Liberia: Gasoline Scarcity Affects Learning Activities; Schools Suspend Classes

Students barely make their way to school due to the transportation difficulties and those who manage to attend to classes either live close to their schools or trek to get to school

Monrovia – Normal learning activities are being paralyzed at various public and private schools in Montserrado County due to hike in transportation fare and limited commercial vehicles plying the streets. This is caused by the acute shortage of gasoline on the local market.

Over the past three weeks, scarcity of gasoline continues to heighten; compelling drivers of commercial and private vehicles including motorbike taxis to spend several hours in long queues at petroleum filling stations.

Most vehicles are left parked at filling stations, a situation that is leaving few taxis, buses and motorbikes to commute people including students. Some of the drivers claim they paid more than L$2,000 for a gallon of gasoline, arguing why they have tripled the fares. 

Many students of private and government schools are constrained to trek long distances to get to their respective schools.

Samuel Charlie is a 12 -grade student of the Cathedral Catholic School in central Monrovia, who lives on the Old Road.

Charlie told FrontPageAfrica that the current situation is a “complete embarrassment” to students’ ambition to acquire quality education.

“The gas situation is becoming very tense. I woke up very early this morning trying to find car to come to school, due to the gas situation, I reached on campus around 8:30AM,” he said.

“This is suffering us the students and other individuals. I paid L$150 to come to school. Normally, we used to pay L$80.”

Most students affected by the gas shortage say they arrived on their respective campuses several minutes into the first period of lessons.Lecturers or Instructors are either writing notes on the chalkboards or are providing explanations to students who were opportune to be on campus sooner, the students said.

Joe J. Masseh is also a 12 grader of Cathedral Catholic School. He lives in the Cow Factory Community in Gardnesville Township. He too continues to face challenge to get to campus on time over the past couple of weeks.

“I paid L$100 to come to school today. I used to pay L$50. I used to get on car very early before but [for now] before you see car passing before you this time, it’s between 15 to 20 minutes,” said Masseh. 

“I live Gurley Street. I paid L$60 dollars to come here. I used to pay L$30. Most of the time, I come to school late because it is very hard to see motorbike or kehkeh. I normally come to school late because to find kehkeh before it was easier but this time, most of the kehkehs [tricycles] are packed waiting for gasoline at the gas stations,” added student Clara G. Nayoung.

The current situation is also affecting teachers. This is a situation that is further compounding teachers’ concerns of being under-paid amid the harsh economic situation. Now, many teachers are complaining that they are constrained to pay exorbitant transportation fares since the gasoline crisis erupted.

Madam Gladys Nah is a teacher of Economics at the Cathedral High School. She is a resident of Sinkor, 9th Street. She says transportation fare is increasing on a day-by-day basis.

“Before the issue of the scarcity of gasoline, I used to pay L$30 from Sinkor to Broad Street. But nowadays where we are faced with economic hardship, drivers are now taking L$80, L$100, L$120 and sometimes L$150 from us just to leave from 9th Street to Broad Street,” said teacher Nah, who described the situation as burdensome.

“Looking at the financial problem we earlier had – that there was no money in the bank – people worked and they can’t get paid. You go to the market things prices are up, than today we are faced with a huge economic crisis – the scarcity of one of our important commodities on the market, which is gasoline”.

She urged government to “do something positively to ease the tension,” warning that it would be more complicated when all schools reopen for the second semester.

At the St. Paul Bridge Public School of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), many teachers are unable to make it to school, leaving students to wander the campus.

“Our teacher has not come to school for three days now. We don’t know; maybe it’s because of the gas business,” a one student, who asked not to be named.

“I can say this for free, if this continues up to next week many of us will not come to school because we can’t be coming and no one here to teach us. This is embarrassing our education seriously”.

The situation is also affecting universities as well. The African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) was compelled to suspend academic activities as a result of the prevailing gasoline crisis.

“Looking at the financial problem we earlier had – that there was no money in the bank – people worked and they can’t get paid. You go to the market things prices are up, than today we are faced with a huge economic crisis – the scarcity of one of our important commodities on the market, which is gasoline”

– Madam Gladys Nah, Economics Instructor, Cathedral High School

In a memo dated February 12 and issued under the signature of the University’s Assistant Vice President for Human Resources, Mr. James Gildersleeves, the university said it was taking the decision so as to avoid its students and staff from enduring the hardship.

Said the University: “In the wake of gasoline shortage being experienced in the country which has impeded the movement of AME University employees and students to commute easily through vehicles and motorbikes, the Special Management Team has put in place the following measures-All academic activities of the university (undergraduate level) will be suspended from Thursday February 13 to Wednesday February 19, 2020. Meanwhile academic activities in the Graduate School will continue as per schedule.”

As the gas crisis continues, FPA has gathered that commercial motorcyclists are threatening to stage a “civil disobedience” campaign in the coming days by setting road blocks and preventing the movement of government vehicles.

Recently, President George Weah set up a Presidential Taskforce to investigate the matter in the wake of claims and counter claims, as well as conflicting information being provided by relevant authorities of the Liberian government.