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Hope through learning for a lost generation

Liberian teachers taking part in child development workshops onboard the Mercy Ship

The war is over and the children of Liberia are going back to school.  After 14 years of conflict, teachers and pupils in the poor West African nation face considerable challenges in getting education back on track. Educational programs developed by Mercy Ships are being used in partnership with the country’s Ministry of Education, during the current assignment by volunteer crew onboard the Anastasis, to educate Liberia’s citizens of tomorrow.

One aspect of the Mercy Ships project is teaching the teachers.  Many Liberian schools struggle with a lack of resources and facilities. In dimly lit and overcrowded classrooms, children sit on stones, plastic containers or on the floor.  Managing with little more than a blackboard, teachers give lessons to children of varying ages in one class. Due to years of missed education during the long years of war, children aged up to 14 can be found in first grade.

Project facilitator, Wanda Gray, says, “It’s a big challenge for teachers to keep the interest of older students and not be too high-powered for the younger ones.”
Crew members from a number of countries are sharing their expertise with Liberian educators to enhance learning for primary school students.  Workshops conducted onboard the hospital ship include use of creative arts, modelling lessons for the educators, helping them plan lessons and observing their teaching practices.  Lessons integrate the national curriculum with themes emphasizing self-esteem, emotion, teamwork and hope for the future. That is all in keeping with the aim of Mercy Ships to follow the example of Jesus and bring hope and healing to the world’s poor.

Not far from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, the Royesville Public School was looted completely and stripped of anything valuable by rebels during the war. In partnership with the local community, Mercy Ships volunteers are rehabilitating the school.

The work involves re-roofing the buildings, fitting doors and windows, painting, providing school supplies, expanding the library, improving sporting possibilities for pupils, building benches and tables for the classrooms and developing a playground.  By the time the Mercy Ships assignment to Liberia ends in June, all of the local children will be back in school and returning to the long-disrupted education.  As part of the project, local workers have also been given training in basic carpentry and masonry.  Mercy Ships is a global charity that has operated hospital ships in developing nations since 1978. 

A unique feature of Mercy Ships is that all people involved in overseas assignments are volunteers, paying their own way. Short-term volunteers participate from two weeks to a year, while others choose to serve in a career capacity. Mercy Ships has 17 support offices around the world, including the Australian office at Caloundra, on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. If you would like to know more, visit  www.mercyships.org.au.

Photo : Liberian teachers taking part in child development workshops onboard the Mercy Ship