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Written by FPA Staff Report Published: 08 February 2014

Monrovia – It was nearly two years in the making. Last Wednesday, trainers, high school and elementary teachers, government representatives and NGO personnel gathered in a room for training on a new civics curriculum. It could be the start of something big for Liberia.

The training is part of a pilot program that will teach civics, human rights and peace to about 2,500 students across Liberia.

The curriculum, called –  “LAW+YOU: Rights & Responsibilities of the Liberian Citizen” uses interactive teaching techniques such as role-play, group presentation, discussion and brainstorming.

Interactive teaching is part of an international trend in teaching in some of the world’s best schools. Research suggests that active learning helps students retain more information and actually triples knowledge gains for students.

That is because, interactive lessons help students process the information in a different way than traditional lectures and homework, according to Harvard Magazine, Jan/Feb 2014.

At the helm for the training were legendary newsman and attorney, Kwame Clement and Tenneh Johnson Kemah, Director of Child Steps International Liberia (CSIL), a Liberian nonprofit group focused on improving the lives of vulnerable children and families.

CSIL produced the curriculum and the training with funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), and with the approval and assistance of the Ministry of Education.

“I came to this project late in the process. When I saw the potential for this program, I just said ‘how can I help?’” said Clement.

Training attendees were guided through the training by Clement, and participated in the same exercises that students will do when they return to school next week.

Teachers learned how to teach subjects, including: students’ rights and responsibilities as citizens; the structure and workings of our national government; the various branches of government and their respective functions; the role of the media in strengthening our democracy; and how to promote transparency in government and fight corruption.

“The training was very much inspirational to me personally,” said Francis Lansana, who works for the nonprofit Accountability Lab and was one of the training participants. “I think it is an idea needed in Liberia, because it serves as a call back to building the sense of patriotism in the minds of Liberians, which is a gateway to economic, social, cultural and political growth and development.”

Seven schools, including William V.S. Tubman High School, B.W. Harris Episcopal High School and Phebo High School in Maryland County will participate in the pilot project.

“The pilot phase of this project will give us an idea of any changes we need to make before this program is rolled out across the country,” said CSIL Director Kemah.

She wants to bring programs to Liberia that focus on the best interest of the child. “We are passionate about giving children and youth the tools they need to succeed. This program is just one piece of the picture.”

Full roll-out of the program to Liberia’s schools is expected to take place over the next two years.