The USAID Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development (EHELD) Project team has completed the Fast Start component of the 2013 Summer Vacation program in designated communities across the Country.
The USAID/EHELD Fast Start program which benefited four hundred and two students from both private and public high schools with the exercise running from July 15-26, was held at the Dolokolen Gboveh High School in Gbarnga, Bong County; Voinjama Multilateral High School in Voinjama, Lofa County; John W.Pearson High School in Ganta, Nimba County; St. Joseph Catholic High School in LAC, Grand Bassa County; Zwerdu Multilateral High School in Zwerdu, Grand Gedeh County. Speaking to the Liberia Media Initiative (LMI) upon completion of the Fast Start exercise in the mentioned locations, the USAID/EHELD project Outreach and Partnership Officer Mr. James Mulbah classified the Fast Start as one of the most important components of the project.
Mr. Mulbah who covered sites in Bong and Lofa Counties said the Fast Start interaction was rewarding for both facilitators and students with the involvement of the project partners from the Universities of Liberia, Cuttington University and others in the Americas.
In an interview, Mr. James Mulbah noted that what personally shocked him was the fact that some young Liberian high school students do not have a clear understanding of what Engineering is, adding that though they were enthusiastic about the USAID/EHELDF Fast Start interactive exercise, it was unique that the American people provided the opportunity for Liberian students to participate in such an eye opening educational program.
Speaking further, the USAID/EHELD Outreach and Partnership Officer told the Liberia Media Initiative (LMI) that the students benefited teaching in basic life skills, computer science, math, and career counseling in Agriculture and Engineering. The Partnership Liaison Officer Mardia Varkpeh who handled Bomi and Grand Bassa Counties said there was a shortfall in that some 5-6 students scouted during the preparatory visitation ahead of the Fast Start who were to form part of the program did not show up, but indicated that the team building exercises with participating students were quite impressive.
Mardia recognized the working collaboration with the University teams especially the Michigan and Peace Corp Volunteers Team as one that positively contributed to the success of this year's USAID/EHELD Fast Start Summer program across the Country.
The Liberia Media Initiative (LMI) quoted the USAID/EHELD Liaison Partnership Officer as saying that what was remarkable about the Grand Bassa County Camp which was situated in LAC was the full support provided by the Management of the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) including feeding, transportation, and logging among others with only facilitators coming from the USAID/EHELD team.
The Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist Thomas Borwah who controlled Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties for the Fast Start explained, that the participation of women in the USAID/EHELD Fast Start exercise is something to be mentioned and consider as a plus for the project.
Mr. Borwah said it was encouraging to know that young Liberian women are now seriously interested in studying Agriculture and Engineering as future professional careers, noting that their interactions during the exercise in Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties was a positive indication that women are prepared ever than before to forge for higher education in all aspects learning.
The USAID/EHELD Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist hopes the inclusion of more schools in upcoming Summer programs be considered, since many students and school authorities have expressed interest in the program on grounds that Agriculture and Engineering are fields that would produce more future entrepreneurs and employers to contribute to Liberia's rebuilding and reconstruction process.
The USAID/EHELD project is a five year USAID funded educational program for Liberia geared at encouraging Liberian students in the senior high school level to prepare themselves to make informed decision to study Agriculture and Engineering on a scholarships basis at the Universities of Liberia and Cuttington.
The USAID-Excellence in Higher Education for Liberian Development project is already in its third year phase with several students presently benefiting from the scholarship scheme at the both Universities in Bong and Montserrado Counties.
The USAID/EHELD project also supports capacity building programs in the Engineering and Agriculture sectors, with the most recent being the support to the training of modern surveying technicians and support to the Veterinarians Without Borders that administered free rabies dogs' vaccine in Montserrado and Bong Counties. Meanwhile participants of the 2013 Fast Start Summer program across the Country called for more of such educational career counseling exercises to enable Liberian students make informed decision in areas they wish to specialize. The students' belief career counseling is one of the best ways of helping young Liberians to prepare themselves ahead of University education.