Operation Classroom reaffirms commitment to Africa

Operation Classroom leaders visited Liberia and Sierra Leone recently to reaffirm their commitment to Africa and strengthen contributions to the countries’ education programs.

For more than 30 years, Operation Classroom has partnered with the two West African countries to improve secondary education, with a focus on vocational training. The United Methodist organization, which is supported by U.S. conferences in Indiana, has provided thousands of scholarships for students who might not otherwise be able to afford an education.

Operation Classroom is currently sponsoring about 200 students in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Though the Operation Classroom scholarship is directed toward United Methodist schools, recipients don’t have to be United Methodist.

During the meeting with the directors of United Methodist schools in both countries, Operation Classroom leaders shared financial challenges and talked about possible solutions.

“The same stresses that you are dealing (with) as recipients are the same stresses that we are facing as donors,” said the Rev. Bob Coolman, the former head of Operation Classroom, who visited alongside the current CEO/President, the Rev. Monty C. Barker.

Operation Classroom closed its offices in the two West African countries a few years ago due to funding short-falls and difficulties providing scholarships for students while paying staff salaries.

Operation Classroom’s 2016 Internal Revenue Service 990 form, which it filed as a nonprofit, showed income of $204,158, down from $368,856 the previous year. 

According to Coolman, the drop in donor funding necessitated the closure of the offices, adding, “We could not be dividing the little money that we were getting between students, staff and other activities such as shipping books of educational materials to Africa.”



Donations to Operation Classroom can be made through United Methodist Global Ministries’ Advance #3020494 (Liberia) and Advance #12922A (Sierra Leone).

Coolman, currently Volunteer in Mission for Operation Classroom, also noted that the issue of human sexuality that has created divides within The United Methodist Church has added to the financial stress facing the partnership in recent times.

“Individuals, especially donors, are taking a wait-and-see position, not knowing which group in the church to send their money to,” Coolman said.

Barker urged the leaders of the various schools to share their students’ success stories so that donors will know what kind of impact their donations are making in the lives of the young people. He said stories from the students themselves will be very useful in their effort to raise more funds.

“I want for us to increase our involvement by providing more scholarships for these students,” he said.

He called on school administrators in both countries to help provide Operation Classroom with tangible information that will be useful to donors as they seek to provide valuable educational opportunities to the children of Africa.

The Rev. Sampson Nyanti, former director of the Liberian church’s education department, said Operation Classroom has been very helpful in supporting the schools that are benefiting from the scholarship initiatives. He pointed out that since most of the schools are operating based on tuitions, most of the Operation Classroom scholarship-funded schools are doing well in paying their teachers.

“We hope the administrations of the benefiting schools can plan realistic budgets based on their request to Operation Classroom,” he said.

Joseph Pormai, Education Secretary for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, said that giving the scholarships to those who need such help and making accountable and transparent reports would help keep the long-standing relationship between the two West African countries and Operation Classroom on track.

“Accountability pays a lot. If you have to make a report, make it well and on time,” Pormai urged school administrators during the visit.

Coolman said he continues to believe in helping students in Africa.

“Operation Classroom is committed to supporting education in Africa because we know the role that education played during your fight against the Ebola virus,” he said, referencing the outbreak that killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2015.

Swen is a communicator in Liberia. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

Sign up for our newsletter!


Latest News

Theology and Education
Claudine Migisha (right) receives congratulations from Wehnam Dabale, upon her graduation from Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. Migisha, from Goma, Congo, was part of the United Methodist-related school's 25th graduating class. Dabale is the university's international student advisor. Photo courtesy of Africa University.

526 Africa University graduates in 2019 class

New graduates of the United Methodist university come from 22 African countries, but share a passion for change.
Central Conferences
The Rev. John Pena Auta (foreground), provost of Banyan Theological Seminary, works on a computer in the new communications center in Jalingo, Nigeria. Seated next to him is Dan Krause, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn. In the background are Tafadzwa Mudambanuki (left) from United Methodist Communications and Bishop John Wesley Yohanna of the Nigeria Episcopal Area. Photo by Danny Mai, United Methodist Communications.

New communication center aids learning in Nigeria

More effective global and local communication for United Methodist in Nigeria is the goal of new communications center.
Social Concerns
Salome Mudiwa, age 19, is a first-year student at Bindura University of Science Education. She is studying natural resources in Bindura, Zimbabwe.  Photo by the Rev. Taurai Emmanuel Maforo, UM News.

Rural girls face challenges at city universities

Rural girls seeking education in cities in Zimbabwe are at risk if they take emotional or financial support from older men.