We Plead For Time

THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION has downplayed numerous appeals against the ‘abrupt’ reopening of schools throughout the country by February this year. Since the government’s announcement on 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.

HOWEVER, EDUCATION MINISTER, Etmonia Tarpeh, has 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 TOLD the gathering that the government is working on helping educational institutions but the various school administrations have the responsibility to ensure that teachers are prepared to return to the classroom 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. She noted that people are complaining on radios and the participants at the meeting were asking for an extension to March while others are lobbying for April and as it goes along, it will go on to December; schools must be opened. She blasted that parents who do not have interest in their children that is their prerogative.

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.

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.

WITH ALL OF these arguments, we believe that the issue at bar is a serious matter which should claim the attention of all stakeholders especially the Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Education. Already Educators have begun contributing to the debate relative to the reopening of schools after the devastating Ebola epidemic. The abrupt reopening of schools indeed put parents and school administrators who suffered the bulk of the Ebola crisis at a disadvantageous point and so they must be listened to.

IT IS IN this regard that we are appealing to the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the Ministry of Education and other regulatory bodies to listen to the voice of the people because an abrupt reopening of schools will not only damage our already ‘mess-up school system’ but would place it in a condition that may produce a more damaging result. It is not everybody that can now afford economically, thus it will be prudent for authorities to ensure that this process be at least extended to early March 2015 in a bid to give more room for school administrators and parents to better prepare for the task.

AGAIN, WE ARE joining the many voices in appealing to the Ministry of Education for an extension of the process to early March for a better, sound and productive school year.

REMEMBER THAT ALL fingers are not equal and a lot of the people are down economically as compared to others who have in abundance.