PARTNERING TO IMPROVE SCHOOLS IN LIBERIA
Launching the programme
In September 2016, Street Child of Liberia took over the administration of 12 primary schools in two rural counties in Liberia. Working in partnership with the Ministry of Education, almost 3,500 students started the new school year at schools run by Street Child.
Our aim is to improve literacy and numeracy across the board, as well as to increase general enrolment and attendance. Liberian public schools struggle to retain students in the face of endemic poverty and hidden fees, let alone reach grade targets. Street Child was also asked to develop strong relationships with parental groups, to promote and embed the importance of education in Liberian communities.
The initiative is part of the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) project, which started with a competitive bidding process, and launched in pilot stage in September 2016. Street Child of Liberia was one of eight international and local providers chosen to support the scheme, and over 90 schools were designated between these organisations. The schools are free for children to attend, not subject to selective admission, and are cost-neutral for the government.
Where we are now
Assessments conducted halfway through the school year have been very encouraging. Effecting change takes time, but significant progress has been made in Street Child schools. The team began with simple solutions that could be effectively implemented across all 12 schools, and we have seen great results. We’ve been focusing on the impact of local context, school environments and barriers to education.
Here are some of the projects that we are most proud of:
We have run two major teacher training programmes this academic year – in August just before the start of term, and in February during the half term break. With over 100 teachers in attendance, the sessions focused on literacy, numeracy and how to use materials in the classroom.
“I had no idea that teaching could be this much fun – and easy,” said Victoria, an early childhood education teacher in Cape Mount. “My students will be much more engaged when I take these new ways of thinking about learning back into the classroom.”
Reading in Every Classroom
In early March we launched a new reading initiative across all 12 schools. We delivered 5,000 reading books across our schools and reading sessions have become a key part of the school day. With a reading coordinator appointed for each school, and twenty reading levels catered for, the children now have a strong framework for improvement.
One Principal said that the classes are so popular each morning that children come to the office to ask for the books if he has not given them out in time!
Street Child held workshops in March to strengthen co-operation between Street Child, the schools and parents. This is the first time anything like this has been done in these schools and the parents were full of ideas to support their children. 180 Parent Teacher Association members took part in role-plays and since then have created building projects to improve school facilities and developed extra-curricular activities – including football clubs for the children.
Regular monitoring and support
Our teams on the ground in Margibi and Cape Mount counties offer practical advice and support to school staff creating a sustainable approach to education. We have also focused on understanding individual issues - like the fact that children often miss school on Fridays to work at the market – so we can find solutions that work. Using data analysis we have a great insight across our schools. We are always learning, and make sure that our students are too.
Street Child is committed to low-cost sustainable education in the schools that we run, and we are looking forward to taking the programme into year two. The foundations laid this year should enable a smooth transition into the new school term and help us build on what we have already achieved. The possibility of scaling our model is an exciting challenge. With the knowledge and understanding that we have developed of schools in a rural context, there is a lot more we could do – particularly in south-eastern Liberia - with many deprived and isolated communities that lack any significant attention from the development community.