BY ALVIN S. JOHNSON, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
In December of last year, the village of Sanniquellie, Nimbia County in the Republic of Liberia, Africa saw a dream realized with the opening of the Early Childhood and Development Center. This Center provides a learning environment initially for some 100 children, ages two to four.
When completed the Center will have a multipurpose library, a conference room and six classrooms.
The Director of the Center is Pastor Peter S. Gonway.
In recognition of the person, who is a staunch catalyst for the realization of that dream, the school is named The Sia Barbara Ferguson Kamara ECD Center.
Barbara Ferguson Kamara is a native of Wilmington, NC and a member of the Williston Senior High School Class of 1959.
Barbara’s association with Liberia dates to her serving there in the Peace Corps after graduating from Johnson C. Smith University. Her early assignment was to teach mathematics to students and teachers.
After leaving the Peace Corps, Barbara has had a distinguished career establishing herself as one of the foremost authorities, in the nation, in the field of early childhood education.
President Jimmy Carter appointed her as Associate Commissioner in the Department of Health and Human Services where she was responsible for the National Head Start Program, the Appalachian Regional Commission child development programs, child care regulations and research and demonstration programs. Her last position was Administrator of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services’ Early Care and Education Administration.
Since her Peace Corps days, Barbara has made countless trips to Liberia consulting with the government as the country seeks to make early childhood development one of its priorities.
Barbara says “I have been able to build lifelong relationships not only with government officials but with the villagers. I have been emboldened by their absolute commitment to solving the problem of literacy.”
To give some perspective, early childhood participation in the schools is less than 30%. The overall literacy rate for the 15-24 age category is about 60% for males and for females 40%..
No wonder Barbara has stated a hope in her Vision Statement that “Liberians will realize that building a strong foundation starting with the first 1,000 days of a child’s life will contribute significantly to the transformation of the education system and improved economic vitality for Liberia.”
At the dedication service, Dr. Yar Doniah Gonway-Gono, the President of the local community college and the brainchild of the Center thanked Barbara for her level of hard work that allowed this village to carry on in molding the minds of this young generation.
Barbara joins a group of other Class of 1959 Williston graduates who have facilities named for them. Rachel Freeman Elementary School of Engineering is named for the late Mae Rachael Freeman, former Chairperson of the New Hanover Board of Education. McNeil Residence Hall at North Carolina A and T University bears the name of Joseph McNeil, civil rights leader of the “Greensboro Four”. This is quite a testimony to the Williston Legacy and to the Class of 1959.
Alvin S, Johnson is also a member of the Williston Class of 1959.