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Africa Development Corps, also known as Visions in Action, is an international development organization based in Washington,

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The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) takes children who are old for their conventional grades and puts them in an accelerated academic program taught by Ministry approved teachers, who have received additional training in the ALP. These classes take place in the afternoons, or at the same time as conventional school if there is enough classroom space for both.

þ  Children who are over-age in grades 1 and 2 attend ALP level I

þ  Children who are over-age in grades 3 and 4 attend ALP level II

þ  Children who are over-age in grades 5 and 6 attend ALP level III

ADC will continue to support the Ministry of Education in establishing and maintaining the ALP; provide refresher training workshops on curriculum for ALP teachers in collaboration with Right to Play, particularly emphasising contemporary teaching techniques and interactivity. There have been 44 teachers trained in the Accelerated Learning Program curriculum, with the program currently operating in twelve communities in Maryland County and five communities in Lofa County. Five additional ALP programs will be launched in Lofa County before September 2014, offering training to 45 new teachers.

Read about Benjiman and Victoria and how the ALP is helping them get back to school.

 

 

 

ADC will continue to support the Ministry of Education in establishing and maintaining Alternative Basic Education programs and offer training workshops on ABE curriculum for teachers. ABE centres are currently operating in ten communities in Maryland and five communities in Lofa County, with 45 teachers trained in the ABE curriculum. There will be five new ABE centres introduced into communities by September 2014, including the training of several more facilitators.

Gladis, former ECD student

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Gladis is 6 years old and lives in Yookudi community in Maryland County, a small village of roughly 300 inhabitants, in Liberia, West Africa. There are high levels of illiteracy in her village, poor health and nutrition levels and small-scale, subsistence farming is the principle means of survival for families.

Here, it is common for children to grow up working in fields, rather than in the classroom. Education is only valued if it can realistically bring income to the family. Time spent in the classroom is time spent away from farming. Whilst studies have shown that with each year of education, income-earning capacity increases accordingly,[1] education is only more valued than labour to a family when this becomes unquestionable. This means their child having a realistic chance of completing high school successfully, a costly choice for rural families.

With up to 80% illiteracy in rural Liberia, children are disadvantaged before they enter the classroom. Daughter to two illiterate parents, both full-time farmers, Gladis’ chances of passing through primary school were slim. Lacking the fundamental foundations to learning would profoundly impede her future development and education.

This is the driving force behind Africa Development Corps’ Early Childhood Development Centre (ECD).

Gladis was amongst 125 children from hers and neighbouring villages to go through the program in the school year 2012-2013 in Yookudi. She entered the UNICEF sponsored-program as a 4 year old and spent twelve months with our dedicated teachers, learning the alphabet, basic numeracy skills and introductions to grammar, preparing her for the challenges of Primary School.

With attentive teaching and fostering of her willingness to learn she graduated from the ECD centre, passing literacy and numeracy tests and walking across the schoolyard to the Yookudi Primary School as a 5 year old. Now currently in first grade, she is at the right age to progress through primary school and enter secondary school with a bright future ahead of her.

Gladis has smashed the cycle of illiteracy through the support of ADC and UNICEF and is the first member of her family who will be able to read and write.  Not only is she making a difference to hers and her family’s futures, but also her community’s, who will benefit from her progress through the school system, as she sets an exemplary standard for other children.  Her parents can already see the value of her education and as such, have ensured her younger sister is part of the ECD program.

Yookudi School First Grade teacher, Montgomery Wonplue, says “Gladis is one of my best students” due to the support she had throughout ECD to develop her social and creative skills, as well as increasing her enthusiasm for education.

 

Benjiman & Victoria, current ALP students

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Benjiman Konigial is 13 years old and lives in Bambodu community, in Lofa County, Northern Liberia. His parents did not attend school, as they were adolescents during the 14 year civil war, which devastated the Liberian educational system. His mother alone supports him and his 5 siblings by subsistence farming, as his father abandoned them. Paying for Benjiman’s uniform and books for school became unfeasible for the family without the father’s earning capacity, so Benjimin stopped attending school at the age of nine, after Grade Two.

