Zorzor, Lofa County – One hundred and fifty-six graduates were awarded pre-service “C” certificates, qualifying them to teach at the primary school level at a colorful ceremony witnessed by hundreds of people on the campus of the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute (ZRTTI) on June 21.
The graduates, mostly between the ages of 25 to 35 years old, are from Lofa, Bong and Nimba Counties. They are the most recent addition to a new cadre of teachers being trained by the Government of Liberia, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to ensure that qualified teachers are in classrooms across the country.
In a keynote address to the graduates, USAID/Liberia Mission Director John Mark Winfield, himself a former teacher, underscored the importance of increasing the enrollment of women in the teacher training program. Although the 30 women represented a larger proportion of the graduating class than in previous years, he urged authorities and stakeholders to continue their efforts to raise that proportion to at least 50 percent. Since the teacher training program was revamped in 2008, the Rural Teacher Training Institutes (RTTIs) in Zorzor, Kakata and Webbo have trained more than 5,300 teachers, with women accounting for only 15 percent of that number.
Director Winfield commended the graduates – men and women alike – for their dedication and persistence. He said there were many challenges ahead of them, and expressed confidence that they could overcome all obstacles. “You are now in the position to educate and shape the future leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, doctors, and yes—teachers—of Liberia,” he said. “By touching so many young lives, you can open the door… you can change the face…you can change the direction of Liberia”.
He said the United States Government remains a partner with Liberia in developing teacher education, emphasizing that Liberia and the United States have a common goal—to ensure every Liberian child has an opportunity to learn, a chance to be educated. He said the graduation of yet another group of qualified teachers is bringing both governments one step closer to achieving that goal.
Earlier, the Director of the ZRTTI, Dr. Advertus Orea Wright, called on the Liberian Government to elevate the institution to a full-fledged degree-granting college. He said that if Liberia is to compete internationally, granting “C” certificates is not enough.
In his remarks, Deputy Minister of Education for Administration, Ramses Kumbuyah, challenged the new teachers to aspire to greater heights and to serve as a role model for their students. He said the Ministry of Education is working with donors and partners to validate the credentials of teachers across the country with the objective of ensuring that all trained teachers have the opportunity to teach.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the USAID Liberia Teacher Training Program is supporting the Rural Teacher Training Institutes in Zorzor, Kakata and Webbo to develop teacher standards, improve curricula, provide teaching and learning resources and, through school-based teacher training, implement Liberia’s national plan to ensure all children are reading by the end of grade three.