Improving Learning and Retention in Northern Uganda (I-LEARN) Mid Term Review
Save the Children UK’s 2011 Liberia Emergency Response for Ivoirian Refugee
Exploring Effective Therapeutic Pedagogy for Traumatised Street Children Through Education
Education as Peace-builder
A (very) brief history of Liberia
Liberia lies on the south coast of West Africa sharing white sandy beaches with Sierra Leone to the west and Côte d’Ivoire to the East; Guinea lies above it to the north. At just over 160 years old, Liberia, The Home of Glorious Liberty, is a relatively young country. Founded by the American Colonisation Society for former slaves in the 1820s, the settlement declared its independence on July 26, 1847 under the flag it still bears today – a replica of the US flag but with only one large star. Since then the minority colonists’ Americanised way of life has dominated the country; including the language, Liberian-English, the currency, Liberian Dollar – which is used alongside, where not outright replaced by, the US Dollar – and trade, aid and other relations with the US (EOL, 2013) including direct flights to several US cities.
Since colonisation, interaction between colonists and so-called ‘natives’ has been contentious, culminating in 1980 with the overthrow of the Americo-Liberian government (World Bank 2005). In the following nine years Liberia experienced internal unrest, opposition to the new military regime and governmental repression; this culminated in the eruption of civil conflict in 1989, ending in 2003 with the installation of a transitional government. In 2005, democratic elections were held and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as Africa’s first female head of state. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 2011 for her women’s rights efforts Johnson Sirleaf was elected for a second term in the same year.
At the end of the war, over 90,000 former fighters disarmed, including 11,780 children (ROL 2008: 17), between 5 and 10 per cent of the population were killed and approximately one third of the population (over one million people) were displaced (World Bank 2005: 2).
Conflict has left the country with an uneducated population, nearly half of which are under 15 years of age. Infrastructures were completely destroyed – including an estimated 80% of schools (ROLMOE 2007) - economic activity was at a standstill, and a whole generation emerged scarred from over a decade of violence.
 From the third line of the Liberian national anthem, "All Hail, Liberia, Hail!" written by President Daniel Bashiel Warner (1815-1880).
 The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women, for women’s rights and education (Nobel, 2011).
 44% of the population of Liberia are under age 15 (ROL-MOE 2011).
Embassy of Liberia (EOL). (2013) Introductory Note. Online. Available at http://www.embassyofliberia.org.uk (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
Gayflor, V. (2013) The challenges faced by adolescent girls in Liberia. Online. Available at
http://www.unicef.org/sowc9/docs/SOWC9-Panel-3.7-EN.pdf (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
Nicholson, S. (2007) Assessment of the National Accelerated Learning Programme in Liberia. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Liberia and UNICEF. Unpublished manuscript.
UIS (2011) UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) Profile: Liberia. Online. Available at
http://stats.uis.unesco.org/unesco/TableViewer/document.aspx?ReportId=121&IF_Language=en&BR_Country=4300 (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
UNESCO. (2012). Liberia EFA Profile. Online. Available at
http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Dakar/pdf/EFA%20country%20profile%20%202012%20%20-%20Liberia.pdf (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
UNESCO. 2013. Education For All Movement. Online. Available at
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-all/ (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
UNICEF. (2013). Statistics at a Glance: Liberia. Online. Available at http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/liberia_statistics.html (accessed 9 Nov 2013)
Republic of Liberia, Ministry of Education (ROL-MOE). 2010. Appraisal of the 2010-2020 Education Sector Plan. Monrovia: Ministry of Education.
Republic of Liberia, Ministry of Education (ROL-MOE). 2011. Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy Second Annual Progress Report April 2009 - March 2010. Monrovia: Government of Liberia.
Republic of Liberia, Ministry of Education (ROL-MOE). 2013. EFA National Action Plan. Monrovia: Ministry of Education.
Therapeutic Mark-making with
Adults with Severe Learning Disabilities
A very successful session for three adults with moderate to severe learning and physical disabilities. Each person engaged with the painting task, despite limitations in motor-control, and each person displayed high levels of concentration during the mark making process and responded to their work with delight. The objective was to transfer each person’s hand and arm movements into brushstrokes thus capturing them in a finished painting.
