Learning activities for more than 3000 students at the John Wesley Pearson (J.W. Pearson) Elementary, Junior and Senior High School in Ganta, the commercial hub of Nimba County, is now in shambles as a result of inadequate seating capacity, coupled with a lack of basic educational facilities.
J.W. Pearson was built by the government in the 1950s as an elementary school, and originally contained 11 classes. Because of the present constraints, the administration has been left with no alternative but to partition the auditorium and create an additional three classrooms.
“Since the 50s up to present, the institution has remained the only government-owned school in Ganta. Yet, nothing has been done to improve its learning facilities,” the Principal, James L. Saye Kardamie, informed the Daily Observer in a recent exclusive interview in Ganta.
Mr. Kardamie said, “The institution is beset (troubled) by so many problems, including the lack of chairs, a library, and laboratory.”
In the case of the shortage of chairs, the principal explained “some of the students come to school as early as 6 a.m. just to be the first to have some of the available seats.”
According to him, those who come between 7 and 7:30 a.m. have to bring their own chairs from their respective homes, or are otherwise forced to sit on the bare floor.
Additionally, Mr. Kardamie said, “Most of the instructors, especially the newly recruited teachers, often abandon classes to run after their pay checks, either in Sanniquellie, the county’s political seat at the Chief Education offices (CEO), or in Monrovia, the nation’s capital at the Ministry of Education (MOE).”
Mr. Kardamie disclosed that the situation was serious to the extent that learning at the school was being hindered, causing students to repeatedly perform below academic standards whenever public tests are administered; making the school’s present state of affairs worse.
Principal Kardamie said the lack of a fence to scare away potential intruders from illegally entering the courtyard was another serious issue.
“Another major problem is the lack of a fence, which has virtually exposed the entire campus to suspected thieves,” Mr. Kardamie complained.
Moreover, he said that the institution does not have a single janitor or security guard to keep the classrooms kempt (clean) and protect the property from being damaged or stolen at the hands of wicked-minded individuals.
At present, he said the enrollment has increased from over 1,750 students last academic year, to about 2,995 students this year.
Of the influx of students this year, Mr. Kardamie records about 1,700 of them in the senior high session, while the rest are registered in the lower classes.
The J.W. Pearson School runs two sections (morning and afternoon) from kindergarten to the 12th grade.
Interestingly, even with the poor learning condition, the administration enrolled over 70 students in a single class.
“The reason,” said Mr. Kardamie, can be attributed to the introduction of the government’s “free and compulsory” education.
“The number of students that is supposed to be in a single class is 45-50, but with the introduction of the ‘free and compulsory’ education, the number of students per class has increased.”
Minister Etmonia David Tarpeh
On Thursday, November 21, 2013, the Minister of Education, Etmonia David Tarpeh, in a press statement, acknowledged some of the harsh condition students were enduring to acquire education.
Minister Tarpeh’s comment fell in line with constant media reports that students in rural parts of the country lacked chairs in almost all of the government-owned institutions; resulting in students regularly sitting on the ground to acquire their education.
Minister Tarpeh corroborated (confirmed) Mr. Kardamie’s story, but also shifted the blame on some members of the public for the insufficient chairs at many of the government schools across the country.
According to her, there are individuals who usually borrow chairs from public schools, for parties and other activities, and “deliberately refuse to return those items.”
This, she claimed was one of the factors that are affecting the learning of the school-going pupils in Ganta.
The Minister said that it was the responsibility of parents to repair broken chairs at the various public schools.
“When the chairs spoiled, let the parents fix it. That is what we call a viable PTA, because when the chairs are not there, the children will sit on the ground,” Minister Tarpeh suggested.