Liberia: The School that Absorbs “Zogoes”

Christian High School, situated between 15th and 16th Streets, 
Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia

Monrovia – A Liberian Educator, a Christian Clergyman, is stuck to his vision of reforming Liberia’s street-inhabiting, self-reared, crime-surviving urchins — locally called “Zogoes” — through his educational institution.   

Report by Report by Samuel G. Dweh—freelance journalist (+231-886618906/776583266/[email protected])

He says he’s not frightened by some of the students’ terrifying reactions to the school’s disciplinary actions: continuous smacking (banging) of the school’s metal gates and threatening to flog any school’s officials who had “harshly punished” them.

“I don’t call them zogoes like most Liberians describe them. I call them disadvantaged, self-reared, poor young men and women, who should be given the opportunity of getting quality education as it is done to fortunate children being taken care of by their parents or the national government,” said Administrator Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Zarwulugbo Liberty, Sr., Founder of the Christian High School, in an interview on Monday, October 7.

Established in 2000, Christian High School, which has other grade-levels and has recently expanded to include Early Childhood Development (Nursery), isn’t for only ‘zogoes’, added School Administrator Liberty, who is also Founder and national president, Church of the Believers, Inc. of the Christian and Missionary Alliance in the same Sinkor area.

Educator Liberty, born in 1948, explained further: “This vision, of providing opportunities for society’s young outcasts, popularly called zogos in our country, together with privileged children, has its source in my biological father, a popular humanitarian in his days. He was a game hunter. Whenever he killed any big animal, his house was swarmed by people from other homes appealing to him for their share of the meat. Some of the people came from outside of our village named Zarwulugbo Town.”

The vision became ignited when Mr. Liberty became a Christian, replacing the Traditional African Religious belief he had been a part of through his father, Zarwulugbo Gorsan. 

“The reignited vision started in 2002, when I established the Africa International Christian Mission, or AICM, a platform for all my humanitarian works in the United States of America,” he said.

He said he was in the United States of America when AICM was founded, and he was sending at least one thousand and five hundred US dollars down to the leadership of his Church in Liberia to implement the vision.

“Much of the money, I sent down went to education for children whose parents were financially handicapped and so were out of school,” Dr. Liberty said.

According to the Founder, would-be beneficiaries of the AICM’s scholarship program were orphans or those living with parents/guardians, who were financially handicapped. 

Starting in Liberia, the AICM restricted its scholarship scheme to only electoral district number 9 of Montserrado County, where the Founder had been living before he travelled to America.

“We did a survey to ascertain a family’s financial status that qualifies a dependent for the scholarship. We sent out church members to homes in the districts, to see the kind of house the family occupies, the number of biological children and adopted children in the house, and the kind of food they were surviving on most of the time,” the Vision bearer explained.

The first survey brought over 1,500 young people anxious to get education, the AICM president recalled.

Mr. Liberty said education at the Christian High School is tuition-free.

“Only registration is required and it varies with a person’s grade level,” he added.

The Registration fee is as follows: US$50, for Day Care—Nursery; US$20 for Kindergarten; US$20 for Elementary; US$25 for Junior High (7th-9th grades); US$35 for Senior High (10th-12th grades).

“The registration fee is for the entire academic year,” Principal Liberty, noted.

The school’s policy of student-per-class room is 45, but some classes have more than the number and some students who come late to school can’t find a space in their respective classrooms.

“Honestly, Christian High School is over-populated, and I think our tuition-free policy and regular-free feeding are the main causes,” Administrator Liberty admitted. 

Another thing each student is expected to provide is school uniform—white shirt and blue skirt or blouse.

Another component of Educator Liberty’s vision is ‘free feeding’ program for the entire student population—morning’s session. 

“We cater to over 700 students for the morning’s session and 400 students in the afternoon’s session,” he said, raising his voice over pandemonium from students in a long and serpentine food queue down stairs, many pushing or shoving their colleagues refusing to obey the be-in-the-line rule. “Some of these students had slept on empty stomach throughout the nighttime, and many couldn’t find anything to eat before coming to school.”

The free feeding program, the vision bearer disclosed, is made possible from voluntary contributions of partner-Churches and friends.

With no financially big organization or the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations behind Christian High School’s free feeding program, providing food for over 1000 hungry students would be impossible some days.

“When there’s no food or money to cook, we won’t cook. But, as long as the Giver, God, continues providing the means to feed these hungry and poor kids and young adults, I will make sure they have something to eat before returning to where they had come from,” the Christian School proprietor said.

On the other side, Rev. Liberty’s educational vision — tuition-free education and free feeding — has flooded his institution with persons who exhibit different negative attitudes.

“Some of the students in this school are zogoes and many of them take in narcotic substances. We have found knives, scissors and narcotic substances—marijuana and opium—in the book bags of some of the students,” said 45-year-old Mr. Roosevelt Z. Liberty, Jr., Vice Principal of Students Affairs, in an interview on the school campus on Monday, October 7. 

“We won’t allow our sympathy of providing a relatively-free education to exceed our interest of providing a safe learning environment.”

The school’s gate security guard, Hilary Johnson, interrupted the interview with the VPSA, who is the eldest child of the School’s Founder/Administrator.

“Chief, I’ve just arrested a bottle containing egg nug mixed with grass from a female student’s book bag!” Hilary reported to the VPSA, and displayed a glass container with creamy liquid. “You know, last week we arrested a bottled honey with opium hidden in another student’s bag.”

The culprit, a dark-complexion, swollen-lips girl, was marched out of the fence.

“I will attack you, if you don’t give my bottle back to me,” she threatened the security while going out.

On the same day, the School’s Administrative Body expelled the entire 10th Grade-2 class over refusal to disclose the identity of a classmate, who had written on the wall in the class on Wednesday, October 5.

“The class disobeyed my instruction to show the culprit, regardless of my threat to expel the entire class if it continues hiding the wrongdoer,” Administrator (Rev.) Liberty, Sr. complained during interview.

But the school’s administrative body later pardoned and called back to school on Monday, October 8, after the culprit confessed, the VPSA disclosed to this writer.

Some visitors to Christian High had given reports on “criminal records” of some its ‘new students’.

“I can’t throw these students out on what other had said against them, until they had exhibited in this school the same vices reported against them,” Principal Liberty, Sr. said.

On the school campus on Wednesday, October 3; and Monday, October 7, I saw some students ‘sacking’—trouser hanging far below the buttocks, belt loosened.

Teacher Christopher Cooper, 28, of the afternoon’s session, says he doesn’t experience the ‘zogoic’ attitudes from students his colleagues most often complain about.

“The students are calmed and behave responsibly in each of my classes,” said the young teacher handling Science for classes 3 to 6; General Science for grades 7 and 9th; and Biology for grade 10 to 12. 

Rev. Liberty’s Mission, being shared by all other persons at Christian High School, is to build a future leadership that will obey rules.

“We are molding a future leadership of Liberians, who will be law-abiding, especially following public order rule like standing in a queue to enter a public vehicle. This is not happening in most of the places—even at religious centers,” he said.

Christian High School was one of the few educational institutions that absorbed former ex-fighters after the Liberian civil war. Those ex-fighters, who had come out to be civil.

“Some people opposed our taking them into our school, but I stood my ground on my vision of providing education for all persons—including former killers,” said Dr. Liberty, who got much of his orientation in the U.S. where he served as a missionary and ran a teaching-and-feeding Organization from 2001 to 2017.