By Garmonyou Wilson
An investigation conducted by this paper has revealed that private and public schools are experiencing low turn-out in the registration of students in and around Monrovia.
Through a survey of local schools, private and public, statistics indicate that a good number of public school students would not be in school this coming semester, and the figure could be higher at the private school level due to what many Liberians have attributed to as ‘Ebola fatigue’.
Many parents who spoke to the INQUIRER said the slow pace in the registration process is due to the lack of money which is primarily due to the economic strain caused by the Ebola crisis virus coupled with parents’ unpreparedness relative to the abrupt announcement for the reopening of schools.
Madam Elizabeth Gargar, a mother of three who sells used clothes said she has not registered her children due to the lack of money.
Another mother, Madam Tanneh Wreh, said she had only registered one of her two children because since Ebola engulfed the country she has not been able to travel around the country freely to keep her coal business on course.
The cross-section of parents that spoke to this paper also attributed the low turn-out for registration in various schools to the fear of getting the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) if their children were to return to the classrooms with other kids from different background and homes at a time the country is not yet Ebola-free.
Another parent said she is afraid to register her child because if her child or any other child was to get the disease while in school, that student would be taken to an Ebola Treatment Center and buried or misplaced.
Another cross-section of Liberians that spoke to this paper attributed the low turn-out in the registration process to some parents’ reluctance because they expect schools to reopen in March after the festive season.
Others said they were putting resources together with the expectation that after the festive season March could be a better time when they shall have been prepared financially.
Rodella Karley told this paper that she is waiting until March because she wants to see how the process of the nation going back to school amongst Ebola fears would go, especially the adherence to preventive measures announced by the Ministries of Health and Education.
Some of the parents said that they are not sure when they will feel safe to send their children back to school.
A parent who resides in the Paynesville community simply said, “I’m just observing the process before I make a decision.”
Josephine Kollie, a former teacher of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), disclosed that the turn-out is low because Liberians in general like to adopt a wait and see attitude until the last minute before they can do something. She added that by mid February the number of registered students would have increased.
Since the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education set the date for the resumption of schools to February 2, 2015 with registration and orientation prior to the date, many parents and school administrators have being appealing to the government to extend the time because of the financial condition created by the Ebola crisis.
Some private school administrators called the decision made by the government as abrupt, while others pleaded with government to rethink its decision. Although the Central Bank of Liberia has vowed to settle private schools’ indebtedness to the various banking institutions, some are also complaining that some schools have increased their fees and have opted not to re-open until a later date is announced.
Recently a group of students from various private schools around Monrovia went to the Capitol Building to protest the increase in tuition made by various private schools.
The resumption of schools has created criticism from actors both in the private and public sectors. However, the Government of Liberia remains adamant that schools would re-open come February 2, 2015 after also six months closure due to Ebola.
“I think the government is insensitive to the plight off the Liberian people at a time when Ebola- devastated families created orphans and depleted the economic strength of many. However this is Liberia because those who are making these decisions are the elites who have money,” a mother who is a single parent said.
Meanwhile, in a release from the offices of Montserrado County Senator George M. Weah, he is also concerned by the high expression of mixed emotions with which the public has received recent announcement by the government that full academic programs for schools and other educational institutions throughout the country would commence in early February.
The release under the signature of Franco Grimes, Chief of Office Staff, said the senator is also alerted by the many calls he has received from parents and students, not only in Montserrado County, but other parts of the country.
It also expressed how distressed residents are that Ebola did not only physically take away lives and alter cultural practices, but has essentially amplified the economic hardship that was already prevalent in our communities.
The release further mentioned that many of these parents are saying that the timing for the reopening of school is abrupt and they are unprepared to underwrite the financial cost needed to get their children back in school.
Considering these widely shared and indisputable views, the offices of Senator Weah is admonishing the Executive Branch to reconsider its decision to resume regular and full academic activities at the time the Government has pronounced.
The release concluded that Senator Weah would like to assure parents and students that he will work with his colleagues and the Executive Branch to examine ways and means by which the Government can address these important concerns with the intent to bring relieve to our parents, students and teachers.