Monrovia – In recent days, there has been protest across the country against Education Minister George Werner and the Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System, Adolphus B. Jacobs.
“No one has a right to infringe on the rights of others. If there are grievances, it does not give students any right to infringe on those of others”- President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Teachers under the banner of the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) have been protesting calling for the resignation of Minister Werner and Superintendent Jacobs, refusing to attend classes.
Students also joined the protest a day later due to the lack of teachers in their classrooms, blocking main streets and preventing the movement of people and vehicles.
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, a leader of the aggrieved students told FPA that 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 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.”
Travelling passengers affected
Along the Roberts International Airport highway, the main route to the international airport, students also blocked the road affecting travelling passengers.
According to reports some passengers had to ride motorbikes to get to the airport on time while others missed their flights.
Minister Werner who initially mocked the protesting teachers describing them as good tailors before removing a post on the social media has since maintained that he will continue his ongoing reforms and will not bow to pressure from the protesting teachers.
The Education Minister is accusing some officials of the leadership of the Teachers Association of fighting to ensure that his reform of payroll of the Education Ministry does not succeed.
According to the Minister, some of the teachers are on payroll in counties where they are not teaching and are therefore against his cleanup exercise of the payroll.
Teachers have also since maintained that they will continue their strike action while the Minister is also firmed on his decision, resulting to deadlock.
Investigate and close schools
During situations of deadlock all parties look up to the President to take decision and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who has been out of the country attending the United Nations General Assembly has told Minister Werner to investigate and close schools involved in Monday’s violent.
According to a statement from the Executive Mansion, President has directed Minister Werner to investigate and close down schools involved in Monday’s violent demonstrations, which led to the setting up of roadblocks along the Monrovia—Robertsfield and other parts of the country.
According to the Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf issued the directive upon her arrival at the Roberts International Airport during an encounter with members of the press.
The Liberian leader told journalists that while in transit in Accra, Ghana the news of Monday’s violent demonstrations was brought to her attention.
The statement quoted the President as saying this unfortunate development led to passengers cancelling and missing their flights; caused airlines to lose revenue and compelling some passengers to use motorbikes to meet check-in deadlines.
She said “No one has a right to infringe on the rights of others. If there are grievances, it does not give students any right to infringe on those of others.”
President Sirleaf noted that action will be taken against schools found culpable following thorough investigation in order to serve as a deterrent to dissuade would-be violators who believe that by taking the law into their own hands is a matter of right.
Blow to teachers
The pronouncement by the President has now dashed the hopes of protesting teachers who have been pressing the Minister to quit apparently hoping that the protest could help ensure that the President takes a decision to support their cause.
But the statement from the President has now left both the protesting teachers and students in trouble as the Minister who is under pressure now has the gavel to decide the fate of those protesting against him.
Some students could see themselves out of school for some time should Minister Werner decide to close down schools that were involved in Monday’s protest.
On these controversial issues, Minister Werner has come on top on at least three occasions with the first being his decision to introduce a change in the academic calendar following the deadly Ebola outbreak.
Students protested the decision and gain streets, even prevent the movement of the convoy of President Sirleaf. The intervention of lawmakers against the Minister decision did not change as the school calendar was changed.
The Education Minister introduction of a Pubic Private Partnership Program that was widely criticized by teachers and an official of the United Nations is still going ahead.
With the current mandate from the President, the Minister has scored a high mark again.