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Let’s Learn Together

October 6, 2013


Surrounded by money and resources, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about my hard working children in Sanniquellie.  They deserve the opportunity to be at Cuttington with me, but instead they’re fighting to get security jobs at UN and NGO houses.  What will happen to them?  I often wonder.  Will they make it?

The answer came last night and it was a unanimous YES WE CAN!

Jonathan was always a funny and light-hearted student, but he made good grades and asked insightful questions in class.  A few months ago I helped him attend a business workshop in Monrovia and apply for study in Ghana.  He came back from the workshop wearing a t-shirt that said “I will change the world” and I saw big changes immediately.  Over night I could tell he saw himself as a leader and someone who would make a difference.

Then the WAEC result came.  He passed in only two of the nine subjects, one of the worst scores I’ve ever seen.  I couldn’t believe it.  He couldn’t believe it.  Suddenly the train was off the tracks and he didn’t know what to do.  He called me on the verge of tears for days after the results telling me his future was ruined and there was nothing for him now.  I told him that was nonsense and reminded him “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you” (what we chanted before class everyday).  He registered to resit the exam and found an apprenticeship at one of the local computer/printing shops.  Again, there was hope.

He usually calls me several times a week, but we’ve both gotten busy lately.  Then he called Friday night.  “Ms. RB,” he said, “several of us need to talk to you.  Will you be available for a conference call tomorrow night?”  I’ve never heard of a conference call in Liberia, but I agreed and last night at 8:30 my phone rang again.

“Gentlemen, can we please observe silence?  Our mother is on the line.”  He called on each of the other five boys, calling in from around Liberia, to greet me.  Then he introduced the program.  “Ms. RB, welcome to Let’s Learn Together.  Our topic tonight is ‘Career and You.’  Many of us are struggling with what to do now that we’ve finished high school.  None of us wants to sit down so we are calling on you for help.  Each person will have the opportunity to tell you what career they are considering and ask for your advice pursuing it.”

This was one of the most brilliant things I had ever heard!

For the next hour they took turns telling me about their dreams and asking for my advice about scholarships and universities.  I told them to keep courage and to never stop trying.  “Giving up,” I said, “is the only way you will fail.”  I urged them to have regular study groups together, utilize library resources, and try by all means to learn computer skills.   I also told them about William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi who was forced to leave school in seventh grade because of money.  Using books he found in a US AID library he built a windmill to generate electricity for his family’s house, became a TED fellow, won a scholarship to African Leadership Academy, and is now a student at Dartmouth College.  All because he didn’t give up.

“We know it was very expensive for you because you are using Lonestar,” they said, referring to the high cost of cell phone calls in Liberia, “but we hope we can do this again.  We really feel like we’re back in the classroom with you.”  Absolutely.  They had each charged their battery and spent at least $1 worth of credit just to talk to me.  Not only was Jonathan full of hope again, he was organizing his classmates and encouraging them to keep their dreams alive.

I can think of nothing I’d rather do on a Saturday night.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. suzanne permalink
    October 6, 2013 10:00 pm

    Becca! This is great! What a wonderful call to receive!
    I have a wide variety of students in my classes–especially the 100 level religion class that is required. Would you mind if I read your blog to my students? Perhaps you’d think the students here are very different from your students, but so many here feel that even if they get their BA degrees, the job market will leave them behind. I wonder if the creative move of your students would prompt my students to look ahead with hope. Talking and networking is one of the best ways I know to step forward.

    Please let me know what you think. Students everywhere have concerns.

    • October 6, 2013 10:09 pm

      Not at all, Aunt Suzanne. I would be flattered to have you share anything from my blog with your students. We are all more similar than we realize and the more we can do to bring about that understanding the better. Thank you for helping the cause!

  2. Robert Dahl permalink
    October 6, 2013 10:36 pm


  3. Anna Martin permalink
    October 16, 2013 8:40 pm

    Rebekah, your blog was so interesting. It sounds like you are really motivating your students. I have a question. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Voinjama in1981-82 doing curriculum development and teaching in the teacher’s extension school. I have heard that during the Civil War Voinjama was destroyed. Do you know if it has been rebuilt? Have you ever been there? I have great memories of my time there and hope life is coming back to the people of that area.
    Anna Martin

    • October 16, 2013 9:33 pm

      Hi Anna!

      Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for your comment–it’s always so good to hear from members of the PC-Liberia family. I have been to Lofa, but not all the way to Voinjama. I can tell you, however, that it is definitely still there! In fact, Peace Corps Volunteers have been serving at Voinjama Multi-Lateral High School for several years. I can tell you there is a Rural Teacher Training Institute in Zorzor, but I don’t know about any teacher training in Voinjama. I will try to find out who is there and pass your email address along to them. I’m sure they will be able to provide a lot more information about how the town is doing, but from what I hear it is quite large. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you have about Liberia, even though most of my experience has been in Nimba and Bong.


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