By Lilliane Pitters
14-year-old Alice struggles to hold back tears as she talks about her family. In the end her tears win, spilling over as she sobs quietly into a tissue. She's mourning the loss of two people.
Her father, John, left home several years ago and mysteriously never returned. Alice and her family think he died of Ebola, alone and unidentified. After his disappearance, a tumultuous period followed forcing Alice to drop out of school and work alongside her mother in the markets and streets to earn money to provide for her three siblings.
Eventually, Alice's mother remarried a kind man named Harris who gave Alice and her siblings his name, some stability and a baby brother, Small Harris. Then sadly, at the age of three the little boy tragically died, resulting in months of heartbreak for Alice.
"I miss him so much," cries Alice. "And I wish my father would come back!"
Now, Alice finds comfort in her school, the Slip Way Public School in Liberia where she is in the Grade 6 class.
"I enjoy coming to school every day, even when I walk a long way
and I have no money for lunch," says Alice. "At least I talk to my best friend and we play games in class."
This term, Alice and her classmates are learning English using Right To Play's play-based methodology. Their teacher, who happens to be Alice's stepfather, leads them in games where the students have to string a series of words together to make a correct sentence. They have to identify a noun, a verb and an adjective, while practicing their verb conjugation. Alice giggles as she makes up sentences to explain the process.
"The old woman is eating all the food."
"The bad girls are climbing the mango trees."
Because she enjoys the word games so much, English has become her favourite subject. "I can use English in every part of my life," says Alice. "Language is very important, because we use it all the time. Before the games, I didn't do so well in English, but now I am among the best in my class."
Alice has a plan for success for when she grows up. "I am going to be a musician," says Alice, smiling. "When I sing I feel better. I sing at church and I sing at school during devotion time. I will have enough money to help my mother and my family. My children will not suffer because I will have money to take them to hospital."
In 2015, Right To Play launched the Play for the Advancement of Quality Education (PAQE) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in eight countries including Liberia, PAQE uses Right To Play's experiential learning methodology to build teacher capacity and remove barriers to education to improve learning outcomes.