Benjiman heard about ADC’s Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) from friends of his, and was sure to sign up in July 2013. The ALP helps children who have missed out on regular education, get back up to speed with their peers by putting them through a condensed, three-year version of primary school.

Benjiman has almost completed two semesters of ALP Level One. Already at the top of his class he is happy to be back in school, and is passionate about completing the three levels, to then enter high school.

“I am going to school, I am happy now”

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Victoria

Victoria Saah, is 10 years old and also from Bambodou community. Both her parents died several years ago, with her illiterate grandmother now caring for her. Her grandmother used to farm to support Victoria and her siblings, but she is now too old to work in the field.

As the oldest child, Victoria was taken out of school and in Liberian English told to ‘sit down’. This meant she was now solely responsible for supporting her grandmother and siblings. School was no longer considered an economic priority, as it would involve additional expenditure on uniforms and books.

When she found out about our ALP from one of ADC’s community awareness campaigns, she informed her grandmother of the free program and immediately gained her support.

Most Liberians recognize the importance of education, but when it is in direct competition with one’s livelihood, it is often abandoned. Free education programs like the UNICEF Peace Building Education Program, the umbrella program of ALP, give girls like Victoria a real chance at escaping the poverty trap. Both she and her grandmother realize the opportunity of a better future is no longer a dream, but a reality.

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“I want to help my grandmother so she won’t be suffering, so she will live long.”

 Victoria still sells in the market every Saturday, washes clothes most days and helps on the farm in the afternoon, but from 8:00am-2:00pm every day, she is in school. The ALP has allowed Victoria to start in Level Two, where she’ll complete grades three and four of primary school and then complete grades five and six in ALP Level Three, before entering high school.

With ADC’s support and her grandmother’s approval, her dreams of graduating high school and attending nursing college are within reach.

 

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“The children that have passed through the ECD centre make my job much easier, they are up to standard and already willing to learn”

– Montogomery Wonplue, First Grade teacher

With a solid start to childhood through participating in ADC’s ECD program, Gladis’ chances of completing primary school have doubled and entering secondary school is now a reality for her. She will receive the start in life that all children deserve.

 Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, “Growth Theory Through the Lens of Development Economics” in Steve Durlauf and Phillippr Aghion, eds., Handbook of Economic Growth, vol. 1A (Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Ltd./North Holland, 2005) pp. 473-552, cited in the author’s book, ‘Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty.’ P.88.

 Female farmers leading the way

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Female farmers leading the way

The female farmers of Northern Liberia are leading the way in lowland rice production, proving you don’t always need the brawn when you have the brains.

Rice is the staple food for the majority of Liberians, with the country annually consuming nearly 500,000 metric tons, equal to approximately 133kg per person, per year. However, the demand for rice far exceeds domestic production, with much of the local market made up of imported Chinese and American rice. By 2018 the Government of Liberia aims for the country to be self-sufficient in rice production, by doubling domestic yield through the Liberian National Rice Development Strategy.

Africa Development Corps (ADC) is hoping to improve food security in Liberia through the increase in lowland rice farming. This is being accomplished by the transformation of irrigation schemes and introducing new farming technologies and techniques to increase domestic rice production. As subsistence farming is the principal means of survival for many families living in rural Liberia, ADC aims to develop lowland rice production on a larger commercial scale.

The Farmer Field School (FFS) initiative is one of ADC’s main programs funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, contributing to increasing domestic rice production and to the rice development strategy. It is aimed at enhancing the practical knowledge learnt in the field with theoretical information. Described as ‘a school without walls’, the program is based on non-formal teaching practices so it is easily accessible to both literate and illiterate farmers. It gives farmers the opportunity to ask questions to trained Agronomists about farming practices and methods, help solve problems and share knowledge with one another.

In 2014, ADC currently has 1,532farmers registered with our Farmer Field School program. In Lofa, 37.5% of these are women and in Nimba the female farmers outnumber their male counterparts, making up 60% of the FFS beneficiaries.

