Building the capacity of Liberians to rebuild their country is the goal of many international and domestic organizations working throughout the country. One domestic organization trying to educate and train future professionals and technicians hopes to one day provide a new cadre of forestry technicians and mechanics, though given its current low capacity, it faces many challenges in adequately educating its students.
On a recent visit to the Forestry Training Institute (FTI), it was readily apparent that the basic infrastructure of the school was in need of repair. From buildings without roofs to desks that are almost too small to take notes on, the basics needed to hold classes are limited. The school grounds were home to a contingent of UN Peacekeepers who helped to rehabilitate a few of the buildings but given that the school used to have nine dormitories, staff housing, a cafeteria, and several classrooms, it is disheartening to see the lack of resources now available to students.
As the only forestry school in the sub-region (constituting Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast), FTI was a well-regarded establishment before the war. Recently, the school has begun to again offer courses. With limited funds from the government, the director was attempting to provide teachers and resources for 120 students. Now, there are about 75 students remaining as they have either been disheartened by the limited capacity of the school or have decided to pursue other options.
The director expressed the need for qualified instructors to teach curriculum. Currently there are 19 instructors but only nine are provided any salary. The rest are volunteering their time-as they understand the importance of training future forestry technicians. Being that the public and private universities here do not offer environmental science or forestry degrees, this school is vital to the proper functioning of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in the coming years. The FDA is the ministry in charge of overseeing the country’s forests and wildlife.
Even with the paid and voluntary instructors, students do not have textbooks or a library in which to study their coursework. And the texts that the teachers are using seem largely outdated. I recently perused the botany text being used by instructor Patrick Garteh, which was dated from the 1960s and only had black and white photos. With no color photos and limited ability to study tree species in the field, the ability for students to identify tree species correctly seems limited.
Director Florma hopes that a partnership with an international logging company or an American university could provide some resources to help augment the current capacity of the school. Additionally, through some advocacy work, hopefully we can ensure a post or two can be created for a Peace Corps Volunteer to teach at the school, as occurred prior to the war.
As the future budget allocation from the government does not look to be increased substantially, it seems new partnerships will be vital to the ability for FTI to graduate qualified, knowledgeable forestry technicians and mechanics.
Posted By Adam Welti
Posted Aug 12th, 2009