Soltiamon School’s Fourth Grader Wins National Essay Competition

HARBEL, Margibi – A fourth-grade student of the Soltiamon Christian School System in Monrovia has been named as the winner of the first National Kids Essay Competition.

Eight-year-old Laurenda Kolleh became the winner of the competition after her essay focusing on the education system was judged as the best among three finalists.

The competition was organized by Kids Development Initiative, an organization that was established in Margibi to develop the minds of children between ages 7-15 through creative arts, public speaking, and radio presentation. It was held in collaboration with other organizations, including Youth for Change, YARD-Liberia, the Pelham Foundation, and the Liberia Children’s Representative Forum.

KDI’s founder, Saykwayee Henry, said the national essay competition was meant to encourage and develop excellent writing skills for young children across the country.

Henry said the initiative follows a study that revealed that most students at the primary school level were not as engaged in activities that would improve their writing.

L-R: Laurenda Kolleh, Michelle Gwaikolo, and Gift Samah, finalists of the national kids essay competition. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

Henry said the competition would help give the government an idea of the current challenges affecting knowledge-based learning in the country.

She said nearly 80 entries were received from 19 schools in 5 counties, but only 7 of the entries were qualified for the first stage of the exhibition. She said the rest of the entries had been directly copied from the internet.

Following the second stage of the competition that included presentations by the competitors, she said an additional two persons were dropped, resulting in three finalists.

“We allowed the seven children to read and express themselves. From there, we chose the best three for the final,” she explained.

The three finalists were judged by a team of independent judges.

Kolleh was judged the best among her competitors which included 15-year-old Michelle Gwaikolo of the St. Kathleen McGuire Memorial School in Paynesville, and 14-year-old Gift Samah of the St. Pius 10th Catholic School in Harbel. Gwaikolo and Samah took second and third places, respectively. The winner received a certificate and a cash prize of L$15,000 (US$97) while the second and third place winners received LS$11,000 (US$71) and L$10,000 (US$65), respectively.

Kolleh said she was happy to be named as the winner. In her essay, the fourth-grade student said she believes that the education system was messy because of poor infrastructure, unqualified teachers, and a lack of learning materials for students.

She also generally blamed the parents, students, the government, and school administrators for the current state of education in Liberia, noting that everyone has a role to play in the provision of quality education.

“How many of our parents regularly check on their children’s performance in school?” she noted. Kolleh added that there are some parents who are bent on changing the class and schools of their children when they are asked to repeat a class because they did not perform well enough to be promoted.

While students may agree to pay bribes to teachers for grades, she wondered how many school administrators were curious about the learning quality of students, rather than the fees they received. At the same time, she said poor monitoring and supervision by the government was a major challenge affecting the quality of learning outcomes of schools.

She called for each stakeholder to play their role properly in order to ensure that the quality of education in Liberia is improved and based on merits.

For her part, Satta Sheriff, the founder of Youth for Peace and the former speaker of the Liberia Children’s Representative Forum, praised the winners of the essay competition and challenged children across the country to be continuously engaged in reading and writing.

Sheriff also praised the organizers of the competition for their farsightedness and called on local and international organizations working in the interest of children to direct support to such initiative.

Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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