Ex- NFL star Tamba Hali says Liberia's education system is so poor he "could barely read and write" when he arrived in America as a kid ... and he tells TMZ Sports that's why he's building a school in his home country.
Hali -- a sack machine on the field who made 5 Pro Bowls over his 12 season NFL career -- says the education system in Liberia badly needs help.
"Going back, interacting with the people, the elders, the young people. You can tell because of the civil war and all the negative things that's happened," Hali says.
"The country is way behind when it comes to education, what my kids are learning, kids there that are 14, 15 years old cannot even do. Kids can't even add, can't even multiply. You wonder what the [education] system is like. In my looking at Liberia, it's to try to create a better Liberia for the future."
But, starting a school ain't easy ... or cheap.
"We're starting small. So we want to know we can do it on a very small level. Our goal is to just raise hopefully maybe $300,000, and start from 1st grade," Hali says.
"We're not trying to do something above and beyond. We'll start with the youngest because they're the ones that are gonna make a difference in 20 years from now in the community there."
Tamba -- who's currently looking for a location to build the school -- says he plans on starting with 1 facility ... but won't rule out building multiple schools.
"Right now we're focused on one school. If we have success, we'll try to do more. But like my old coach would say, 'take care of the little things.'" .