President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf upon her return from the 71st United Nations (UN) summit held in the United States of America scolded and reprimanded the striking teachers of the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) and students for what she termed as “infringement on the rights” of other peaceful citizens by their collective actions.
In mustering what opponents referred to as “defensive posture” in support of embattled Minister of Education (MOE) George Werner, the Liberian Chief Executive has seemingly reaffirmed explicit confidence in the ability of the minister to reform the “messy” educational policy through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) implemented by Bridge International, a nongovernmental organization based in the United States of America.
While, executives of the NTAL has admonished its members nationwide to boycott classes and remain resolute in their resolve until Minister Werner and the Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) resigned their respective posts, however, the Liberian leader also threatened to shut down schools if the strike action persist.
According to unconfirmed report, during the initial boycott of classes, Minister Werner was alleged to have bragged that no amount of pressure from the NTAL or civil society groups will enable him succumb to their demand for his resignation until President Sirleaf choose to terminate his services, noting that no amount of undue actions will lead to his premature resignation.
However, as the strike action unfolds and it’s attending consequences, a presidential aspirant Carlton Boah, has given his expert opinion on the ongoing crisis in the educational sector, terming it as “unorganized, chaotic, and doubtfully unachievable” the hasty PPP concept for Liberia.
“I don’t think that the demand for the resignation of Minister Werner and Superintendent Aldophus Jacobs will solve the educational mess that the country is presently facing; it requires holistic national policy with broad based stakeholders who are knowledgeable in the field to champion such necessary reform policies for Liberian schools,” said Aspirant Boah.
Aspirant Boah said instead of hastily introducing the PPP to reform the educational sector, it would have been imperative for the government to convene an affirmative national policy action plan that would address lapses that will engender the attainment of quality education.
“Under my leadership; if successful in 2017 to be elected as President; I will propose a major consultation on the prospects of reforming the educational sector that would soot the context of Liberia in totality and not bring about new concepts and innovations that will create bottlenecks in its implementation,” Boah stressed.
The NTAL in its statement insists that the PPP for Liberia, which is championed by Minister Werner and others, is exclusively intended to create wealth for selected individuals under the canopy of reforming the educational sector.
Minister Werner, an “imported Liberia Educator” who upon his appointment by President resided in the United States is ostensibly viewed as staunch proponent of the PPP and its implementation in Liberia.
Like other Liberian Government officials who do not enjoy the confidence of those under their supervision, Minister Werner has insisted never to resign unless President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf mandates him to relinquish the post.
Notably, the protesters have accused both at the MOE and MCSS authorities of adding mess to Liberia’s educational system, which President Sirleaf, also described as “messy.”
During last Wednesday’s protest at the Education Ministry’s premises on 3rd Street, Sinkor, a member of the MCSS Teachers Associations, Susan Nagbe, alleged that they have suffered too long, since Minister Werner and Superintendent Jacobs took over, stressing, “enough is enough.”
A beneficiary of the Education Ministry’s scholarship, Cecelia Wiles, described Minister Werner as an “evil person.”
The In Profile also gathered students in Kakata, Nimba and Gbarnga, and elsewhere also demonstrated simultaneously in solidarity with the striking teachers with information suggesting that the situation, if not controlled, would turn into a wild cat strike across the country.
The strike appeared well organized as the Acting President of the National Teachers Association of Liberia, Mary Mulbah Nyumah, said their action is in the interest of Liberia.
According to her, if Minister Werner and Superintendent Jacobs do not resign, Liberia’s education system will continue to experience downward trend with less improvement.
Prominent among the agitations stirring the protest is the Public-Private Partnership reform measure Minister Werner has pressed forward in addressing some of the challenges facing Liberia’s dismal education system.
But some experts including teachers of the sector have termed the PPP measure as a profit-making policy that will not benefit the masses.
Another annoying policy Minister Werner reportedly imposed on teachers in particular was the test the ministry mandated public teachers to sit for across the country, despite being trained at the Kakata Rural Teacher Training Institute (KRTT); the Zorzor Rural Teacher Training Institute ( ZRTTI) and the Webbo Rural Teacher Training Institute (WRTTI), which are located in Margibi, Lofa and River Gee Counties. Notwithstanding, some teachers refused to sit for the test.
However, the striking teachers have not been alone in their struggle. Other groups such as the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NAHWA); Concerned Universities Students of the Ministry of Education, the Consolidated Human Rights Advocacy Movement, among others, have joined the aggrieved teachers to call for the resignations of Werner and Jacobs.
The groups in solidarity with the protesting teachers have named the privatization of the country’s educational sector, violations of the new Education Reform Law, under payment of teachers and the ‘unilateral’ dismissal of some teachers without cause, as some reasons why the officials need to resign.
With the new school year just commencing, students whose teachers have resolved not to return to classrooms until their demand is met tend to be greatly affected.
In a recent interview, the Director of Communication at the MOE, Maxim Bleehtain, said the ministry is willing to dialogue, but said the striking teachers are not willing to discuss anything rather than the resignation of the Minister Werner.
Director Bleehtain disclosed that his boss was booed when he attempted to meet the protesters and had to return to his office.
He argued that the aggrieved teachers have not advanced any genuine reasons for their protest. but noted, “You are taking money and not working, is that not criminal…”