The paint brush was placed into the hand of the service user, paint put on a plate and held in front of the brush – variations in the amount of water on the brush were tried, generally a drier brush to begin with and wetter at the end - a drier brush meant less flicking of paint, a wetter brush required more control. Hence, the longer each person painted for the more familiar they seemed to become with the process, which made brush strokes more controlled, in turn allowing the use of a wetter brush at the end (also tiredness could be a factor).
Each service user painted in the kitchen at the table wearing a disposable apron with sleeves rolled up. It was decided not to use the ‘art room’ as it was too small to work comfortably with wheelchairs and has no sink.
Service User A
A was very agitated that morning after washing and dressing so I decided to capitalise upon this energy by starting to paint with him immediately. To my surprise as soon as he was handed the paint brush (in his right hand) and began to apply paint to the canvas, he became calm. He appeared to recognise the correlation between his brush movements and the strokes on the canvas as evidenced by his utter absorption in the process and intent studying of the artwork as it formed – he is someone who will look away from something that is of no interest to him and will be very vocal in expressing his dislike. While A’s condition lends itself very well to the application of paint to canvas, due to his constant hand and arm spasms, I was delighted by how much recognition he showed of the process and appreciation of the final piece.
A used energetic sharp brush strokes to create intense drama in fiery dots, specks and jabs. He painted with the canvas held directly in front of him 50 cm from his chest at a slight angle for 20 minutes.
A became utterly engrossed in painting and it had a very calming effect on him. Engaging A in painting/drawing with crayons when he is agitated or restless may not only calm him but also exercises his cognitive skills.
Service User B
B is by nature very calm and content. She constantly moves her head in slow circular movements stopping only briefly when talked with or occasionally to watch something that catches her eye, like someone passing by or television images. I have observed that she generally does not move her hands very much except to itch her face or to push drink/food away when she is full. I have never seen her hold anything other than other people’s hands. So, when I laid the paintbrush in her left palm I was not surprised that she did not hold it – despite the fact that she often clenches her fists shut. However she did begin to move her right hand (she is left handed) and so I moved the brush to that hand. Because attempts to help her hold the brush independently were unsuccessful I helped her keep it in her hand by holding her hand and the brush lightly enough so that she could move freely. This allowed her very moderate (in comparison to A) jerking movements to be transferred into brushstrokes upon the canvas when it was held directly in front of her. For the first ten minutes progress was very, very slow and she continued to move her head around seemingly taking no notice of the process other than the occasional fleeting glance. She was, however, smiling a lot and communicating verbally with contented sighs. Suddenly after ten minutes she began to orient her face towards the paintbrush and watch what she was doing. She also began to waggle her head more from side to side and twitch her legs which caused her brush to move more, apparently by design. She maintained this process of subtle twitching and shaking to manoeuvre the brush for about fifteen minutes, following it with her eyes, roaming the surface of the canvas as if curious.
B used discreet sharp strokes to construct a strongly gestural composition from dots and curls in complex tints and hues. She painted with the canvas held 5 cm from her chest resting lightly in the crook of her left arm for 25 minutes.
Painting made B smile and captivated her attention for several minutes at a time, she also smiled often at people assisting her and kept eye contact. Engaging B in painting/drawing with crayons exercises her cognitive skills and allows her to bond more with the person assisting her.
Service User C
C was able to communicate verbally that she did not want to paint for she was concerned about getting messy. However after seeing the other paintings and that the other service users were not covered in paint she changed her mind. She selected her colours verbally and as she started it was clear that she was acutely conscious of the correlation between hand movement and brush stroke. Initially this hampered her because in trying to excerpt control over her movements they became more rigorous and ‘messy’. This also frustrated her. So I prompted her to take her time which gave her the control she sought. C occasionally jerks her hand uncontrollably so I placed my hand on the table between her hands to act as a barrier to stop her from painting herself. This made her relax even more and she continued to paint for half an hour. She was absorbed by the process and was able to instruct me verbally where to move the canvas and which part she wanted to paint.
C used wide horizontally arching strokes to create a distinctive vista of bold colour with some finer detail in waves and curls. She painted with the canvas held directly in front of her 15 cm from her chest for 30 minutes.
C was fully absorbed by the end of the activity as her confidence grew, talking throughout the process. Painting with C boosts her concentration on her motor-skills and confidence with her co-ordination, it also broadens her communication skills, in particular her descriptive vocabulary.