By Besha K. Kalinda
‘Due to the poverty and lack of information, many children in Liberia are forced to become friend of the rich.
The poorest ones remain home; only few have access for the library rooms.’
‘’There is no subject that you can teach in school that works, if the child cannot read’’ says Brenda Moore.
Reading enriches the child’s education. It allows children from childhood to develop the basic skills of comprehension and expression; it helps children to have fun, to learn, to know about their cultures and to develop a critical mind. But, where to find literary works in Liberia?
Indeed, since mid-March up to now, almost eight months, most kids are not reading because schools were forced to close and many kids lack the apetite to read or take part in educational activities although the Liberian Government had a program they named “ Learning by Radio.”
This program, one cannot establish how helpful it was, but from our own observation, many kids did not make use of it.
Some kids who are victimized by the COVID-19 are Fidima, Grace, Ruth and Samuel Keita all from one family with ages between five and eleven years.
The only opportunity these kids now have is when their friends (neighbors) take home study materials from study classes or pick the chance to study with the other kids when their study classes are being conducted; that’s the only time they exercise their reading skills.
“Sometime, we go to our friends’ house when they teaching him, her mother can refuse, but we also beg our friends and his teacher to stay there and listen without noise because we want to learn too,’’ Explains Samuel Keita.
Little Samuel Keita is not the only child who is at the disadvantage of the COVID-19.
Other kids are also victims of the pandemic which slowdown every country’s activities.
Actually, there are so many challenges accessing library in schools or in public places. Vulnerable kids need books too, this is the reality, but do they have it? The answer is a big no. No library in the communities, parents don’t have money to buy books because book prices are relatively high or expensive.
Moreover, it is very expensive to bring book into country, it is very expensive to source books, it is very expensive to transport books in the location, says Mrs. Brenda Moore who is one person in Liberia who has invested in books.
Madam Moore is the Chief Executive Officers of an institution known as “Kid’s Educational Engagement Project (KEEP).
Under Education, the building which was used by the Ministry of Liberia head office is one of the popular places, market for literary works in Monrovia.
I walked there to inquire the prices of books and while there, I asked for a book titled ‘Grammar& Comprehension for Liberian schools’ it is a book-4 material and was published by Start Books.
From my inquiries, I was able to establish that the book is being sold for US$10.00 or US$7last price after price negotiation is done.
With my interest in the prices of book and to establish how high it is pricewise for an ordinary Liberian to purchase a book for their kids owing to the fact that there a limited number of public literary in the country, I even asked for another Book titled ‘English People Book, this is for students in grade 8.
Although it is marked on the cover page-above towards the center with an inscription “Property of Liberia Ministry of Education, not for sale”
But unfortunately, this book is on the market with a market value of US$5.00 contrary to the above warning from the Liberian Ministry of Education.
This speaks to how difficult it is for kids who parents do not have money to get those copies of needed materials for their education.
As said by the Education Minister, AnsuSonii “Let’s make reading a priority in the educational sector’’.
However, Liberian society is in its infancy when it comes to book culture in the educational system. The school year 2020 was declared by the education minister on the 12thof February the yearlong reading campaign, that is a year will be marked by a series of programs and activities across the country, essentially to promote the culture of reading, a program already launched by a non-profit organization, under the canopy “Kid’s Educational Engagement Project,(KEEP).”
The organization has to its credit, six years of intense mobilization in favor of the promotion of the books through nineteen reading rooms accessible for poorest and rich children across the counties.
Mrs. Brenda Moore who is the founder and executive Director of Kid’s Educational Engagement Project(KEEP), the learning resource center of Monrovia and the national organization dedicated to the struggle literacyby supporting education with libraries facilities across the country, says she believes that people in Liberia have not yet understood the rule of reading in the educational life of the of children.
“Nowadays, having a school without a library or a library which is nearly empty is shameful, but we can do more’’ Madam Moore said.
She intoned that,” Because literary works it the heart of the educational system, we need library at teachers’ lunch, we need to promote and to restore the taste of reading books for safe pastime and constructively engage minds.”
Madam Brenda confirmed that, ‘KEEP’ programs are all free and is open to all children, teachers, schools, communities; poorest or rich adding that those are interest or have developed the culture of reading can take advantage of their program.
“Our assistances are totally free. You don’t need to have money for KEEP to help you, by giving you or opening a library room at your school or in your communities, what we need is that you have to have interest, commitment to protecting the access” she said.
She went on to say, “The investment they will be putting near you has given some level of commitment by ensuring that the facility built will have the level of care given it as well as community involvement.
With her institution’s willingness establishing reading centers for kids in Liberia, she said, “So, book culture is now available for all in Liberia.”