Liberia’s educational system is similar to that of the United States. The school year runs from September to June; primary school encompasses kindergarten through sixth grade, lower secondary encompasses grades seven through nine, and upper secondary encompasses grades ten through twelve.
The Liberian Ministry of Education oversees the provision of school curricula and requires state approval for new schools. NDHope will respect this by ensuring the accreditation of its schools and by using instructional curricula that are approved by the Ministry.
A New Dimension of Hope’s program model is designed not only to educate children to national standards, but also to highlight the three most essential areas of educational need in Liberia: literacy, science and mathematics, and socio-emotional health.
Literacy: “Read with Expectancy”
Liberia has a literacy rate (defined as the portion of the population over age 15 that can read and write) of just under 48%. There exists a great gender disparity in literacy levels: 62% of the male population is literate as compared to only 33% of the female population. Many Liberian students struggle to acquire the most basic reading and writing skills.
In order to address literacy at the primary school level, Read with Expectancy will incorporate letter recognition, rhythm and rhyme, phonemic awareness, and sound isolation- all techniques proven to engage pre-readers. Phonics, grammar, critical thinking skills, and text engagement will be added to the curriculum once students attain higher reading levels. Reading aloud and a strategically designed phonics program will be used to support both developmental readers and English Language Learners (Liberia has around 20 different languages and dialects, though English is the official language and is widely spoken).
Science and Mathematics: “Dimensions of Change”
Basic principles of counting, number sense, computation, and mathematical rules are the building blocks of the math curriculum, which will span each K-6 classroom. Practical math application is the number-one goal of Dimensions of Change. We want to ensure that our students will be able to make direct connections between mathematical concepts and real-world application.
Food insecurity, malnutrition, and stunted growth are severe problems in Liberia. To this end, the math and science portions of the curriculum will emphasize themes of agriculture, sustainable practices, and practical hands-on activities. The science curriculum will engage students using problem-solving, long-term planning concepts, and basic agricultural and gardening principles. Classroom studies will focus on plant cycles and weather patterns. Eventually, we see Dimensions of Change as reinforcing education as a form of social justice.
Socioemotional Health: “Dreamers Journaling”
It is critical that our teachers and staff are equipped with the skills to aid students in the process of healing from Liberia’s civil war and, more recently, the Ebola epidemic. Our Dreamers Journaling initiative is designed to promote healing through a journaling process that incorporates reflection, acceptance, and forward progress. Each class will start the day in a community circle where students and teachers will have the opportunity to share a positive experience, a need, or a goal for the day. Students will use themed prompts to express themselves using poetry, drawing, creative writing, and unscripted “free write” journaling. We want NDHope’s children to feel inspired to dream big and take a step each day toward their goals.