Adult Literacy and Solar Lights: Can County Development Funds and Senator Prince Johnson Help?

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The people of Buu Yao Administrative District in Nimba County rejoiced last week when solar lights were turned on to facilitate the continuation of evening adult literacy classes in 18 communities.

The lights were provided by the German Development Agency, GIZ. The people are happy and grateful because the lights enable them to continue their adult literacy classes. According to our Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor, most of the beneficiaries are ex-combatants whose education was interrupted by the civil war. These adult literacy classes provide them an opportunity to take the first leap in their education. The classes help them learn to read and write. An effective adult literacy program enables such students to return to formal school, many completing elementary, and some going on to complete high school.

Ah, Liberia! Do our readers know how long we at the Daily Observer have been urging the Liberian government to support adult literacy, first by developing and enriching its own Adult Literacy Department in the Ministry of Education? But successive Education Ministers—from Korto to Tarpeh to Gongar, and now to Werner—have not done that. The same people who ran the program in the 1980s, when the Daily Observer first tried to engage them to push the adult literacy program, are the same people still there, sitting in one cluttered room, just looking at the walls.

The great organization Alfalit, which has done more than anyone else in the past 10 years to promote adult literacy in all 15 counties, has not received support from anywhere in government. Alfalit was grateful to Vice President Joseph Boakai for donating three generators for night classes.

Two years ago, Alfalit signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Education Minister Etmonia Tarpeh, but not much has come of that. Alfalit Executive Director Emmanuel Giddings has written several follow-up letters to Education, followed by several emissaries, but still no response.

This is one of the perennial problems within the Liberian government. GOL offices and officials hardly reply to letters, and therefore so many matters get no follow up. No wonder Liberia just won’t develop. How long, Lord, how long?

Both the President and the Vice President of Liberia have complained about the failure of GOL officials to follow up and implement. But, hey! They (the President and her VP) are in charge, aren’t they? So who’s to blame?

The boost, which GIZ has given to the adult literacy initiative in Buu Yao Administrative District is to be commended. Yet, even as the Nimbaians were thanking GIZ for giving them lights, they were already complaining that lights were not only what they needed, but power to cool their drugs, etc.

That reminds us of what the Swiss missionary Albert Schweitzer, who spent his life working with the people in Lambarene, Gabon, once said. He published a book in which he wrote, “The Africans, you have to help them all their lives.”

Many, during the African revolutionary years dismissed that remark as condescending, even racist. But listen to the Nimba people. No one among them appealed to the legislative and county officials to allocate some of the County Development Funds to spread solar energy in Buu Yao Administrative District or to other parts of the county.

But that is what we are doing in this editorial. We are appealing to ALL Liberians FIRST to help themselves BEFORE asking others for help; and second, to look to others around, such as the officials who control the County Development Funds (CDFs), and ask them for some of the funding to be allocated to whatever Nimbaians are constructively undertaking, such as providing solar energy for our schools, including adult literacy, and our clinics to cool the drugs and medical utensils and equipment.

We appeal to Nimba Superintendent Fong Zuagele, Senior Senator Prince Y. Johnson and all the other influential Nimba leaders to promote adult literacy in Nimba by allocating some of the CDF to provide solar lighting for the evening classes—and to meet the needs of the county’s various clinics and health centers.

We extend to Senator Prince Johnson and Superintendent Zuagele one more challenge: call on the Alfalit Executive Director, Rev. Giddings, and Board, who have done a lot of work in Nimba already, and ask them to join you in helping to make Nimba County, already one of our most progressive counties,
THE FIRST COUNTY IN LIBERIA TO ACHIEVE 100% ADULT LITERACY.

Senator Prince Johnson, everybody knows you are powerful. Use some of that power to promote adult literacy. Nimbaians, we are positive, will follow your lead, and that objective—100% adult literacy in Nimba County —WILL be realized, probably even within a year or two!

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