On MTM Saga: Gender Ministry Says Discussions Are Ongoing To Carry Out Anti-Stigmatization campaign
Since the publication of the ProPublica documentary on More Than Me (MTM) Saga, which has also witnessed series of protests from various groupings, with one group calling for the closure of the school and other inclusive of the students and parents, calling for the school to remain open among other things, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and other line Ministries, have been seriously engaging to ensure a logical conclusion.
During one of the protests held on Thursday, October 18, 2018, a petition was received by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, with the protesters demanding the immediate closure of the school, while during the students and parents protest held on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, the PTA Leadership, West Point Community youth leadership and some students were received in the Office of H.E. Dr. George M. Weah as they demanded that the school remains open, and that Katie Meyler stay on board.
Following the separate protest, H.E. Dr. George M. Weah, instructed that the relevant Ministries (Ministries of Health and Gender) immediately meet the school’s administration to proceed with the students HIV/AIDS counseling and testing; and that the Ministry of Gender come out with findings to conclude the matter amongst other things.
Upon the instructions of the President, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection has taken the following actions:
- On Wednesday, October 23, 2018, conducted a meeting by the Ministries of Education and Gender, represented by Hon. Lathim Dathong and Hon. Lydia Mai-Sherman, respectively inclusive of the MTM Academy’s administration and the institution’s Local Advisory Board (LAB) Chairperson, Hon. Dorbor Jallah and the PTA Leadership.
During the meeting, briefing on the President’s instructions was made clear with the following action points:
- That the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection work along with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to do the anti-stigmatization messages and awareness;
- That MTM calls a PTA Meeting, notifying the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in order to have a representative present, among others
With the mandate that the Ministry of Gender proceed to come up with findings concluding the matter, a letter was written to the MTM Academy to ascertain their level of compliance during their operations prior to the school’s opening and onwards to the period of the incidence in 2014.
A response was immediately communicated by the MTM Academy along with dossier of documents that were requested. On Friday, October 26, 2018, the technical team of the Ministry reviewed the documents and observed generally that MTM Academy was not in compliance as an institution catering for young vulnerable girls during the period of their opening, and even after the incidence. It was also observed that the institution started being in compliance earlier this year – 2018.
- MTM never had a Child Protection Policy in placed when the school opened even up to the time and after the incident occurred in 2014. That the Child Protection Policy of MTM was approved on February 8, 2018;
- That there is no approval date of the MTM Policy for Child Protection regarding Media which could easily determine the time it became effective
- That there is no proof of reference or recommendation letter for staff
- It was observed that some students date of birth do not match on both registration forms (Media Consent Form), amongst others.
Additionally, the Ministry of Gender, Children along with the Ministry of Youth & Sports held a meeting with some parents and the PTA Leadership headed by Mr. Solomon J. Dennue at the Ministry’s offices on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The objective of the meeting was to get their involvement in the anti-stigmatization and psychosocial plan. During the meeting it was suggested that they (PTA) meet independently as parents, and a planned meeting was scheduled for Sunday, November 4, 2018.
As part of their civic responsibility, the PTA meeting was held on Sunday, November 4, 2018 with over 100 persons. Decisions reached in the meeting are as followed:
- That the Parents do not want to be part of the anti-stigmatization campaign. Because according to them it did not happen when the incident occurred in 2014: That their participation will show that it is indeed true that their children are HIV/AIDS carriers which they believe that it is not true;
- Concerning the HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, that the parents do not trust the health practitioners on grounds that the previous test conducted in 2014 was exposed to the media which they feel uncomfortable about (No confidentiality). Therefore, they have refused for any testing of their children.
However, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is working closely with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to carry out the anti-stigmatization campaign.