History of the Peace Corps in Liberia
History of the Peace Corps in Liberia
Liberia has a remarkable history with Peace Corps. More than 3,800 Volunteers served in Liberia between 1962 and 1990. During those years, Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) served in every facet of Liberia’s development efforts with an emphasis on education, agriculture, rural development, and health education. Although the program closed in 1990 due to civil war, the Peace Corps is still fondly remembered and well loved in Liberia; most people over the age of 30 had a Peace Corps teacher at some point during their education. The Peace Corps re-entered Liberia with a team of 12 Peace Corps Response Volunteers (PCRVs) in October 2008. Peace Corps Response Volunteers are returned Peace Corps Volunteers who undertake short-term assignments around the world.
In 2010, Peace Corps/Liberia began transitioning to a full Peace Corps program, with the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arriving in June 2010. These PCVs will be in the secondary education project, working as English, science, and math teachers. Peace Corps/Liberia will continue to utilize both PCVs and PCRVs as part of a complementary and solid response to the development needs of the country.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Liberia
The mainstay of Peace Corps programming is education. Many past Volunteers were classroom teachers and, as we look forward, Peace Corps Volunteers will continue the tradition of education.
As a result of the civil war, it is reported that 80 percent of the country’s schools were destroyed. The war also led to the flight of well trained teachers and erratic pay and compensation for those who remained. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), approximately 65 percent of teachers have no teacher training background. The MOE has a long-term goal to train everyone; however, it is a long and slow process. To support the government’s efforts to maintain quality services in the classroom, through strengthening the capacity of school teachers, Peace Corps is providing support through both Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Response Volunteers.
Peace Corps Volunteers
In 2010, Peace Corps/Liberia begins transitioning to a full Peace Corps program with the first group of Volunteers arriving in June 2010. These Volunteers will be in the education project, working as English, science, and math teachers. The Volunteers are placed at one or sometimes two schools where they have an opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of Liberian youth, by providing them with educational instruction and opportunities for extracurricular activities. Assignments are to teach at the junior or senior secondary level. All Peace Corps Volunteers are trained in the communicative approach teaching methodology. Volunteers are challenged to implement this interactive methodology in their classrooms and to link lessons to practical applications based on their student’s interests, needs, and daily lives.
Other Peace Corps Volunteer work activities include creating after-school tutoring and clubs, organizing sports teams, supporting Parent Teacher Associations, teacher training, promoting life skills and facilitating peer mentoring, and organizing libraries. Some Volunteers undertake additional secondary assignments in a variety of other areas based on local needs and personal ability, including establishing model gardens, conducting sanitation and hygiene campaigns, etc.
Peace Corps Response Volunteers
Peace Corps Response Volunteers (PCRVs) are focusing on education in a variety of sectors, but the theme of education is present in all assignments. The following information will give an idea of the types of need in the country and how the work of Peace Corps Response Volunteers is addressing them. Three Rural Teacher Training Institutes (RTTIs) were established in the 1960s to produce teachers prepared for rural conditions and needs. After a closure for 15 years due to the war, the three institutes have been reconstructed, new staff members have been recruited, and the creation of a new program is underway. PCRVs are mentoring the leadership of the RTTIs to strengthen the institutions as they re-launch. Liberia is among the highest in the world in maternal and child mortality rates. Over the past three decades the number of practicing physicians in Liberia has dropped from over 800 to less than 50. Mid-level health professionals provide the bulk of health services as Liberia tries to rebuild the health sector. The training of midwives is a priority so new programs have been established. Peace Corps Response Volunteers are providing professional midwife instruction, as well as remedial math and English to help raise the skill level of students in these newly established educational programs.
Other Peace Corps Response Volunteer assignments include supporting Parent Teacher Associations, continuing education for health care practitioners, and organizing libraries. The needs are as varied as the areas of assignment, but the theme of education is constant.
See also: Liberia