Liberian envisions 'light' for his homeland through education

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Menyon finds the comparison between what he experienced academically at San Diego State University and what he sees in the villages of Morweh, West Liberia disturbing, even moving.

Menyon attended SDSU and received his bachelor's in accounting, and later, his masters degree in computer science from National University. Then he went home to Morweh, 176 miles from Liberia's capital city of Monrovia.

He saw a few children studying ABCs by candlelight with one piece of paper.

"I felt guilty coming out of that environment years ago, feeling bad that I haven't given back anything to that village," he said. "I want them to have basic education."

But it's more than that.

"Without a general education, it's difficult to educate people about spiritual things," he said.

Most of the villagers in Morweh cannot read and write, so "they really cannot 'know' what is written in the Scriptures," Menyon said. "They are tossed to and fro by any winds of doctrine.

"Ignorance breeds superstitions, fears, doubts, confusion, hatred, witchcraft, etc.," he said.

So Menyon formed the Morweh Educational Development Foundation and when he approached the village elders, they asked, "What can we do to help?" Menyon asked for land for a campus, and the elders offered 100 acres.

The couple purchased several brick-making machines, chainsaws, steel rods and cement for the projects. When he returns to Liberia in December, the people will start laying the foundation for the school.


A triple-focused template
Menyon said the school will follow a template he has seen in a few facilities in Monrovia. First, a kindergarten- through 12th-grade program will educate the young in a Christian environment.

"It would mirror the education system in the United States by incorporating a more Westernized, interactive program, as well as some of the typical system in Liberia, which involves memorization, regurgitation of what is memorized, and taking notes," Menyon said.

The school would incorporate typical general studies, "but also would teach the Bible," he said.

"The school system permits Bible to be in the curriculum; and we want to take them back to the Bible—to nondenominational, sound biblical teaching about Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, and about how we got our Bible, how God came to earth in His Son, Jesus, and if we believe in Him, we will go to heaven."

Menyon said it is important to "capture a generation that would be lost otherwise." Orphans from surrounding villages will be relocated, cared for, and educated on the campus, but also, "many children lost their parents in the (Liberian civil) war," he said, "and we want to step in to rescue them."


Adult literacy
Because thousands of teens dropped out of school and became rebels during Liberia's civil war, the second focus of the school template is an adult literacy program.

"It was easy to brainwash teens and put a gun in their hands during the war," Menyon said. "Some of them, now 21- to 23-year-olds, don't know how to read or write. We want to start a night school for them."

The school would also educate the elders in the village.

The third school focus is a Bible college.

"The villages are cut off from the rest of society," Menyon said, "and the typical preacher doesn't know how to read or write, so they rely on what they hear from other preachers. False doctrine has become a problem. We want to bring these preachers into a seminary."

Having educated pastors, he said, is also a factor in combating superstition and spiritual darkness.

"This is why we need to build this school," Menyon said. "There is so much superstition—voodoo, witchcraft. We're trying to take a stab at that, and it begins with education."


'Afraid of the papers'
Menyon, 50, met his wife, Sonja, in San Diego, Calif. They attend Bethel Baptist Church where Menyon has been a member since 1985. The church sponsored him for two of his years in college.

"My father was 30 when he died, and was not educated, and people took advantage of him," Menyon said. "My mother pushed for all of her children to get an education. My parents farmed rice to get money to send us to school. All 10 of us—five boys and five girls—finished high school.

"My father and grandfather said that back in the 1940s and 1950s, people would arrive in the villages and hold out a paper, saying, 'The government says to do this; do exactly what we say'—and nobody could read the paper. So the people with the papers would take goats, sheep and cattle. People were afraid of the papers. A remnant of that fear is still in the villages."

He knows that good teachers will make a difference.

While some teachers for the campus might be trained by retired U.S. teachers, teachers would primarily be trained by the United Nations through funding under the U.N. Mission in Liberia. But without a facility, the government cannot send trained, paid teachers to Morweh—a fact that motivates Menyon to move quickly to raise funds for the campus.

"I hate asking people for money," he said, "but when I go back to the villages, it takes away the pride I have," he said. "I'm not afraid to ask for help, because it will go to help those children."

Menyon said he hopes others will catch his vision, as did his pastor, Dr. John Ringgold. The church helped Menyon ship a 40-foot-long container full of medical supplies, clothes, and other goods. Menyon would like others to see the project firsthand.

For more information, visit www.morweh-edf.org.


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