SOS Children’s Villages Liberia and Kids Educational Engagement Project known as KEEP have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Both parties in October of this year reached a formal agreement for KEEP to provide Reading Literacy, tutorial classes as well as skills training. This came at the time when the academic performance of the children in the village started to deteriorate and the organization quest for excellence.
The SOS and KEEP project doesn’t only focus on the children in the village, but the mothers, aunties, and educators as well. The SOS and the KEEP project seek to establish two reading rooms in each of the village, Juah Town and Monrovia. The objective is not only to improve the reading and witting skills of the children but to also build the capacity of the caregivers as well.
It is barely two months now since the project kicked up, however, it has started to geminates fruitful result. Few days ago I met the SOS Children’s Villages Liberia National Director, Mr. Augustine A. Allieu and asked him why he decided to invest in such project. This is what he said: “We are committed to molding the minds of the next generation of leaders, it starts today…and it should be now.”
He lamented that SOS is committed to ensuring the highest standards of care in all her programmes. SOS Children’s Villages has 9 core commitments. Commitments. Commitments 5 calls for continuous strengthen of care profession, while 8 requires the promotion of education, participation, and steps toward an independent life.
“Reading is a complex developmental challenge that we know to be intertwined with many other developmental accomplishments including attention, memory, language, and motivation” said Mr. Allieu. He noted reading is not only a cognitive activity but also a social activity that requires development.
He maintained that being a good reader means that a child has gained some skills and knowledge of the principles of the English alphabet, as well as reading and writing skills. He went on to say that young people also gain knowledge through reading, tutorial and other informative means, such as magazine, Television as well as the internet.
Mr. Allieu noted that “understanding the basic principles of learning requires an awareness and skills, there are many reasons why children have difficulty in learning. These issues and problems led to the initiation of this project.” SOS
On his part, KEEP project coordinator said: “KEEP teaches young people and we have been successful coordinating and establishing tutorial classes for children and educators.”
He said the project has improved the reading and writing skills of the students as well as some of the educators using their method. The KEEP Coordinator disclosed that the project shows the importance of social interaction in learning. He noted “that their method is effective for high as well as low performers. He added preventing reading and learning difficulties in young people there is no specific magic, but constant practice of reading and tutorial classed can lead to a positive result.”
Even though there are current signs of progress from the children, but we can’t abandon the struggle. We have made some gains and we will continue” said the village manager, Nehmah Yeanay. SOS Children’s Villages Liberia is concerned with reducing the issues of poor reading and writing among children and caregiver. “All efforts are been exhorted to get the best out of the children and caregivers” Mr. Yeanay noted.
Challenges facing Liberia Educational System:
Learning to read and write is a basic skill that unfortunately not everybody acquires sufficiently, especially at the earlier stage. The educational system in Liberia is facing numerous challenges. Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has branded Liberia’s education system “a mess” requiring a complete overhaul. She made the statement during an interview with Reuter News in August 2013.
We all are responsible for the messy educational system. The lack of train teachers, bribery and corruption, students inability to cultivate the culture of reading, are some of the reasons, but in addition, the enormous rise in fake news due to the Internet and the proliferation of social media created a vacuum, not only in the Liberian educational system but also in learning.
This means literacy education must be improved so more children in Liberia and the world get better chances in the job market. In order to contribute to developing, better methods for learning to read and write in early years need to be introduced. This project aimed to tests a new method developed to improve reading, writing and learning in school and the community. KEEP has reached over 3,000 school going children across the country providing startup educational packets and several follow up packets.
KEEP has successfully coordinated and established after-school tutorials for over 2000 children in the Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu Counties. KEEP also involved in teaching young people arts and craft, sewing which are meaningful skills that young people understand quickly.
Cleaning the Mess…
A two-day baseline assessment was conducted by KEEP in SOS Monrovia village and Juah Town Village on November 5 and 8 2018 respectively to determine the reading proficiency of children at the SOS Children’s Villages. This activity sought to examine students’ knowledge on the five major skills in reading, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, as well as comprehension. The baseline assessment process involved series of tasks which allowed the children to demonstrate knowledge and skills on the reading components. Some were tested in listening and reading. Children were selected at random with support from the class teachers. Ten students from each class from Grade 1 to Grade 3. Fifteen boys and fifteen girls participated in the process in each of the villages.
The assessment was conducted in a relaxed and child-friendly atmosphere and they were assured of the confidentiality of their individual findings. As such no names are mentioned in the report. Information collected during the process is confidential and will be used as a baseline for measurement and evaluation purpose. Analysis of this report reflects the overall performance of children in Juah Town and Monrovia Village. Nineteen children from the community who attends the Hermann Gmeiner International School were tested along with the children living in the SOS Children’s Villages.
On the other hand, KEEP’s Programs Coordinator trained 47 members of staff of the SOS Children’s Villages. The two days introduction to reading strategies were held in SOS Matadi on November 6-7 and November 9-10, 2018 in Juah Town. The overall goal of the training was to introduce and strengthen the capacity of Mothers, Aunties and Educators on the basic educational skills, strategies and techniques in teaching and coaching children to able them to read fluently with understanding.
Topics covered during the two days training include an introduction to the five major skills in reading and comprehension. During the presentation, the facilitator demonstrated ways to support children with reading difficulties. The facilitator modeled a short reading lesson presentation to illustrate the strategies for reading comprehension. Lessons were delivered using a powerpoint presentation, as well as an instructional model like individual and group work and testing individual reading skills respectively.