Students Protest over School Building Takeover
By Samuel G. Dweh |Freelance Development Journalist |Contacts —+231 (0)firstname.lastname@example.orgemail@example.com|
When they were leaving their respective homes for their common learning center in the early hours of Monday, January 11, 2021, dozens of students of The People’s Institute (High School) never thought they would meet the School’s gate sealed and a barricade of team of armed police officers to prevent students’ entry into the building.
Minutes later, the students were informed that the closure and terrifying presence of the armed police officers were on order by the Proprietor of another High School about one hour walking distance away.
The message, as well as the students’ imagining their educational future threatened, charged them to decided to express their grievance in a civil way: holding of placards with various inscriptions—“Over 500 students Are About to Stay Out of School. Please Help Us Stay in School!”….“Rev. & Mother Juah, if I don’t learn today, my future will be dark tomorrow”…“Rev. and Mother Juah, Please Allow Us To End Our School Year”, etc.
After translating their thoughts on papers (card boards), the students marched to the Soltiamon High School, located on 20th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia, owned by clergyman (Pastor) and educational businessman, Rev. Solomon Juah.
I saw the assembly of protesting students when I was on a public bus going to Central Monrovia, but I alighted to be informed about the causes of their actions.
The first student I spoke with identified himself as Jerry M. Boima, in the 11th grade class.
He said the building hosting his school was under a tenant named “Bill”, a Ghanaian, who had rented the building to another person named Mr. Clay to use the building for his educational business named The People’s Institute.
“But another man, named Mr. Jones, came from America and said the building is for him, and showed documents of ownership, which was discovered real than the one Mr. Clay has been presenting,” student Jerry M. Boima explained to me.
The 11th grader also said tussle of ownership of the building later ensued between the two men and extended to the Court.
“We were told that Mr. Jones won the case, and decided to rent his building to a different person: Reverend (Solomon) Juah, owner of Soltiamon High School, to use it as another annex of Soltiamon School,” student Boima narrated further.
The first renter’s lease agreement with proprietor of The People’s Institute will expire in 2022, student Boima added.
A female student, Catherine Barkay, of the 12th grade class, told me representatives of the student population with some teachers of the school had met Rev. Juah on many occasions to hold on to his takeover action until the end of the current academic year.
“Some of us, students, had attended his Church’s services just for him to wait until the current academic year ends. He had told us many times he is willing to wait, but his wife has the final say. And the wife is probably not feeling for us because the school’s entrance door is locked and police officers prevented us from entering the building,” student Catherine Barkay explained.
No official of The People’s Institute or Soltiamon High School responded to my questions on the cause of the students’ protest.
“I’m too stressed up now, so I can’t speak to any different person,” an elderly man, introduced to me as one of the officials of The People’s Institute, replied to my question.
Getting the attention of Rev. Juah’s wife to agree on the students’ collective plea—postpone takeover action to the end of the current academic year—will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, a trader male trader with business center opposite the School building told me.
“I don’t think the Reverend’s wife will agree. She’s difficult to deal with, highly educated, and she controls the husband. I have known the Juahs over two decades before I moved here to sell,” explained the trader who introduced himself as Marcus Tokpah.
Soltiamon is a combination of three names—Solomon, Tiankay and Monblayou, the last two being the relatives of Solomon (first name of the proprietor)
Soltiamon High School is a member of the Soltiamon School Systems with Kindergarten and High School divisions in Old Road Community (where the Proprietor wants to extend through the building hosting The People’s Institute) and other parts of Montserrado County, beside Rivercess County where the School began under a tree in the 1940’s.
One of the pioneer students of Soltiamon is the outgoing Senior Senator of Rivercess County, Hon. Dallas A.V. Gueh (defeated in Liberia’s Senatorial election for Rivercess held in December, 2020), who enrolled into the school when its teaching sessions were under a tree.
The school is one of Liberia’s popular educational institutions due to its quality of teaching and the uncompromising disciplinarian character of the Founder/Proprietor—Mr. (Rev.) Solomon Juah, the current Head Pastor of a branch of the Refuge Baptist Church. This “disciplinarian attitude” seems borrowed from the character of a woman in whose memory the High School branch on 12th street was named: Mrs. Hawa Sarnor-Koon (written on the external wall of the building)
However, Rev. Juah and his son (current Principal of the High School division on 20th Street, Sinkor) came under national embarrassment on a “disciplinarian action” against a female 12th grader on unauthorized exit out of teaching session. The School’s authority endorsed the flogging of the student with a ratten, which caused sores at the flogged spot.
The Liberian Senate Committee on Education—headed by Senator Dallas A.V. Gueh (Soltiamon’s former student)—intervened into the issue by giving order for the incarceration of the School’s Principal (Solomon Juah, Jr.) and his father (Founder/Proprietor Solomon Juah, Sr.) on “defending” his son on the “cruel action”