Authorities of the Ministry of Education are expressing uncertainty over reopening of schools across the country, pending advice from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. However, the Education Ministry says it is planning to supplement classroom education with “a Teaching- by- Radio” program.
The Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Education, Maxim Bleetan, told UNMIL Radio on Monday afternoon that “right now, we cannot open school without the advice of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare – we have to listen to that.”
In late July, the Liberian Government closed down schools as part of measures to prevent the Ebola disease from infecting more people, especially, through travels and mass public gathering.
But under the indefinite closure of all schools, Deputy Education Minister for Instructions, Madam Hawa Goll-Kotchi, says many private schools are suffering the consequences right now because they can’t pay their teachers, unlike public school teachers, who are on government payroll.
She said given the prevailing Ebola crisis, all financial resources are being directed to dealing with the virus, saying, “We ourselves are not sure how we will be able to just deal with the reopening of schools, much more than subsidy for schools.”
She told UNMIL Radio that to the best of her knowledge, the draft national budget had not even passed prior to the outbreak of Ebola here, least to address the issue of subsidy for private schools.
As it stands now, she said the ministry is “just trying to get the schools ready by delivering furniture to schools that didn’t have furniture last year,” and with the government’s grant to public schools, she said “training is being done in some counties.”
The Deputy Education boss said even if schools were ordered to reopen, it would take some time because facilities on campuses have to be cleaned and prepared, while teachers, who may have left the country during the crisis, would have to return, among others. But she maintains that a definite time to reopen schools remains uncertain.
According to her, “Teaching- by –Radio” is a kind of program meant to deal with children that are sitting home because “we don’t want their brains to get rusty.” She said UNMIL Radio has already promised the Education Ministry air time, and they will work with various community radio stations at the county level to ensue the program reaches across Liberia.
The minister said though the program is not intended to be so heavily academic, it will contain general information on math, Language Arts and other lessons to enrich school kids. She said the program is only a supplement that will keep students’ brain busy, while schools remain closed, and not to replace the classroom education.
Madam Goll-Kotchi said for a country to be declared Ebola freed, it must go through several weeks with no new cases being reported. Communication Director Maxim Bleetan added: “We don’t know when schools will be opening.”