With just a month to end this year’s academic activities, the hope of the more than 100 students at the J. W. Person Elementary School on Clay Street is currently in limbo.
The situation erupted when the owner of the building shut the school down due to unpaid rent from government for the past ten years.
Students, who until yesterday became impatient while waiting on government to settle the rental fees and reopen the school doors, took to the streets in protest.
They said they have been out of school for the past three weeks and were therefore calling on their colleagues to join them in their protest to draw government’s attention to settle the rental arrears.
The protestors, mainly underage students, blocked the free flow of traffic at the corner of Carey and Johnson streets, shouting their frustrations at the government and promising not to move until their situation was handled.
With placards in their hands, the students said, “It is our right to learn because we are the future leaders of this country, so please pay the rent for the school.”
“We the students of J. W. Pearson are appealing to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, our Ma, to please intervene in this situation. Imagine if we cannot continue school few weeks to the end of this year’s academic calendar, how [will] our parents obtain our respective promotion statements?” the students asked.
International Children’s Peace Prize winner, Abraham Keita, who arrived on the scene of the protest, described the situation as bad for the country’s education system.
“I feel bad right now,” he said, pledging his full support to the students’ action. “It is their right to education and they should not be demanding for it. If Liberia will move forward, issues like this should be considered seriously for the sake of the students,” Keita said.
He, however, promised to meet with Education Minister to see how “we can get the children back to school. This should not be happening, it is very bad like this,” Keita added.
J.W. Pearson’s Parents Teachers Association (PTA) head, Bowan Doe, masterminded the students’ protest yesterday.
He said the refusal of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to settle the rental fees was “complete wickedness.”
“We have sent a series of communications to the MOE, directly to the minister’s office, appealing that they should handle this rent situation, but they played deaf ears,” Mr. Doe added.
According to him, the worst part of the students’ plight is that the school administrators are not doing anything to help the situation, “rather, they go on telling us to keep our children at home.”
“We will continue protesting come rain or shine. No matter the prevailing circumstances, we cannot sit down to see our children not completing their academic year because government had refused to pay rental fees for buildings occupied by the students,” Mr. Doe said.
All efforts to contact J. Maxim Bleetan, MOE Director of Communications, did not materialize as his phone rang endlessly without answer.