President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was accorded an awesome reception last week on her tour of Lofa County. In every city, town and village she entered, many expressed joy at seeing for the first time, the Liberian leader they have overwhelmingly supported over the years.
It is no secret that Lofa County is a ruling Unity Party stronghold that overwhelmingly voted for Ellen in the 2005 and 2011 general elections. This is why the President, kicking off her 2014 nationwide tour with a first stop at Lofa, looks like an attempt at showing her appreciation.
Mrs. Sirleaf was feted with traditional dances, and many other activities. These festivities did not stop the people from engaging their leader on critical issues that—if addressed—would improve their standard of living as well as that of future generations.
Lofians had nothing more to demand from the Liberian leader than better health and educational facilities with a qualified and well-paid staff to carry out their duties effectively.
The citizens said that most of the teachers and nurses assigned in their areas do not receive pay. This is a critical issue that government needs to take into consideration.
The citizens also spoke of the need to have vocational and technical training centers constructed in strategic locations in the county that focus on the manpower development of young people and women. They indicated the empowerment of young people is a serious issue that needs immediate attentions.
In various position statements presented to President Sirleaf, the citizens called on the Liberian leader to address the plight of teachers and nurses serving in the county. Some of these, they said are providing sacrificial services and are yet to be placed on government payroll.
Vahun district Representative, Fofi Sahr Baimba, reading the district’s position statement told the Liberian leader that his people had unanimously agreed that education, including technical and vocational, was the best means by which their lives might be improved.
He, however, asked President Sirleaf for the construction of a technical training center where the young people would go to acquire skills. The people of Vahun also asked for the construction of additional high schools in their district, due to the high number of school-age students.
He said this would help keep the youths in the district and discourage migration in order to pursue higher education and opportunities. “Madam President, our young people are in need of empowerment, so we are asking you to please help us construct a vocation school in our district. That will help them acquire technical skills to sustain them and their families.”
“The construction of an additional high school for our growing number of student will be laudable because we have only one high school in the district and this can no longer accommodate our children who want to seek high school education. If the vocational and the high school are built, it will help retain our children in the district, thereby discouraging migration,” Rep. Baimba said.
The administrators of the various health facilities in Kolahun, Vahun, Foya, and Zorzor petitioned the Liberian President to augment the subsidies that they currently receive from the Central Government due to the administrative and financial constraints that they frequently face. They indicated that NGOs supports are no longer forthcoming and that government should now take full control.
They also told President Sirleaf to help address the nurses that have served many years and continue to serve the public and are yet to be placed on payroll. Some of the nurses were observing the go slow action that is being observed by health workers throughout the country.
Kolahun Hospital Medical Director, Dr. Josephus Bolongei said that the hospital now runs on only one generator. He requested that the Liberian leader lent a helping hand before the situation became worse.
Dr. Bolongei said the hospital has carried out 60 successful operations, without any deaths, since August 2013 when it lost NGO support. He also admonished his medical staff to remain mature in seeking redress to their grievances.
Meanwhile at the Telewoyan Memorial Referral Hospital, in Voinjama, nurses were said to be observing the go-slow when President Sirleaf arrived. The Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Zuannah Kamara, informed the President that only he and his wife were keeping open the doors of the facilities, and that the two of them were able to treat and discharge all patients before the nurses went on their go- slow.
At the St. Theresa Episcopal Church in Voinjama, where an intercessory service was held to mark her arrival in Voinjama, President Sirleaf voiced serious disappointment over the conduct of the nurses at Telewoyan Hospital, calling their action a betrayal of their oath to save lives, come what may.
“The nurses should know that their action is not harming me, nor Dr. Gwenigale, but the very people all of us took an oath to serve. Though they may have genuine concerns, the approach taken is wrong and should claim the attention of all of us in this church,” said President Sirleaf.
“We know we have many challenges, but if anyone here says we have done nothing to address these concerns, then said person must be living on the moon,” she said. President Sirleaf said her government has always been open for dialogue to resolve issues. She encouraged the striking nurses in Voinjama to rethink their decision.