School Reopening Mess

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Government’s pronouncement a fortnight ago ordering the resumption of classes on February 2 seems to be heading for confusion with two different dates now being announced for the reopening of schools.

The government, through the Ministry of Education (MOE), had announced the resumption of basic academic activities beginning Monday, January 12 with student registration followed by teacher orientation and other preparatory activities.

Thereafter, according to MOE authorities, instruction would commence yesterday, February 2. With that pronouncement, school administrators and students were already being urged to observe strictly the Ebola preventive measures to be mounted at all school campuses.

Early last year, schools throughout the country were ordered closed during the second outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) that claimed the lives of 4000 people.

The action of the government to have schools reopened came as the result of the drastic decline in the number of new Ebola cases across the country. 

Authorities at the MOE, released the academic calendar for 2015, basing it on the February 2 set date.

But while the exercise was progressing with students set to enter classrooms yesterday, the Joint Legislative Committee on Education, Public Administration and Health last Thursday recommended that schools re-open on March 2, instead of February 2 as announced by the MOE.

The Committee said the postponement was necessary to allow for adequate preparation of school facilities and to give the MOE, and Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW) ample time to deliver the necessary Ebola preventive facilities to the 5,181 schools in Liberia.

The extension, according to the Lawmakers, was also to enable parents to raise the money for school fees and uniforms.
The Committee’s recommendation was contained in a report derived from a meeting held with authorities of the Ministries of Education and Health.  The Committee’s recommendation was read on Thursday in Session at the Capitol Hill.
 
After meeting with authorities at the MOE and MOH, the Committee requested their respective officials to provide explanation on possible modalities and measures put in place relative to the reopening of schools on yesterday.

According to the Joint Committee, it also held a series of consultations with stakeholders and public and private school administrations, who said the decision by government to reopen schools on February 2, 2015 was not realistic.   

Following the reading of the report, Plenary debated and resolved that it should be accepted, thereby leaving Speaker J. Alexander Tyler to mandate the chief clerk immediately to communicate the decision to authorities of the MOE and MOH/SW as to the March 2, 2015 date agreed to by members of the joint committee to reopen schools across the country.

Shortly after the information reached the MOE, its authorities adjusted the February 2 date by two weeks difference to Monday, February 16, 2005, for the resumption of classes.

What was not clear about the MOE’s February 16 reopening date is whether they reached an agreement with the Lawmakers on that reopening date.  

Instead, the MOE added that while the reopening of school would be delayed by two weeks, other academic activities, including registration of students, teachers’ orientation, cleaning up of campuses and installation of Ebola preventive facilities would continue.

Observers believe it is hard to understand why the Legislature would intervene to set a date for the reopening of schools when this is purely the function of the Executive branch of government, through the Ministry of Education.

Illegal Sale of Instructional Materials

Meanwhile, as the rigmarole continues regarding the actual date for school reopening, Deputy Education Minister for Administration, Ramses Kumbuyah has warned school authorities against the sale of textbooks and other instructional materials as the act is punishable under the law.

Kumbuyah said that the MOE will rigidly enforce the “not for sale” policy to ensure that instructional materials are properly distributed and used by students without cost to the parents.
According to him, the public is warned not to purchase any of the MOE materials bearing the “Not For Sale” inscription.

Deputy Minister Kumbuyah’s statement was triggered by an earlier disclosure from the MOE that over one million text books intended to enhance public school instructions are expected in the country ‘very soon’.

Payment for WAEC Fee
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has announced that payment of fees for the annual exams administered by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for both public and private schools is due in May this year.
This measure is intended to afford parents ample time to also gather financial resources before the May payment date.

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