ALP PLUS Provides Young Adults a Second Chance at Education

June 8, 2009


Second chances are rare for Liberia’s young adults, particularly those in their early thirties who lack a basic education. But ALP PLUS is enabling many young adults to receive an education.

Susanna is among them. She’s a graduate of Creative’s ALP PLUS classes, an accelerated learning program that has enabled her to earn her sixth-grade certificate in just three years.

To help convey the challenges that Liberia’s young adults confront, Susanna plays a character in an ALP PLUS workshop performance. In the play, Sarah’s character must withstand the taunts of loitering, unemployed youth on her way to and from school. She finally complains about the youth to her school leaders and town elders and soon, dialogue between the youth and elders helps convince a few of Sarah’s tormentors to return to school themselves.

The workshop drama was created by graduates of the ALP PLUS program and produced under the direction of Talking Drum Studios, a program partner that also produces the program’s weekly broadcast about youth issues, “Let’s Learn Together.”ALP PLUS is implemented by Creative Associates International, Inc. with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

At the Gbarnga retreat center in Liberia’s Bong County, the audience applauds and the play’s cast introduce themselves.

“I am Susanna and I am a graduate of ALP PLUS and am now in the seventh grade.”

“I am Stephen and I am a graduate of ALP PLUS and am now in the seventh grade.”

When she was 11, Susanna’s hometown came under attack by various factions vying for power. For the next 15 years, periods of calm were followed by periods of extreme violence, making normal life impossible, including attending school. When the fighting came close to Gbarnga, Susanna and her neighbors fled to the forest. “But, still, it was not safe,” said Susanna. Still, during this period, she managed to acquire three years of schooling.

Liberia is a country transitioning from nearly 23 years of civil strife, a period during which the government lost the capacity to provide educational services. Even where rudimentary schooling was available, families could hardly benefit because they were constantly on the move to avoid capture.

The ALP PLUS program gives Liberian youth hope for a better future. The program’s youth component serves youth and young adults ages 15 to 35 in six of the country’s 15 counties and enables participants to acquire basic primary education plus life skills training. Since the program’s launch, 833 have graduated. Without ALP PLUS, Susanna, Stephen and the majority of their fellow students would have to resort to learning to read and write in classes with children six, seven and eight years old.

“At the age of 31, there is no way that I could have gone to day school to sit among young children,” said Susanna recalling that her son, 6 years old at the time, told her, ‘Mommie, you’re too big to go to school!’ “I told him he was wrong.”

To Stephen, 26, relative calm prevailed in his hometown in the 1990s, enabling him to attend school for five years. He joined ALP PLUS in 2007. “I found the ALP PLUS classes different from the classes that I attended in the past,” he said. “ALP allows us to openly discuss among ourselves. In the conventional classes the teacher did most of the talking.”

ALP PLUS’ student-centered curriculum also includes math, language arts, social studies and life skills. Last May, Susanna and Stephen were two of 148 Bong County youth who completed ALP PLUS.

Susanna plans to continue her schooling and wants ultimately to study economics and attend Cuttington University, Liberia’s oldest. Stephen’s personal aspiration is to improve his masonry skills and move beyond the status of a daily hire so that he could “learn a new vocational trade that will enable me to be productive.”

—Gail von Hahmann with assistance from Aaron Kokolie, ALP PLUS Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Phoebe Waritay, ALP PLUS Training Officer, Kenneth Harding, ALP PLUS Program Development Officer for Youth and from Talking Drum Studio radio drama production team.

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