By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The University of Liberia’s official opening seems to be greeted by an unaccepted appeal from the school’s administration by the mass absence of the faculty which depicts an expression of their unwillingness to return to the classrooms even though students trooped on campus in their mass for classes.
Upon the pronouncement of the opening of classes, an appeal was proffered to the faculty and staff to accept at least two-month of their four-month salary arrears and allowances as the week progresses but the slow pace in which the resumption of what should have been perceived as ‘normal’ classes began yesterday as if the faculty is still unhappy.
The University president, Emmett Dennis over the weekend admitted to owing faculty and staff of the nation’s highest learning institution for four months and said that with the US$ 3 million made available by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at least two months salary arrears could be paid.
As Dr. Dennis made the appeal, he also announced changes in the regular instructional protocols which he blamed on the lack of sufficient funds to operate as a full university and said that it is also because measures to continue the Ebola prevention has to be observed.
Meanwhile, the protocol has directed that for the first five weeks of school opening beginning from March 17, only senior and junior students will be allowed in classes followed by freshmen and sophomore students so that the semester that was interrupted by the Ebola outbreak could be completed.
For the Ebola measures, the University’s administration also admitted that it is unable to contain all 30, 000 enrolled students on its campuses at once therefore it will concentrate only on its 300 and 400 level courses for the first five weeks.
It is not clear whether the UL was or is careful in designing its protocol taking into account the status at which the University was before the Ebola menace disrupted learning activities in the country. However, students who thronged the main campus yesterday in frustration began to believe that the first week of the five weeks given senior and junior students will end in a fiasco because there is no announcement placed on bulletin boards or anyone faculty member to inquire from.
The students who stood in awe at how the University administration derived at its protocol to open school in the midst of the huge internal challenges said by tomorrow if nothing constructive is done or heard, they will begin their usual protest since it is believed to be the only language the educational authority and government understand.
During a tour by a team of reporters from this paper, it was observed that only one teacher in a half-full accounting class was seriously carrying out his instructional mandate as other students waited eagerly in other classes for instructors while others just sat idly outside.
Students believe that the UL administration is about to fail again on its unrealistic pronouncement that is only intended to plunge the educational system into registering mass failure at the level of the University.
They wondered how could the University whose instructional period which was stopped just at its final exams could chose to open school and begin with senior and junior and or 300 and 400 levels when some senior students are reading freshman courses just to meet graduation requirement for May while some sophomore students may be reading 400 levels.
Their concerns were also about the instructors who died during the Ebola outbreak or those who might have traveled and may not return to classes. The students wondered that judging from the attitude of the instructors, what mechanisms have been put in place by the administration; they believe strongly that the resumption of classes will begin from where instructional period stopped.
The students are more frustrated over the strategy the administration will be using if they are to replace the dead instructors in ensuring that their grades are up-to-date; being cognizant that the instructional calendar had already crossed the mid-term and was towards its completion with some classes already closed and awaiting final exams or had completed its final examination and students preparing for grade sheets.
Howbeit, there are even more questions than answers on the minds of the students who have left classes for almost a year and are now having more vigor to return to classes yet the state of the University remains daunting.
By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy