Small Seed of Literacy Grown into Forest of Redemption

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It is exactly ten years since a little seed was planted in Liberia. It did grow, and unlike the fig tree cursed by Jesus Christ as mentioned in the Bible, it has well germinated into trees bearing fruits of excellence in all fifteen counties of Liberia. Alfalit Liberia is the seed planted in 2006 through the initial efforts of Retired United Methodist Bishop John Innis and team. To date, Alfalit Liberia celebrates ten years of existence as a non-profit literacy movement. It has a profound, proven track record of having sponsored and operated four hundred (400) literacy centers, with a total enrollment of one hundred thousand youths and adults who missed out on school from early childhood.

If there was anything to celebrate in the observance of International Literacy Day on Thursday, September 8, it should have been the solid ten years of tangible contributions Alfalit has made and continues to make to youth and adult literacy. Those tangible, indelible marks and imprints of Alfalit on the lives of Liberians across this country deserve nothing else than a national recognition. Indisputably, Alfalit is still making the mark in the industry. Why do I say so? Allow me answer in four points:

The Consistent Quality Intervention for Ten Years: Since its establishment ten years ago, Alfalit Liberia has been persistently consistent to open its classrooms to learners (a suitable term used for students). As annual donor support determines, its program size varies in terms of student intake and number of centers. Most importantly, Alfalit kept its literacy classrooms opened for these ten years without interruption.

The Radical Grassroots Transformation in Rural and Urban Communities: From Cape Mount to Cape Palmas, from Cesstos to Grand Cess, evidently the lives of program recipients have changed for the better. A high profile community leader and government official in River Gee County, specifically in Klaken, felt fulfilled when he signed his paycheck for the first time, surprisingly in the presence of government pay team in Fish Town in 2011.

Until that fateful day, City Mayor Weah had always thumbprint payroll for years. In Grand Gedeh, several Alfalit students were recruited as election workers solely because they were the newly found light of their communities for public service. Nimba County celebrates Mrs. Abagail Karlay, a female carpenter who risked dismissal only had her employer known she was illiterate. Realizing the threat to her job, she enrolled in the
Alfalit literacy program. She could now sign attendance sheets and filled out other job related forms herself. Today, Mrs. Karlay is one of the program facilitators after she advanced herself in formal school and Alfalit facilitator‘s training courses. She also operates a community savings club which has hugely won community confidence. Success stories relating to Alfalit Literacy Program are enormous; ranging from market women, community dwellers and leaders to former ex-combatants who had lost hope on education, to Muslims and Christians who could not have read their religious literatures (Quran and Bible) without adult friendly program of such.

The All-inclusiveness of Alfalit Literacy Program: Interestingly, Alfalit International has a strong Christian background. Noticeably, it started as a small endeavor by Methodist missionaries to enable their congregation read the Bible in Spanish. Alfalit Liberia also started under the canopy of the church. The United Methodists invited and nurtured the concept, but allow it serve beyond their culture and denomination.

Alfalit teaches basic and functional literacy program to all; irrespective of religion, ethnicity, creed, nationality of youth, adults, women and men who feel convicted to catch-up with the rest of the reading and writing populace. A well-structured group points to the WIPNET women, the female pressure and prayer team at the foot of the James Spring Payne Airfield, opposite President Ellen Johnson’s residence. Within the group are Muslims, Christians, young and old, mixed tribal links, and people of different educational levels. Alfalit has had an outstanding relationship with those women for years and still. The heterogeneous composition of the WIPNET women fits in Alfalit’s teaching approach.

Moreover, the ability to cope with urban and rural characteristics is at the credit of the Alfalit Literacy Program. Just as cities host hundreds of Alfalit literacy centers, so are villages and towns in Liberia. In Gwienyeh Tarr Town in # 4 District, Grand Bassa County; in Bewien, Grand Kru; in LPRC Community in Ganta City, all counties have tasted and felt the impact of Alfalit’s Literacy Program. All tribes, religions, age groups, private and public sector employees have benefited from the Alfalit Literacy Program.

The Functionality of the Literacy Program: Adults, unlike children, dwell on the future use of their education. Adult learners expect immediate impact of the skills they are to learn. This can either be an impetus or discouragement for adult learner, provided the immediate benefit the skill has to offer its learners. Literacy skill, which is expressed in words and numbers/figures, is only considered useful to a business woman if she can apply such skills to her business. The same goes for a carpenter who counts on measurement and calculations, and a religious person who appreciates reading his/her religious books without a middleman. The same applies to a bike rider who tracks his daily savings with a savings club or a bank.

Alfalit Literacy has been a practical and immediate benefit-offering program. Still in the program, market women would begin to record daily sales and expenditures right away. What an excitement! The Sirleaf Market Women Literacy Project of 2010/2011 implemented in five counties, and the Omega Market Women Project of 2013, implemented in Red Light Paynesville, recounted the immediate impact of the Alfalit Literacy Program on market women.

The month of September each year comes with the celebration of World Literacy Day. This year, Liberia has all reasons to have highlighted and celebrated the achievements of Alfalit International-Liberia. For ten years, the Alfalit Literacy Program has known no boundary to offer literacy services to Liberians and residents alike. The ground work is laid by some giants and compatriots of our land: Retired Bishop John Innis, Reverend J. Emmanuel Z. Bowier, Mr. Kenneth Y. Best and his Daily Observer Newspaper Senior Reporter Edwin M. Fayia II, Rev. Emmanuel J. Giddings among others. Above are pacesetters and profound dreamers for the best interest of grassroots Liberians.

The immense roles of Alfalit International team who listened to Bishop Innis’ call and extend the literacy program to Liberia: Former President Roberto Perez, Current President Joseph Milton are remarkable to those villagers who have come to the light of literacy over these ten unbroken years. The former and current staff and volunteers of Alfalit throughout the country are considered foot soldiers. They have fought a good fight; the fight that redeemed but did not harm anyone. Alfalit Liberia, you are a household name and a path to the eradication of illiteracy in Liberia; but you know, it is never over until it’s over. Kudos for ten years of selfless service!

George Sawah Stewart is a former Program Manager for Alfalit Liberia. Contact: [email protected] Cellphone: 0777682479/0886682479

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