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Teachers worry that school year is already ruined in Liberia

By: Moses Owen Browne, Jr.              Moses Owen Browne

Ganta, Liberia: Liberian teachers say teenage pregnancy and youth delinquency may stop pupils from returning to school on February 2nd, when Liberia’s classrooms are set to re-open.

They also worry that schools are failing, and staffs will not be paid due to the economic constraints caused by the Ebola crisis.

Alex Wou, acting principal of St. Lawrence Catholic School in Nimba County,
said: “Even though we are excited that classes are resuming in two weeks,
we are equally worried that half of the total enrollment won’t make it this
academic year.”

“Many of our students, especially girls, are pregnant, and their males
counterparts are riding *pem pem* [motor cycles], fathering children or
abusing drugs.”

The re-opening of schools has been hailed as a hopeful sign that the Ebola
outbreak is coming under control in Liberia – a country that at the height
of the crisis was reporting 300 Ebola new cases per day.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered all schools closed in July 2014 in
an attempt to contain the deadly epidemic.

According to local newspapers, there are now only 5 cases in all Ebola
Treatment Units across Liberia.

“We at St. Lawrence endorsed the decision, because no matter what, our
children must go back to school. However, the challenges remain the same as they were 10 years backsaid,” Wou said.

So far, St. Lawrence Catholic School has only registered 563 students, out
of a total of 1358 registered. Wou said he expects no more than half of the students to make it back to school this year.

According to Wou, “financial constraint is one major impediment.’
“We have heard from parents and even the students who complained of lack of
money to send their children to school,” he added.

In Bomi County, students worry that schools are now too run down to provide
a safe space for returning pupils.

Three students at schools in Bomi said that schools should resume – but
that classrooms and buildings needed proper renovation and furnishings
before classes could commence.

Mr. Wou also pointed out that it would be impossible to pay all the
teaching staff for 12 months, due to lack of finances. “We won’t be able to pay our teachers for 12 months; we won’t be able to buy stationary, desks and even additional chairs for the students.

“We will have to conduct workshops for our teachers and expand the
classrooms to implement government’s regulations, but where will we get
this money from?”

St. Lawrence Catholic School was established in 2000, but Wou said it is in
need of repairs and serious renovation.

At St. Lawrence Catholic School, the average fee charged per student is
$12,690 Liberia dollars for senior high division, $8,885 for junior high
and $6,755 for elementary divisions respectively.

Plan Liberia plans to conduct a Back To School programme in Nimba County,
focusing on supporting students with school fees, school materials and some
financial support to keep the children in school.

The charity is also supporting schools with WASH activities, which encourages
handwashing and sanitation.

Plan Liberia Country Director Koala Oumarou said: “Plan and our education
partners are working tirelessly with the national government to ensure that
schools are safe once re-opened to protect every child.”

 

Moses Owen Browne, Jr. is Media and Communications Coordinator of Plan International Liberia Country Office. He is a professional career Journalist with idea-range of experience in the related fields of Development Communications, Mass Media Communications & Development, Broadcasting and radio program production. He can be reached at Cell #: +231-886-493-370, +231770009018, and emails: browne.moses@gmail.com, moses.browne@plan-internationa.org.

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