The following are answers to questions asked by some of our international supporters on our Facebook page.
On behalf of the school, we wish to thank Catherine, Elizabeth and Mary for taking the time to post some questions that are relevant to understanding more about Help Liberia Foundation Community School and beneficial to the operations and sustainability of the school.
In view of this, we are pleased to respond. It is our hope that the information given will not only provide answers but will also provide some clarifications. There are twelve (12) questions in all, and we have tried to be as relatively detailed as possible, without boring you our readers.
Question 1: How many staff does the school have at the moment?
Answer: All together, there are fifteen (15) administrative, faculty and support staff.
1. Paul Yeenie Harry (male) – Director
2. Varney Gibson (male)– Principal
3. Jarvis Krangar (male) – Vice Principal for Instructions
4. Joseph Goffa (male) – Vice Principal for Student Affairs
5. Annie Dayugar (female) – Registrar
6. Andrew Garsuah (male) – teacher
7. Calvin Mohammed (male) – teacher
8. Philemina Aggrey (female) – teacher
9. Stanley Nelson (male) – teacher
10. Elijah Johnson (male) – teacher
11. Nancy Aggrey (female) – teacher
12. Mary Tugbeh (female) – teacher
13. Logan Juludoe (male) – security
14. Victoria Juludoe (female) – janitress
15. Martha Roberts (female) – cook
Question 2: How many students does the school have now?
Answer: There are 126 students in the school at the moment.
Question 3: How many students need sponsors?
Answer: Of the one hundred plus students in the school, only fourteen (14) have sponsors.
This means more than one hundred kids need sponsors. This is why the school continues to encourage individuals and institutions of goodwill to choose a child to sponsor. For every child that is sponsored, it is not only the chosen child that is grateful for that humanitarian help, but also the school and the parents of that child.
Question 4: Do the children have enough study materials?
Answer: Unfortunately, no. We need many different materials for the kids.
Question 5: What are the kinds of materials most needed for now?
Answer: As mentioned in the answer to Question 4, we need many different materials.
For example, we need writing books, coloring books, reading books, kindergarten rhyme books, instructional or lesson-oriented posters, Ministry of Education prescribed textbooks, simple story books and many others for the kids.
We would be grateful to any individuals or institutions that helped us to get any of these relevant study materials.
Question 6: Do the kids eat at school?
Answer: Yes, the kids do eat at school.
The school does receive food from WFP (World Food Program) periodically. Sometimes it comes regularly; at other times, it does not. They donate bulgur wheat, beans and oil. For the last few months, it has been regular. The food ration also helps the kids to come to school regularly.
Question 7: What kind of grading system does the school use?
Answer: The school uses a grading system that takes into consideration quizzes, periodic tests, attendance and class participation.
Question 8: Is there a national exam for primary school students, and do the kids at the school participate?
Answer: There used to be a national exam for primary school students, but it has been suspended. During the time it was administered, our students used to participate.
Question 9: Does the school have a well?
Answer: Actually, the school has more than a well. It has a very good hand pump that is located right in front of the school. It is regularly chlorinated, so it is safe for drinking. In fact, it is the hand pump used by the community in which the school is located. In short, there is no problem with water.
Question 10: What are the main challenges faced by the school, what are you doing to try to overcome them, and how can we (international supporters) help?
Answer: Our main challenges include the following:
1. The lack of a real and conducive learning-teaching environment for the kids and the staff.
Since its establishment in 2005, Help Liberia Foundation Community School has been operating in an unfinished residential house. In fact, to create space for the classes we have, we separate some of the classrooms using blackboards or plaited bamboo mats. There are no good offices, no staff room, no reading room, etc. Besides, we are leasing the building. Our current lease will expire at the end of 2017.
To overcome this challenge, we bought one acre of land in 2011. Our plan is to construct a modern thirteen-classroom school building, which will also have a vocational/computer training room, a reading room, a staff room, etc.
We have already started planning programs and activities aimed at collecting some funds and materials. Senator Nyonblee Karngar of Grand Bassa County pledged twenty bags of cement last year. President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator Gbehnzohngar Smith, pledged fifty (50) bags of cement the year before. The school is organizing a series of mini programs to raise some funds from parents, too.
Our international partners/supporters could help us in the process by coming up with additional ideas that will help us to realize this dream, by themselves donating funds or materials or by talking with other individuals and institutions of good will to help the school with its school construction project. In-kind donations are also very much welcome.
2. The second major challenge is our inability to pay our staff well.
Our staff members are committed people who are willing and ready to help the kids get educated in order to have a better future. However, in spite of their commitment and sacrifices, the school is unable to pay them a relatively encouraging salary. Some make about US$40 per month, while others make $30. Still, there are some who make $25 per month. It is even worse for our support staffers who make $10 per month. We would like to pay $40 as the minimum salary at the school, at least for now.
This low salary payment is based on the fact that salary payment largely comes from the fees collected from parents, and these are very, very low. For instance, parents pay less than $40 per year but, even at this, many of them don’t usually pay the full amount because of financial problems or poverty. The school usually writes off these amounts as bad debts at the end of the year.
To help solve this problem, we have been thinking about increasing the fees paid by parents, but we realize that this action will cause most of the kids to drop from school, as their parents will not be able to pay. What we have now decided to do is talk with more people to choose a child for sponsorship or to sponsor a teacher. The more students we get on sponsorship, the better it will be for us in the area of higher salary payment. It will also help us to attract more qualified teachers.
Our international supporters/partners could help by spreading the word about the school’s child sponsorship program to individuals and institutions that they know or think can help so that, if possible, they can choose a child to sponsor. They could also encourage staff sponsorship where a teacher’s salary could be paid by an individual or institution. Lena Marner and others have already started encouraging friends and others in this direction.
Question 11: What are the school’s greatest achievements over the last year?
Answer: Well, in answering this question, we consider the three visits of our Swedish guests to our school as the greatest achievement of the year.
We say this because their visits brought about a lot of positive changes and things in the existence of the school. First of all, these visits have created additional international links, recognition and exposure of the school and the work we are doing with the kids.
Second, from their visits, five additional children were selected for sponsorship.
Third, their visits enabled the school to get certain needed items that it had never had before. For example, the kids now have a complete set of jerseys for the boys and another set for the girls. Besides, the school now has its own camera that staffers use to take pictures of school programs and activities. This means, the Director (Paul Yeenie Harry) does not always have to go to Buchanan to take pictures of what happens at the school.
Question 12: What plans do you have for the future of the school – next year and longer term?
Answer: For the next school year, which will start in September, we intend to add the first class (grade seven) of junior high division.
The school has been operating as a primary/elementary school since its establishment nine years ago. When a child completes grade six, he graduates and leaves the school.
The idea to start junior high came as a suggestion from parents and staff, who believe that we should raise our own junior high students before starting, finishing and moving to our proposed school building, since the proposed thirteen-classroom school will operate from kindergarten to junior high. By adding grade seven in the new school year, the school will now be operating as both primary & junior high school.
Of course this would mean that we have to go back to the Ministry of Education to obtain a new permit for the new status. This will cost less than $100.
The major problem associated with this transition is the lack of space for the new class. Our plan is to construct one classroom next to the current building in order to place one of the kindergarten classes in it. This has to be done between June and September. When this is done, the new class (grade seven) will use the classroom that the kindergarten class will be taken from.
Some carpenters have been asked to do the cost analysis of this project and submit it to the school at the end of May or early June. We will need the help of everyone.
We want to establish school-to-school relationships with other schools, whether they are in Europe, America or any other part of the world. This will not only promote knowledge and cultural interactions, but also peace, cooperation and unity.
Because we have not yet had the needed funds to start and finish our proposed school building, we consider it a long-term plan, and it is our major project plan at the moment. We would like to complete this project before the end of our lease in 2017.
Associated with this school project is the construction of a visitors’ quarter to be used by foreign guests and volunteers visiting the school. We don’t want them to come and lodge in a hotel or guesthouse. If they are coming to help the kids and the school, we should be able to help them in some ways, too.
Once again, thanks for the questions. We hope we were able to appropriately respond to the questions asked. We are all partners in progress.