In 2013, the Ministry of Education launched the “Reading Month” program to encourage students to prioritize reading. In launching this program, there was no definite strategy to encourage students; they were only told to read.
Up to present, billboards can still be seen on the streets and along highways promoting the significance of reading.
However, students and others have begun to ask: “What do we read when there are no libraries and books?”
The Ministry of Education has said that almost every student in Liberia has access to the Internet, from which they can download information, and the MOE has supplied textbooks to schools across the country.
While MOE may have a substantial point to make in encouraging students to read, it is has, however forgotten to table an activity that enhances reading and research, something akin to the Inter High School Quiz competition that existed before and even during some parts of Liberia’s warring years.
As a child living with guardians in the early 1980s in Monrovia, I saw high schools, including Swen Mission, Tubman High, St. Samuel, Cathedral, GW Gibson, J.J. Roberts, amongst others that appeared on ELTV in groups every week competing in selected subjects: English, History, Geography, and Science.
Schools that won received a prize from the organizing committee, and teachers and administrators were motivated as a result. The victory also made such schools attractive to students the following academic year.
Inter high schools quiz competitions keep students on their toes to study their lessons, read newspapers for current events and to engage in researching alternative sources.
At the S. Trowen Nagbe United Methodist School in 1994 in Ganta, Nimba County, Radio Liberia International, now Kiss FM, organized the same quiz competition in which my school participated.
In that competition, S. Trowen Nagbe United Methodist School and Messiah Christian Academy clashed in Social Studies; S. Trowen Nagbe triumphed. Being one of the participants I was especially motivated that I could represent a high school belonging to the prestigious United Methodist school system.
Besides, students from both participating schools were motivated when hearing themselves over the radio and receiving commendations from others who listened, which increased the joys of reading and research despite the unavailability of textbooks in those years of crisis.
On October 24, 1989, Tappeh Memorial High School was pitted against St. Francis Catholic High School in a debate about the role of the United Nations; Tappeh Memorial won.
Students were compelled by their own consciences to read and do research from other sources to get them prepared for the debate, and the victor became attractive to listeners and observers.
At the elementary level, I recalled participating in a spelling quiz contest where St. Peter’s High School, along the Barnersville Road in Gardnersville, went against another elementary school in the vicinity. Our participation at the time increased our desire to study more.
It also motivated teachers to bring up their students in the way that they will ably represent their schools.
In addition to these activities, the Ministry of Education, in the latter part of the 1980s, introduced the reading program, Improve Efficiency of Learning (IEL). Again, it helped students to concentrate on reading and better pronunciation, as the program was also a reading competition.
Under the IEL, students at the primary level would meet their colleagues from different schools in a reading competition. It led them to devote their time to reading and studying other subjects, which pre-war students recounted as one of the factors that encouraged them in their education.
With the poor academic performance by Liberian students of late, it imperative that the Ministry of Education to reintroduce these activities and must support institutions, including the Liberia Media Democracy Initiative (LMDI), which has started a similar initiative.
Liberian students are willing to learn to perform better like students from any part of West Africa, but they need the motivation, participatory learning and in some instances, strong rules and policies to drive them.
Now that many schools are putting pressure on students through home assignments to compel them to study and keep out of the streets, let the MOE reintroduce the reading, quizzing and debate activities to increase their desire to learn and perform better.
About the Author: Reporter, Daily Observer. Communications student, University of Liberia. Contact: 231 886838535/231 777 463853 [email protected]