is as a result of Phonics Education in the country.
“It was against this backdrop that Liberia Reads! was established to help solve this problem. In this vein, teacher manual and reading books for students were prepared and have since been in use,” she said.
The program focuses on childhood early learning, which includes K-2, Grade I, II and III. The teachers of these classes and the principals of the participating schools are part of the program.
LR works with 24 schools in three of the 15 counties. These include Montserrado, Margibi and Bong counties. Lyn was also a Peace Corps here in the 1970s, assigned at the Sanniquellie Central High School in Nimba County.
“The best way to know that we are succeeding is how the kids are reading,” Mrs. Gray said. To do that, LR contracted LIPACE, an independent external evaluator, to do baseline and end-line assessment every year.
The issue of class size is paramount under the program, and according to Mrs. Gray, all the schools are required to have at most 30 students per class. Under the initiative, teachers conduct two hours of reading classes every school day.
LIPACE Administrative Officer, Steve Wiefueh, said LIPACE volunteers assessed performance of students from eight of the schools under the program.
“These assessors bring back the results as to how the pupils are doing—whether they are correctly reading more words per minute or not,” Wiefueh said.
LIPACE was founded by Benjamin M. Freeman, Jr., who also served as executive director with a good track record of not just data collection, but proffering solutions for academic oriented problems.