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The Reported Premature Closure of Schools and Its Consequences

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As evidenced by public resentments, it is becoming glaring that speculations in Monrovia and its environs about the Government’s plan to close schools by the end of June 2015 is the near-reality.

Parents, guardians, students and some school principals have, in recent times, taken to the radio airwaves, threatening an all-out mass demonstration if the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of education, if it went ahead to officially implement the plan.

While some may have heard it as rumors, others attributed the information to the new Minister of Education, Mr. George Warner- an allegation yet to be confirmed neither by the minister himself nor any other official of the ministry.

But expressed public sentiments against the decision and the conspicuous silence of the authorities at the ministry or Information Ministry in Monrovia may seem to be lending credence to such speculations.

Another clue, in relations to the foregoing, is the fact that many private schools in the city and elsewhere across the country have already begun putting in place “non-cooperation mechanisms” should the government attempt to hatch whatever plan it has to close all schools in Liberia until September 2015 at which time the rainy season would be elapsing, and also in consonance with the “academic calendar” of the rest of the West Africa sub-region- even though neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone have already got schools running.

In earnest, the decision for such a plan is not only a miscalculation on the part of the minister and whosoever may have advanced such suggestion, but the promotion of a selfish agenda to retard the progress of school-going Liberian children.

From all indications, while the speculations may be near-reality owing to the inability of the Education Ministry to further make things very clear and if such is officially confirmed, we may just be heading for trouble because the “mess which Minister Warner promised to make best” while officially taking-over recently at the ministry in Sinkor, would further multiply.

What many may have thought was fir the minister and team to persuade public and private school authorities throughout the country to cut short this ongoing second semester by the last week in July or first week in August for a three-week break/vacation so as to reopen in September for a new academic year to achieve whatever objective they had anticipated.

But other than engaging in extensive consultations (with other colleagues, school authorities, parent-Teachers Associations) on such sensitive matter someone somewhere may have thought his or her ‘thinking’ was the best option.

Perhaps because of the huge public resentments, the Ministry of Education may be delaying further clarity, as well as developing to employ a number of strategies, including the continuation of this academic semester up to the end of July or beginning of August, to water down the tension that may be brewing among parents, students and school authorities.

Other than the foregoing, the former may not consider kindly their uncountable expenditure on their kids for this academic year to be a waste only because Minister Warner and team at the Education Minister may be desirous of regularizing Liberia’s academic calendar in line with other countries of the sub-region.

In essence and as a matter of reality, appeals could be made to school authorities for the closure of schools between July and August for the commencement of a “regular program” in mid-September.

If the decision to ‘prematurely close’ schools by the end June is the beginning of making the “mess better” as promised by Warner, it’s sad that our education system on the path of another failure. Making the “mess better” must first ensure that the internal operations of the Ministry of Education are straightened up.

The issues of continuous stealing or corruption, ensuring the recruitment and maintenance of qualified instructional and administrative staff in the various schools, as well as better and attractive salaries, incentives, benefits and instructional materials must all be addressed now as the foundation of making the “ mess better”. The issue of the availability of modern Libraries and Laboratories cannot be over-emphasized in the achievement of a better learning environment for Liberian school kids.

Properly directing donor funds to the Ministry of education would mean very well in Minister George Warner’s quest to make the difference for the Liberian Education system, other than undertaking an unpopular venture as the premature closure of all schools and declaring the ongoing academic period “study class period”.

Even if the governments’ plan is to replenish the expenditure of parents, guardians, self-supported students and others for this academic year, it is still a very unpopular decision that may cause more harm than good. The best way out to achieve whatever objective(s) the Education Ministry has is to constructive engage school authorities to close this academic year between July and August 2015, accompanied by a three-week break for students and the reopening of schools in mid-September, writes G. Barrasto Barpeen, Jr.

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