The Liberian government has no right to arbitrarily close down schools just because some students participated in demonstrations for it is the job of the Liberia National Police to clear demonstrators from wherever they gather.
This was the reaction of Torli Krua, human rights activist and pastor from Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States. Krua, who serves refugees and promotes justice, entrepreneurship, self-sufficiency and citizens’ initiatives in post-conflict Liberia, was reacting to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s order to close down schools and dismiss teachers involved in last Tuesday’s student protest in Unification Town, Margibi County.
Reports said there were roadblocks on the main Robertsfield Highway with the students demanding that the instructors return to their classrooms. Krua said when citizens break the law and the government in anger breaks the law, then of course both are set in a lawless quagmire that could breed insecurity.
Rev. Krua admitted that Liberia has a lawlessness problem and “The solution is a full scale restoration of true democracy and real republicanism in Liberia. There is a growing perception among poor and illiterate Liberian citizens that there is no justice for poor and illiterate citizens. Even so, those who blocked the highway must be arrested and prosecuted based on the laws of Liberia,” he said on the social media comment section of the Daily Observer online page.
Rev. Krua said the aggrieved students must be creative and strategic about the solutions they desire and they must use their brains and not just resort to using their hands and feet as stone throwers or street demonstrators.
“Students have a right to take the government to court for damages they suffer because of the teachers’ strike. Clearly, this looks like a policing problem,” he said. “And they are closing schools for policing problems?”
Widening the scope of his reaction, Rev. Krua said to restore true democracy and real republicanism in Liberia, citizens must demand the right to set the salaries and benefits of legislators and also directly propose laws without the permission or approval of the President or the National Legislature.
He said politicians will not bring change – only citizens can bring complete change and urged change agents to stand up for social change, one by one.
“Together citizens must begin building a new democracy,” he said.
Supporting Rev. Krua’s position, Quoi Yarlee wrote, “Madam President, I think your decision is a result of frustration. The head of NTAL, who initiated the demonstration, should be held responsible. Again dismiss the Minister of Education, because this has become a custom that any appointed official with a resignation request from the public cannot be ignored.”
The NTAL has staged demonstrations calling for the removal of Education Minister Werner and the Monrovia Consolidated School System’s Superintendent Benjamin A. Jacobs, accusing them of incompetency and inadequate capacity in their respective positions to bring reforms to the country’s messy educational system. NTAL representatives have condemned the introduction of the Private Public Partnership (PPP) that places the educational system in the hands of a private company that has failed in its programs in Uganda and Kenya.
However, the Ministry of Education has not shown any interest to back down, insisting that the PPP idea is the best way to go, which was recently buttressed by Senator Jewel Taylor (Bong Co). The NTAL said many teachers have lost their jobs and despite appeals for their reinstatement, the MOE has failed to do so.
Andrew Worth wrote, “If people damage property and act disorderly, you prosecute them for damaging property and acting disorderly. Extrajudicial punishment for simple crimes is not an action undertaken by a responsible government.”
During the demonstration, students vandalized government facilities, including the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, offices of the National Elections Commission, the County Service Center, and part of the fence surrounding the Ministry of Education facilities in Kakata.
Peter Darsee in his reaction wrote, “There is nothing just about destroying what we are benefiting from as a people. There is nothing just about a demonstration that leads to the destruction of government and private properties. There is nothing just about a demonstration that is not properly defined. What is just about demonstration is simple – demonstrators shall write what they want for government to address on paper, put it on a piece of stick or hold it in their hands so that national and international journalists and other people may know the meaning of your dissatisfaction. Those who engaged in violent demonstrations are people who want instant or quick justice, but fail to know that justice is not all about quickness but patience.”
Darsee accused those who are clapping for “these undefined demonstrators as unpatriotic. You and your demonstrators are not true nationals of this country. Please stop your undefined actions. Don’t let your hate for the education minister overshadow your love for your dear country, Liberia.”
Dixon Butty of St. Francis High School was reconciliatory when he wrote, “Let me passionately appeal to the President to exercise restraint and show mercy on the students. To err is human and to forgive is a great divine. The students must have been brainwashed to do what they thought was right. The educational system in Liberia is already rotten. Let’s refine it not by closure but by dialogue. The students involved are not self-sponsored. Their parents and guardians paid for their education from their hard-earned money. Please feel for their parents and guardians by showing mercy.”