SUP’s Protest Makes the University of Liberia Revert Its E-Learning Proposal

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Monrovia – After days of protests by the Student Unification Party (SUP), a student-based political party at the state-owned University of Liberia, the President of the university, Rev. Prof. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson, announced that the university will allow some traditional in-person classes instead of the 100 percent E-Learning activities that was proposed by the administration due to the third wave of the COVID-19.

On June 21st, 2021, the Incident Management Team (IMS) and the Ministry of Health announced that the Delta Variant of Covid-19 had hit Liberia and that the existing health protocols were revised and reinforced.

The University of Liberia was then in the process of commencing the 2nd Semester of the Academic Year 2020/2021. As a public university that is concerned not just with academics but also the physical wellbeing of our faculty, students, and staff, we were constrained to make some adjustments, the president of the university says.

According to Dr. Nelson, the UL Administration consulted students’ representatives, the UL Faculty Association, the UL Staff Association, the UL Joint Administrative Council, and Faculty Senate and arrived at the decision to run a fully online semester with flexibility in a bid to eliminate the possibility of a contagion involving students or members of faculty on any of their campuses.

Also, the university president said reasons were given to the Ministry of Education and the National Commission on Higher Education behind their decision to conduct a full online semester with flexibility.

But all of that did not go down well with the Student Unification Party. SUP on July 6, 2021, rejected the imposition of the 100 percent E-learning pronouncement made by Dr. Nelson and at the same time launched what they termed as UL Mask UP Campaign.

SUP, in their statement said many schools around the world have given their students options wherein they are to decide on the face-to-face classes or the e-learning process. SUP alleged that that was not done in their case.

According to the student group, the University of Liberia does not have the sophistication required to do an E-Learning platform on a 100 percent basis for over 16,000 students.

SUP Chairman Momo Peters said: “Therefore, holding all factors constant, the untimely disorganized nature of e-Learning & COVID-19, the vanguard Student Unification Party is calling on the administration to make e-Learning 60 percent while the face-to face classes should be 40 percent.”

He added: “SUP will not hesitate to march into history if our demands against the imposition of hundred percent e-Learning on the suffering university students this semester are not met.”

Despite the call from the student group, the university administration became adamant. On August 2, 2021, the student group staged a protest that turned bloody leaving many students injured.

One week after the students’ protest, the UL Administration has released a statement to revert on their 100 percent e-Learning proposal.

According to Rev. Nelson, the decision by the University is as the result of a significant decline in infection rate of COVID-19.

“Improvement in the statistics and the availability of a new batch of vaccines as well as rapid testing kits provided us an opportunity to rethink the conduct of the Second Semester 2020/2021,” UL president said.

Rev. Nelson added: “On the basis of these developments, and in consultation with all stakeholders, the University of Liberia hereby announces a revert to blended learning for the current semester. This allows us to have as many traditional in-person classes as possible from the perspective of full adherence to health guidelines which are still in effect, and as much E-Learning as necessary.”

“Cognizant of the fact that Liberia is not yet fully out of the third wave of COVID-19 spread and that health protocols are still in place, participation in the ‘Traditional Learning’ aspect of this blended learning semester is conditional,” he says.

The university administration informed their students that classes will resume on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, and end on Saturday, November 27, 2021.

According to the UL president, everyone must always wash their hands at the gates of the UL campuses and wear facemasks while on campus. Students signing up for in-person sections are highly encouraged to take the COVID-19 vaccine or must present (at a specified interval) negative Rapid Test results.

Number of students allowed in a section will be determined by the size of the room assigned. University employees and students are expected to uphold all other aspects of the revised COVID-19 guidelines released by our health authorities, the president says.

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