Liberia: Parents, Students Protesting against More Than Me Closure Say VP Taylor Backs Their Protest

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MonroviaFrontPageAfrica has gathered from some parents and students of the embattled More Than Me (MTM) Academy that Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor sponsored Tuesday’s protest against the closure of the school and prosecution of its CEO, Katie Meyler.

Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]

The Vice President’s office has, however, denied the allegation.

Solomon Ware, Director of Communications said at no time the Vice President sponsored the protest, adding that some students after the march on Tuesday trooped at her office to speak with her.

“The students said they wanted to speak with the Vice President because they were stigmatized, it’s is unfortunate that she will be accused and that is a lie,” Ware said.

Parents and students of MTM marched from Central Monrovia to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offices of President George Weah with placards and banners with inscriptions depicting Meyler’s ‘innocence’.

Some of the writings on the placard include: “More Than Me is Katie no Katie no MTM”; “We stand with Katie”; “Katie, we are with you to the end”; “Do not hurt our hero”, among others.

Some parents who spoke to FrontPageAfrica on the basis of anonymity said they had been informed that the essence of the march was because Vice President Taylor does not want the closure of More Than Me.

“Some parents who attended the last meeting with More Than Me said, the Vice President promised to build a mission for the girls. She told parents that Katie Meyler – the white woman – cannot be held responsible for McIntosh’s (Johnson) action. She told them that they should not allow the school to be closed. So, they put us together today to ask President Weah not to close down the school.”

This paper gathered that the Vice President has been having back and forth meetings with parents and teachers of the school, basically requesting them not to join those calling for the closure of school.

“In one of our meetings, she told us not to push this thing too far. She made us to understand that McIntosh is already dead and Katie should not be held for his action especially, since the new government is re-investigating the case,” a parent told FrontPageAfrica.

Jewel’s Involvement with MTM

On January 28, 2018, Vice President Taylor, during a program at MTM, promised to partner with the foundation to provide mentorship in ensuring that girls are educated.

“It will be so good to take this school to a boarding mission and we are in the process of securing an acre of land to take this school to another level, so we will do a fundraising for this mission,” she is seen saying in a video recorded during the January program.

She gave US$1,000 to MTM as she promised to create an environment where the mission, if built, will increase the number of students.

Last Thursday, Facia Harris of the Liberia Feminist Forum (LFF) called for the Vice President to do a public pronouncement separating herself from MTM.

“She works with women group, now she is working with MTM and her pronouncement to build a school in line with Katie’s work must be reviewed.

“We need her office to work than ever before; she still has influence, relationship with the legislature and close contact with Meyler, we expect that in the interest of women and girls, she will use her position and power to help us see the logical conclusion of MTM incident.

The Protest

At the protest on Tuesday, a parent who has two children in the school, Victoria Nagbe, praised Meyler for her children’s education, adding that she is like an angel to parents in West Point.

Victoria, a single parent said her children have been out of school, selling and if the school shuts down, the children will return to selling in the streets because she has no money to cater to their education.

For Mercy Peters, she had no idea about the protest but said her friend asked her to come along. She has no child in the school but was seen with placard.

“I just heard the information that the school was about to be shut down; they said the whole school has AIDS, and when the children are playing, they are stigmatized. So, we have come here today to plead with the President and tell him that our children don’t have AIDS.

“I don’t have anyone in the school but what my friend said it is what I am saying. Her daughters attend the school, so I came in solidarity,” she said.

Vera Toe, another parent, said Katie is the community hero. She said, as a single parent she never had money to send her kids to school until Katie helped her.

According to Vera, she believes that McIntosh was a good man who helped kids in the community to follow their dreams, but dismissed the allegation that he died from HIV/AIDS.

“Our children have been in that school for long and none have gotten sick; we’ve been silent since it came up so since we heard that they are removing Katie and closing the school, we who don’t have hands have come out to tell the world that Katie and the school are innocent.”

The Outcome

On Tuesday, students of the More Than Me abandoned all school activities to join their parents in the protest.

While at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Acting Education Minister Latim Dathong, advised the parents and students to disregard presenting their petition to the President.

Some parents said Min. Dathong advised them not to plead for Katie because she was undergoing investigation. They were, however, allowed to meet with President Weah and the Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, behind closed door.

Representatives of the protestors, Paul Jappah of the Concern Citizens of West Point and Morris Siassay, president of Child Development Initiatives, Liberia, who met with President Weah and his officials Tuesday said, they were asked by the Acting Education Minister and the Gender Minister to take the children home, with a promise that they’ll visit More Than Me campus on Wednesday, October 24.

They said, the President has instructed the Ministerial Committee to fast-track the investigation of the alleged scandal.

MTM Liberian Advisory board chair Dorbor Jallah was also part of the meeting and promised that the investigative panel set up will release its report within two-three weeks.

President Weah, however, assured the protesters that the school will not close, urging them to remain patient for the investigation report.

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