In partnership with the Books for Africa and the Rotary Club of Northfield, Project Blackboard will be shipping 30,000 books to Liberia free of cost to all recipients. The non-profit organization is currently seeking schools, libraries and non-profit organizations interested in receiving the books.
Wokie Daboh is the founder and Executive Director of Project Blackboard, a non-profit organization with a mission to improve the quality of life through education by rebuilding classrooms and by providing educational tools and resources to students and teachers in Liberia. We interviewed Daboh about her current project and her work with Project Blackboard.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell us about Project Blackboard.
At Project Blackboard, we select schools that have an immediate need, yet can sustain the resources and support provided through their partnership with us. We conduct an on-site needs assessment at each school and then develop school improvement plans.
In developing these plans, we believe that it is important to apply information gathered from students, teachers and administrators for a comprehensive picture of the school’s needs. In developing the school, we focus on the areas of classrooms, students, and teachers.
What inspired you to found Project Blackboard?
During my first trip to Liberia in 2010, I learned that what appeared to be abandoned buildings, were schools that had been destroyed after 14 years of civil war. As I took a deeper look, I saw that not only were the schools destroyed, but students and teachers were passionate about education.
However, they didn’t have the resources to be successful in the classroom. I did more research and learned that this was an issue that plagued the country. For every textbook, there are three students, only 3% of primary and secondary schools have electricity, and 50% of the schools were destroyed during the civil war.
I decided that I wanted to help make a difference for those students and teachers in Liberia. In 2013, I started a non-profit organization called Project Blackboard. Our mission is to rehabilitate classrooms and provide students and teachers educational tools and resources. In providing this support to students and teachers, Project Blackboard hopes to raise the educational esteem for young Liberians, encouraging them to look to education to make the greatest difference and impact in their lives.
What were some of the unexpected hurdles you experienced while starting this venture and what were some of the unexpected benefits?
Doing non-profit work in a country you don’t live in can be very challenging. I’m learning that you have to be on the ground as much as you can to get things done. You also have to rely on committed Liberians like the principal of my current partner school, Sayan Kamara, and my project manager Samuel Nyarko that are passionate about the work – they help to get things done.
Tell us about the 30,000 books donation you received and what you are doing with it?
The books are for school, libraries and organizations – the books are free of charge! Through our partnership with Books for Africa and the Rotary Club of Northfield, we have taken care of all shipping fees. We are looking to find the books a great home!
What do you consider as the best milestone for Project Blackboard?
July 2014 marked a critical milestone for Project Blackboard. Three months after we launched, we rehabilitated our first classroom and facilitated our two-week “Back to the Basics” teacher training workshop for our 21 teachers at Jerusalem Elementary and Middle School in Monrovia, Liberia.
Despite the socio-economic barriers our teachers are faced with, we encourage them to find creative, effective and efficient solutions to providing our students with the best educational experience possible. We are even more focused now on continuing to deepen our partnership with the school and teachers to providing them with intangible and tangible tools and resources that will equip them to meet the educational needs of the students and eliminating the educational inequalities that exist in Liberia.
It was the raining season in Liberia during our “Back to the Basics” teacher training workshop, and it rained throughout the day and night. With such heavy rain and flooded streets, our team worried about the teacher’s attendance for the training. In the pouring rain, one by one all the teachers started to walk into the classroom. Committed to improving their craft as teachers and eradicated the educational inequalities that exist in Liberia, for two weeks all of our 21 teachers attended the training.
Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think it was going to lead you?
A year and a half later I am in awe of the support and love that I have seen people give to Project Blackboard. Most importantly I am honored that God placed this work on my heart.