‘Tension in Kakata – Students Erect Blockade Over Lack of Teachers

Kakata City, Margibi County – Ongoing protest by teachers from public schools in demand of the resignation of Education Minister George Werner and the Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System Adolphus Jacobs which started last week is swelling to other counties as students from Kakata City, Margibi County made the city uneasy on Monday.

While the teachers resumed their protest in Monrovia, students in Kakata also took to the streets due to the lack of teachers in the classrooms. 

Angry students of public schools on Monday stormed Kakata City in demand of their teachers who have also begun a protest for the past weeks demanding the resignation of Minister Werner.

The aggrieved students blocked the main highway leading to Gbarnga, Bong County or back to Monrovia thereby preventing vehicles from moving through the city.

The protesting students who were seen wearing their regular blue and white public school uniforms set up road blocks and appeared determined to stop vehicles from plying the main highway through the city.

“For so long we’ve been out of school because our teachers have not being teaching us,” shouted Jonah Surprise Kpeh of Lango Lippaye Public School – the main government run high school in the city.

“We are feeling very bad seeing ourselves out of school and the other students in school like the top government people children in school – they are all in private schools and they are all attending but we the common people children are just sitting down. This is very bad and it is against us.”

Kpeh is the leader of the aggrieved students; he and the rest of the students are aware that their teachers are protesting because of a go-slow action calling for the resignation of Education Minister George Werner.

Some protesting students told FrontPageAfrica that their striking-teachers had told them they are being paid low salaries and that Minister Werner takes decisions that are not in the interest of Liberia’s school system.

Moreover, the students claimed that by protesting and setting up road blocks will attract national government’s attention to their plight since they’ve not been able to express their concern to the county education officer.

“Even if it takes months we will continue our demonstration,” Kpeh said. But they denied perceptions that their protest might eventually turn violent and sparked further unrest in the Kakata City.

“I see other private school students in school and I’m not going to school,” exclaimed student Prince Massalley also of Lango Lippaye. “It affects me a lot; I don’t have the finance to attend private school so when I see my friends going to school and I can’t it makes me feel bad.”

Added 8th grader Verma S. Karmo: “It will affect me because if I see my colleagues that we all are in the same class going to school and I’m in government school because I don’t have money to attend private school…, it makes me feel very bad because I want to learn.”

The situation in Kakata on Monday was tense during the morning hours, many vehicles were stopped from plying the main street and there were further threats from the students that their action will continue for the next couple of weeks.

But by midday they had ended the protest following interventions from Margibi County Senator, Oscar Cooper and other county officials who promised to remedy their situation promptly.

Margibi County Police Deputy Police Commander told FPA via cellular phone that they had to avoid the use of force during the protest.

“Security was deployed all over; our approaches were peaceful and we were able to persuade them (The students),” explained Inspector Vayanga Konnah of the LNP. “We will be proactive and put some measures in place to keep the city calm.”

The Monday protest had sparked fear that it may spread across the country following continuous protest by public school teachers in the country.

In Grand Bassa County, teachers protest has prevented the holding of classes. Bassa High – the main public high school -, William V. S Tubman Elementary school and several public schools across the county did not conduct classes on Monday.

However, normal classes have continued in other counties including Bong and Nimba where students were reportedly seen attending classes on Monday.

“Despite calls by the National Teachers’ Association of Liberia for public school teachers to boycott classes around the country, the Bong County School System has announced that academic activities are continuing in the county,” a journalist based in Gbarnga, Bong County posted on his Facebook page on Monday.

But observers are predicting that the Kakata’s situation has signaled a boiling point of the protests organized by the aggrieved teachers.

Minister Werner has come under increasing pressure recently to step down since the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) along with five other organizations gave him a two week ultimatum.

Like the students in Margibi County, teachers staged protests in front of the Ministry of Education in Monrovia last week.

The protesting teachers insist that if Minister Werner and the Superintendent of Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), Jacobs, remained in the education sector, the system would remain below par. The teachers have also strongly opposed the ongoing Public Private Partnership for schools in Liberia.

Said the Acting President of NTLA, Mary Mulbah Nyumah recently: 

“If we as a people are not careful about the PPP process, all other Public Services of our country will be turned over to profit makers at our expense in the future.”

Minister Werner seems calm despite the pressure from the teachers and his recent comments on Facebook about the protesting teachers has opened a public debate about the confidence he’s enjoying from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The Minister appeared on several radio stations in Monrovia where he maintained his stance that he will continue what he is terming as his ongoing reforms at the Ministry including cleaning of the Ministry payroll of ghost names.

According to him some of the protesting teachers have been found on two separate payrolls and are using the protest to thwart reform of the payroll and other initiatives.

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