Education Downplays Appeals On Schools’ Reopening

By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy

The Ministry of Education has downplayed numerous appeals against the ‘abrupt’ reopening of schools throughout the country by February this year.

Since the government announced the reopening of schools that have been closed for almost a year as a result of the Ebola virus outbreak, there have been appeals to the government to reconsider this decision owing to economic and other reasons.

But Education Minister Etmonia Tarpeh assured education stakeholders during a one day meeting on Wednesday at the Ministry of Education that whether or not school administrations have money to pay teachers or parents do not have interest in their children’s education, the process of opening schools will go on as planned on February 2, 2015 nationwide.

Minister Tarpeh said the government is working on helping educational institutions but administrations have the responsibility to ensure that teachers are prepared to return to the classrooms during this instructional period.

On appeals of abruptly opening schools especially when Liberia has not been declared Ebola-free and the constraints faced by both administrations and parents, Madam Tarpeh said, “We will not tolerate that because this will not be business as usual; you will have to adapt to disciplines that you never thought about and perhaps Ebola will show Liberians different ways of doing things.”

She reminded the school administrations that they are not only responsible to government but to parents whose children they have under their watch adding, “That is what we want you to take as your priority; this decision is not coming as a surprise because whatever it is to be done has been suggested by you and seen by the Board.”

“People are complaining on radios; you here are asking for an extension to March, others are lobbying for April and as it goes along it will go on to December; schools must be opened. For parents who do not have interest in their children that is their prerogative,” she blasted parents.

As for the proprietors of private, public and mission schools, she informed them that parents complaining about opening of schools should not be their interest instead they should make parents understand that having their children they did not ask permission, they are responsible men and women therefore they as administrators are not there to help them.

“It is not your responsibility to move them to school, feed them and tell them what they are supposed to do even though you take the place of parents while children are in schools but it is about time that we be very firm with parents to let them know that the upbringing of their children is their responsibility also,” the Education Minister said clearly.

However, participating on the Power FM Morning Show yesterday, the head of the Mission For Today Ministry, Bishop Contoe said if the Ministry of Education had three scenarios, the government must know that it is accountable to the people and should have also informed the parents and school administrations to prepare along because any of the scenarios could be feasible; noting that that should have been done since last year when the strategy was set in place.

Bishop Contoe said the government loves to be criticized negatively because in the advocacy of reopening schools, the information should not be provided through ‘they-say’ medium adding that now with the festive season gone with all the money, where will the parents now as non-essential staff find money to pay the fees in few weeks because even the administrations will hike their fees due to class population restriction.

Meanwhile, most of the callers still believe that the government must be serious in its fight against Ebola because even as it stands, there are still lack of medical attention in healthcare facilities and there is nothing done to prepare children who lost their parents or guardians to Ebola as well as survivors who had all their belongings burnt.

They argued that the government must be responsible enough to help its citizens and if it is saying that it lacks the ability to take care of the huge burden of the Ebola virus outbreak in the country, the President can again use her bilateral strategy to request help from international partners.