Uncertainty Looms over Reopening of Schools

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Recommencement of academic activities in the country remain uncertain as the Ministry of Education (MOE) looks desperately to authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine when it shall be safe for schools to resume normal function.

Deputy Education Minister for Instruction, Hawa Goll-Kotchi, told reporters over the weekend in Monrovia that the authorization to reopen schools was depending on the MOH/SW and WHO.

The two entities are the ones that recommended to government the closure of schools due primarily to the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) early this year.

Madam Kotchi’s statement followed a meeting held with stakeholders with the intent to decide on a date schools will reopen after four-long months of the suspension of academic activities.

 At the meeting, according to Madam Kotchi, both the WHO and MOH have not up to date, reached a final decision as to which date schools would resume, “because no go ahead have been given to the MOE for classes to recommence.”

“These are two health-related institutions that have the final saying as to the safety of the country from the deadly Ebola epidemic. By that, the MOE will likewise take the decision to announce that it was safe to operate schools comparative to the apparent decrease in the number of Ebola cases in the country.”

However, she noted that the MOE had configured about three separate calendars to run the curriculum in the country just in case they were given the go ahead to recommence classes.

The three calendars, she said were set to begin in January, February or March next year depending on what the health situation would be like in the country within the remaining weeks to end the 2014 year.

Since the EVD outbreak prevalence began to decrease in the country, ordinary Liberians are of the hopes that educational activities would soon resume to ease the anxiety and the school-going children who have been home all throughout the crisis.

 Nevertheless, the resumption of classes, in the mind of Madam Kotchi would to some extent depend on the instruction of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that upon the passage of the budget, the MOE should commence cleaning of school campuses; a process some school authorities have started.

 In the meantime, Madam Kotchi said the MOE has already made a proposal to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) for the renovation of about 500 schools throughout the country to have them prepared for resumption of academic activities.

 Some of the repair works at targeted schools involved bringing in new furniture as well as the installation of Ebola preventive materials and hand pumps, among other things.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf has reversed her latest nomination of Ramses Kumbuyah as Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports for Administration, opting to retain him as Deputy Education Minister for Administration.

The President’s decision was predicated on an appeal from Education Minister-designate Elizabeth Davis-Russell pleading for continuity of service by Kumbuyah in his current position, a letter from President Sirleaf addressed to members of the Liberian Senate has said.

In the letter dated November 24, 2014 to the Senate, President Sirleaf quoted Davis-Russell as saying Kumbuyah “represents an institutional memory of the education sector and therefore must remain at his present position at MOE.”

“I have accepted Dr. Russell’s appeal and hereby withdraw the nomination of Dr. Nancy Freeman and nominate her to the position of Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Youth and Sports instead of Kumbuyah," she added.

Following the reading of the communication, the Senate voted to forward the letter to the Committees on Education and Youth and Sports to begin confirmation hearings for the nominees.

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