Feb. 16 School Reopening Worries Senators

With barely two days of schools’ official opening, the Liberian Senate has raised concerns regarding the process and considered it a defiance which poses risk to public health. Leading the debate yesterday in plenary, the chairperson for the Committee on Health, Peter Coleman said the February 16 opening of schools is a serious risk because the date is unrealistic as the Ministry again reverted to its previous pronouncement.

Senator Coleman said the joint committees on Education and Health have exhausted its mandate from the plenary when it met with experts from the Executive and decided a suitable date for the opening of schools, yet the experts decided an unrealistic date to commence the process.

The Grand Kru County Senator called on the senate to take serious action by summoning the experts because as the state of the Ebola virus outbreak is presently looming, it is no secret that the menace is still seriously affecting people in Montserrado County.

He said the story cannot change when the Ministry of Education has willfully allowed the opening of schools on an unacceptable date when the Ebola items have not been evenly distributed and there are incomplete WATSAN projects across the country.

Though other senators like Albert Chie was of the view that the Liberian Senate could do nothing about the ongoing process since in fact the Ministry of Education has set in place two separate dates, noting that it would a prudent idea to wait and give the experts the chance to work.

While River Gee County Senator CommanyWesseh and Senator Daniel Naatehn of Gbarpolu County wondered if the committee’s report ever reached the Executive Branch, specifically the President’s office, because the report as presented to plenary informed that body that the committee would have met with the President as per plenary’s decision on the matter.

Senator Wesseh said in the report the date was just a suggestion that the experts could use and not a decision because by reaching a decision that all schools are to be opened on March 2 would have been going beyond their responsibility.

The plenary commended the committees for the report and said they needed to complete their mandate by reaching out to the President instead of summoning the experts before plenary because the Senate’s works are done through committees.

However, other senators like Alphonso Gaye and Geraldine Doe-Sheriff termed that action on the part of the Ministry of Education and Health as being contemptuous and undermining the entire Legislature since indeed the position was from the National Legislature.

Senator Oscar Cooper advised plenary that the committees must be empowered if it must be powerful and not with bunch of toothless bull dogs who no cabinet member or government employee would want to listen to even with a decision that is jointly reached with their involvement because in other parliaments the plenary is the last place any government official or foreign national would want to be made to appear.

Primary and secondary schools especially in Montserrado County are gradually reopening, setting February 16 as an official opening date for schools amidst the signs and admittance of experts that the Ministry of Education is not fully prepared.

The Ministry of Education had set February 16 as the date for opening of schools and apparently following consultations, later announced March 2, which parents were still finding it difficult to adapt to regarding the safety of their children in the absence of proper mechanisms put in place but the Liberian Senate holds it to be an unrealistic date with the understating from the experts that the Ebola materials for schools are not in place to date.