The Senate plenary yesterday voted to set up a joint committee with the mandate to invite officials of the Ministries of Education and Health to ascertain from them whether it was feasible to commence academic activities, and return with their findings to plenary within one week.
It is not, however, clear who the committee will be meeting with in committee room from the Ministry of Health, as President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently nominated Civil Service Agency Director General George Werner to replace aging and soon-to-be-retired former Minister of Health, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale. The Senate refused to confirm Mr. Werner, because they claim that he lacks the requisite qualification for the job.
The Senators’ action was prompted by a communication from Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence in which she raised a four-point concern that she believes needed to be addressed in the wake of announcement by the Ministry of Education that schools will start classes on February 2.
Firstly, Senator Lawrence wants the Senate to ascertain whether schools should reopen before the country is declared Ebola free, and to know if the Ministry of Education has done adequate preparation for the reopening of schools.
The Grand Bassa lawmaker is also concerned about parents’ preparation to pay tuition given the short notice ; and whether schools have enough time, especially private schools, to mobilize resources in the absence of salaries for teachers for seven months, for the reopening of schools in February.
Senator Lawrence declared: “I therefore wish to request that plenary invite the Education Minister to present a plan of action with a timeline for the reopening of schools in February convincing us that the plan is workable and the Health Minister to report on the status of the Ebola crisis; and to guarantee the safety of our children and teachers for reopening of schools in February.”
Senator Lawrence noted that the country has a very poor school system, which she said has resulted into poor performance of students in entrance examinations, West Africa Examination Council exam, and even classroom exams.
It can be recalled that seven months ago, all schools and other institutions of higher learning were closed to protect students, faculty and staff against the deadly Ebola virus.