The Independent National Commission of Human Rights (INCHR) has called on the government to constitute an independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to protests by teachers, followed by a series of student demonstrations.
The INCHR’s call comes in the wake of student demonstrations demanding the return of the protesting teachers to classes, while the teachers are also boycotting classes in demand for the resignations of Education Minister George K. Werner and the Superintendent of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), Benjamin Jacobs.
The Commission also wants the government to examine the constitutionality of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) education reform, which has become the bone of contention.
The PPP, which the INCHR observes as the basis for the demonstrations, is preferred by Werner.
“The work of the independent panel to probe the teachers and students’ actions must consider demands made by the public school teachers and determine how future (proposals from MOE authorities versus the interest of a targeted sector) can be harmoniously reconciled
within the context of law and the best interest of the nation,” INCHR said in a statement yesterday.
The INCHR therefore recommends that the best way to institute public service policy reforms is through inclusive consultations.
However, the proposed PPP action appears uncoordinated, fragmented and fraught with contradictions to the country’s education framework, according to the Commission.
As a result, the INCHR says the situation has increased distrust in the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the lack of national ownership of the reforms.
“The recently introduced PPP measures taken by the MOE to strengthen the country’s education system from (mess to best) must be also be cognizant of the moral and ethical transgression of this policy against the poor and weak in our society, who live below the poverty line,” The INCHR said.
The Commission also called on the government to return to the drawing board to review the PPP policy option in the hope of restoring confidence and revamping the education sector.
The Commission therefore recommends to the MOE to review all actions and objectives of the PPP and convene a national policy framework dialogue that is inclusive of all education stakeholders; that MOE prioritizes and clearly states how and what public education workers and school pupils stand to benefit.
The INCHR noted: “Those are the ones at the forefront of this ‘mess to best’ education reform fight and continue to complain of neglect thus victimizing the vast populace.”
Therefore, said the INCHR, Liberia is and must remain a country that supports, protects and promotes the fundamental principles of inalienable human rights, which also promotes the right to participate in decision making that affects one’s life.
On Tuesday, protesting students in Unification Town (Smell-No-Taste) near the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County blocked the airport/Monrovia highway demanding the return of their teachers to classes.
Also on Monday, normal commercial activities and the free-flow of traffic were brought to a standstill in Kakata, Margibi County’s political capital, when students staged a similar protest by taking to the streets in solidarity with the leadership of the National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) demanding the resignations of Werner and Jacobs.
In their action, which turned violent, the students ransacked several public buildings in Kakata including the 13th Judicial Circuit Court, offices of the National Elections Commission, the county’s Service Center and part of the fence surrounding the MOE’s facilities in Kakata.
Despite calls for their dismissal, the teachers yesterday staged another round of protest at the entrance of the 3rd Street, Sinkor offices of the MOE carrying placards with various inscriptions, many of them reaffirming the teachers’ resolve to see the backs of Minister Werner and MCSS Superintendent Jacobs.