Monrovia — When poor academic performance in Liberia today is emphasized, people no longer concentrate on students' failure to solve mathematics or science problems but poor reading and writing skills--the fundamental basis of literacy.
In recent times, people listening to the radio and reading the newspapers or articles written by others become annoyed by poor pronunciation, grammatical construction and misspelled words. English and Spelling are given more attention because the language is the source of communication for learning in this Anglophone state.
Having poor foundation in Reading, therefore, suggests that the student has a poor academic background, as it may be the case with scores of post-war Liberian students.
Nevertheless, some institutions are making headways in tackling the problem to build a better foundation for the next generation of students, and one such institution with this goal is the Bridge International Academies.
Though heavily criticized in Liberia upon taking over some public schools in the country in 2016, Bridge's intervention in providing educational materials and emphasizing Reading in its operational schools are making a significant impact.
Teachers and students of the J.W. Pearson Elementary/ Liberia Education Advancement Program (LEAP) Partnership School on Carey Street, central Monrovia, are expressing gratitude to Bridge for making the academic difference in their lives.
"Teachers were not supervised before the coming of Bridge in 2016, but now they are supervised and provided curriculum tablets. The Principal has a smart phone through which she and Bridge monitor teachers. Bridge also brought many books for the students and it emphasizes Reading. Reading helps students to be better because when they are able to read effectively, they can sit any public examination and pass," said Janet Tamba, Principal of J.W. Pearson/Bridge Partnership School.
Madam Tamba said before Bridge came, students did not have enough books to read and therefore their full potential could not be realized, but with the books provided by Bridge International Academies, students under their control are performing better to expectation.
"Even if public examination like WASSCE is administered today, our students will perform better and come out with rewarding results because they are prepared to read with comprehension. Our emphasis on reading is helping the students to do well in their lessons," said Sam G. Bono, a teacher.
Articulate Priscilla C. Darwolo of Grade 5 said in an interview that she began with Bridge when she was in the First Grade. "Bridge program is very good and they teach us how to read well. Right now, we are doing Regular and Irregular Verbs in English and it is preparing us to speak and write well. So I think Bridge is doing its best to give us the kind of education we need," she said.
Stephen D. Attiah of the sixth Grade class also alluded to effective teaching in Bridge partnership schools and he wants the institution to extend its activities to more schools in order to help his peers who do not have the opportunity that he and others have.
Bridge envisions developing programs and opportunities for Liberian children and raising awareness in an effort to improve literacy rate in Liberia; assist with funding, encourage economic independence, aid disadvantaged kids with scholarships, school supplies and other basic materials.
Its mission is to educate and empower Liberian children through access to education, healthcare, economic development, provide scholarships, school supplies and educational materials for middle and high schools in Liberia.
Bridge also promised to assist with the renovations of schools that will fall under its control. Perhaps due to lack of adequate information about its role, the institution came under heavy criticism a few years ago.
For now, Bridge, according to Montserrado County Education Officer David Boakai, has made tremendous intervention in Grand Kru County where he served before taking an assignment in Montserrado.
Mr. Boakai said Bridge renovated schools, provided educational materials for students and teachers, and incentives for volunteered teachers. "May be the public was not informed about what Bridge was to do, but the institution is meeting up with all of what it said it would do for the Liberian education sector," said CEO Boakai.
Meanwhile, the students' and school authorities' views about Bridge International Academies came coincidentally with the celebration of the Day of the African Child on June 16, 2021. Mohammed Gandhi Kamara, President of the Liberian National Students Union, reached out to students of the J.W. Pearson Elementary School on that day and provided some historical synopses of the declaration of the Day of the African Child by the African Union.
Kamara in an interview lauded Bridge for its intervention in the education sector and recalled that in other parts of Liberia including Lofa County where he and his team had just visited, students cover long distances to attend school and they have bad classroom conditions.
Unlike other schools including those under Bridge's supervision with some facilities to attract students, teachers and parents, Kamara said students in most parts of Liberia do not have that privileged; commending Bridge for its intervention in the lives of other Liberian students who are benefiting for now.