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Jeffrey Elkner

Sparking a CS/ICT Educational Effort in Monrovia


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Background

Last November, my dear friend and colleague, Isaac Zawolo, was appointed superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), in the capitol of the West African nation of Liberia. Isaac and I have been working together at the Arlington Career Center since 2007, where we were among the first instructors to offer dual enrolled classes, in math and computer science respectively, at our school.

Ever since George Weah was elected president in the Fall of 2017 as part of the Coalition for Democratic Change, there was the real possibility that Isaac would receive a high ranking appointment to serve Liberia's education system. I have been talking with him since that time about my interest in helping his effort should that happen by volunteering to teach the same computer science and web development curricula I have developed in Arlington.

Now that he is superintendent, I will be heading to Monrovia as soon as school in Arlington lets out for Summer recess.

What I Hope to Accomplish

Superintendent Zawolo told me he is interested in reproducing in Monrovia the kind of concurrent enrollment program we helped launch in Arlington. My main goal in going to Liberia this Summer will be to do just that, by teaching courses in web development and computer programming to a group of gifted students in the district. I further hope to develop a partnership between the web development cooperative I started with Kevin Cole back in 2012, NOVA Web Development, and MCSS. I am deeply passionate about the solidarity economy movement and the possibilities for worker cooperatives to lead to a more just and democratic life for working people the world over. The best possible outcome from my trip to Liberia would be to begin a process that eventually leads to membership of some of the students who begin studying with me this Summer in the cooperative.

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Immediate Tasks

With lofty dreams and goals as inspiration and motivation, what needs to be done immediately is to gather the minimal resources needed to begin working when I arrive in June. Liberia is a poor country, and I am fully aware of the problems that severe lack of resources are likely to cause in any effort like the one I am planning for this Summer. I expect both Internet access and even electricity may be intermittent, and know in advance that computers will be in short supply.

It is toward addressing that last, crucial resource necessity that I am focusing my efforts at present. The National Honor Society chapter at my school has generously taken on the task of helping to find donated laptops for my students in Monrovia to use this Summer. Any make or model, regardless of age, would be useful for this effort provided it is still in working order. I am hoping to gather between 15 and 30 such laptops by mid April so that they can begin their 8 week journey to Liberia in time to be there when I arrive.