In the community of Duwojalamai, in northern Lofa, there are 47 registered FFS farmers, 22 males and 25 females, with ADC Agronomist Eric Folee facilitating FFS discussions every Thursday. Here they talk about any issues that have arisen and ask questions, with the Chairman and Chairwomen often translating into English if there is a language barrier. Depending on what farmers are working on at that time, they will discuss different techniques and often go into the field for a practical demonstration.

Eric says that he wants to empower the female farmers of Lofa and make sure they get the respect from the men that they deserve. Initially when farming sites are selected, the whole community works hard to clear the swampland. Stronger men are often required to remove large trees and dig floodways, however it is often the women who complete the arduous tasks of clearing marshland and weeding. Eric explains that after the initial FFS enrollment and once the most of the land preparation has been completed, it is not uncommon for male attendance levels to drop. It is often the women who regularly participate in FFS discussions, maintain plots, establish nurseries and continue with crop rotation. He says that many of the women are more committed and are producing good results as they think through the issues and often have more attention to detail.

In ADC’s Nimba agriculture program, female farmers are outnumbering the men. As ADC tries to target beneficiaries that are from vulnerable families there are many farmers who are single parents, widows or from low-income families. Kou Kruah is the Chairwoman for the Bunadin community’s lowland rice farm, in Nimba County. She works alongside 24 other women and one male farmer, three days every week. Speaking through a translator, she said they are all very happy with results. In their fifth month of working with ADC Agronomists in the FFS program, they have completed one harvest and are positive about the potential future yields. She says their first harvest has been stockpiled in a warehouse, with the intention of selling. They will then “decide as a group what to do with the money”, which could include investing back into the farm or dividing the profits between individual farmers.

Kou has noticed that the rice planted during the previous rainy season was richer and more bountiful than the current harvest in dry season, and says there have been challenges with insects and pest infestations. However, the new technologies and techniques that have been explained through Farmer Field School give the Bunadin farmers the ability to double crop and increase their overall yield, which they were not able to do before.

In 2014, the Farmer Field School radio program is another platform ADC is using to create awareness about lowland rice farming in Liberia. Recorded in Voinjama, Lofa and Saclepea, Nimba, the two different FFS programs target the local communities by broadcasting in English and local languages. In Voinjama, Radio Kintoma (101.1 FM) broadcasts the FFS show every Monday 8:30-9pm, while Radio Saclepea (101.5 FM) broadcasts on Fridays between 7:30-8pm. The radio shows are hosted by ADC Agronomists who discuss different farming practices such as developing nurseries, transplanting, pest control, land management and more. While many of ADC’s current agricultural communities listen and benefit from the reinforced messages FFS radio provides, questions posed by callers are also addressed during the radio show. It is hoped that other farmers become aware of the FFS program and adopt innovative methods of lowland farming, as well increasing awareness about Liberian agriculture and domestic rice production to non-farmers.

ADC Agronomist Ivan Parwon says it is encouraging that many communities in Nimba are conducting their own FFS discussions, even when he is not there to facilitate. Chairwomen of Tundin’s community farm, Roseline Batti, says all the farmers are now in a habit of going out into the field, observing and identifying any problems, then and coming back as a group to discuss current issues at least twice a week.

 

“We ask everyone for their input and then find solutions for the problems at a field level” - Chairwoman Roseline Batti, Tundin, Nimba County

The fifteen women and two male farmers all have individual plots on the community farm, however they all help each other with land preparation, developing nurseries, harvesting and other tasks. Roseline says it is important to know what is happening in the whole field and to collect data so all farmers are aware of what is happening on the farm.

It is hoped that the exchanging of ideas and knowledge gained in Farmer Field School discussions will remain with communities for many future harvests. All farmers are encouraged to continue analysing and solve problems on their farms, eventually requiring less involvement and guidance from ADC Agronomists.

 

Grassroots Approach

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Development occurs best when we are as close as possible to the standard of living of those we are trying to assist. Therefore, a modest, low overhead, grassroots approach is taken in all that we do.

Volunteerism

volunteerism

We give of ourselves and make sacrifices for the betterment of others, expecting nothing in return.

Community

community

Our volunteers work as a community, living together and supporting one another during the experience

Self Reliance

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Participants and members of the community work together to attain self-reliance.

 

   

 

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