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‘No school, no work’

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StudentsThe Plenary of the House of Representatives – the house’s highest decision- making body, has mandated Education Minister George Werner to write a communication informing the public that schools will not be closed as he earlier proposed, and that WAEC will be administered at all cost for the ongoing academic calendar.

Hundreds of protesting students mobilized from schools across Montserrado County staged a non-violent protest on the grounds of the Capitol Building in Monrovia Tuesday, demonstrating their disapproval of Minister Werner’s proposal to close schools at the end of this month.

A heavy down-pour of rain could not deter the students’ protest at the Capitol yesterday, as they consistently chanted slogans as: “no school, no work; no school, no session.” Mr. Werner, who recently succeeded former Education Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh after lawmakers first rejected him as Health Minister, began on a rough footing with a vast portion of his struggling stake holders in the education sector as his first biggest policy proposed as Minister fails to win their support probably due to the approach advanced.

Tension has been mounting here in the wake of Minister Werner’s proposal to close all schools across the country to train teachers, prepare schools and start a fresh academic calendar this September. But parents and students continue to challenge the policy on grounds that the minister has made no clarity regarding money already paid for tuition and WAEC fees, as well as promotion of students who meet requirements set in the curriculum.

A NewDawn interview with protesting students at the Capitol yesterday uncovered that some of them were not entirely against Mr. Werner’s vision to reform the education sector here, but the implementation of such proposal that could nullify the ongoing academic calendar right in the middle despite paying huge sums of money towards their learning process.

The National Policy Adviser to the Montserrado County Students Union, who claimed to be a former student president at the SDA High School on Camp Johnson Road, Mr. Collins Moore said “if the minister came up to say implement the policy in the next academic year, very good- but not this particular academic year that is ongoing.”

He warned that if lawmakers didn’t support their request to ignore Minister Werner’s proposal, there’s a need to reimburse payments made by parents, threatening that siding with the Education Minister would meet persistent resistance.

He argued that parents were devastated right after the Ebola crisis that killed thousands of people here and lots of parents had to go struggling and begging to pay their children’s fees because they didn’t have the money.

Mr. Moore said he led students from Montserrado County Districts Nine and Ten to purposely petition their lawmakers not to ‘give credence” to Minister Werner’s “draconian law” proposed to affect all Liberian citizens.

“We refer to this kind of law as “satanic and demonic,” he said as multitude of students chanted slogans. Some politicians here have been giving dissenting opinions on the policy, as main opposition CDC Chairman Nathaniel McGill and the Chairman of the Alternative National Congress, Horitiao Gould opposed the school closure plan during separate appearances on the local Truth Breakfast Show on Truth 96.1 Fm on Tuesday, June 23.

Mr. Gould said if the Education Minister insisted on his plan, he should be reminded that the route he was reminiscent of the 1979 rice riot that erupted when late President William R. Tolbert’s Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweh insisted on a price increase.

“We will do what is constitutional and democratic – civil disobedience; we will gather people to protest this thing – civil, legal protest all over the country because this affects people all over the country and we will want to lead that,” Mr. Gould said. By Winston W. Parley & Ben P. Wesee – Editing by George Barpeen

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