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Editorial

Where the Ministry of Education fails

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The depth of complacency or sheer lack of supervisory will, by educational authorities in the country, particularly officials at the Ministry of Education has come to public glare with the excruciatingly damning reports of persistent rape of young girls between ages 10 and 16 at More Than Me Academy, infecting the victims with the HIV virus.

We believe strongly if the Ministry of Education had effectively exercised its supervisory functions at learning institutions across the country, the sad situation involving less fortunate and vulnerable little girls at the American-run charity where its Liberian liaison officer, HIV/AIDS-positive Mcintosh Johnson persistently raped and infected his preys, from 2014 up to his demise in prison in 2016 would have quickly been brought to check.

News about the incident broke here after separate publications by two American outlets, ProPublica and TIME, respectively, graphically detailing the abuses.Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms. Katie Meyler confirms the number of girls, who were raped at the MTM Academy, could have been a quarter of the school, saying, “Everyone over the age of 11.”

How could the Government of Liberia, particularly the Ministry of Education, which licensed MTM Academy, and placed 20 schools in its care under the Liberia Education Advancement Program or LEAP turn a blind eye on what unfolds in those institutions that saw our young girls or dare say, babies being sexually exploited, abused and infected, as they suffered.

The Ministry’s complacency is so glaring, as indicated in statement issued by the charity, calling on the Ministry of Education to visit the Academy at any time for a complete inspection. Does the Ministry needs official an invitation to carry on its statutory functions? We say absolutely no! It is not only frustrating, but highly disheartening that in the words of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia or FeJal that an NGO could carry a humanitarian face yet leads its targeted beneficiaries through another dark and bleak path with life-threatening consequences.

More Than Me is an American charity that was reportedly established in 2009 by U.S. citizen Katie Meyler, to rescue vulnerable girls in Liberia by taking them off the streets into schools, specifically from the densely populated impoverished slum community of West Point along the U.N. Drive in Monrovia.

But reports revealed the girls were raped right from the onset of the program that was meant to help transform their lives and give them hope. “We are deeply, profoundly sorry. To all the girls who were raped by Macintosh Johnson in 2014 and before: we failed you.

“We gave Johnson power that he exploited to abuse children. Those power dynamics broke staff ability to report the abuse to our leadership immediately. Our leadership should have recognized the signs earlier and we have and will continue to employ training and awareness programs so we do not miss this again. We are moved by the courage and bravery of the girls who came forward and it is a tragedy that they ever had to. To the survivors that have HIV, we remain committed to supporting you. We are heartbroken by what happened and also have fundamentally changed how we operate as an organization since this incident”, MTM pleads in a statement issued subsequently.

In a rather belated response, the Ministry of Education says it takes all incidents of sexual assault against students extremely serious and will speedily inquire into the article to ascertain the details of allegations made, being aware that its first duty is to protect Liberian children while educating them. But we still maintain this is a responsibility it failed to execute in the first place.

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