… Snub former President Sirleaf
Hundreds of students of the University of Liberia (UL) on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 took to the street, mainly on Capitol Hill, protesting the delay on the part of the university’s administration to pay its faculty members, a situation that resulted in instructors having reportedly reportedly abandoned classes and refused to administer their final exams.
Over the last few days, UL faculty members have refused to administer the final examinations for the semester, pending the payment of their two-month salaries and the reimbursement of the monies deducted previously from their salaries and allowances.
The student protest comes in the awake of report that the university has begun disbursement of salaries owed the faculty members, a report which was confirmed by Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh. Mr. Tarpeh formerly taught at the university and served as vice president for finance.
The students’ action yesterday held up the flow of traffic going into and out of central Monrovia, thereby delaying some civil servants from getting to their respective offices in time.
Students were moving and singing revolutionary songs around the parameter of the Monrovia City Hall, where it was gathered they had gone there to meet with the City Mayor.
“I am appealing to you to leave the streets and return on campus as we work to settle the faculty’s pay. I cannot promise when they would get the money, but we are working on it. As a veteran of this party, the Student Unification Party (SUP), I am appealing to you to take kindly on campus,” Min. Tarpeh told SUP Chairman Carlos Edison, one of the protest organizers.
Shortly after the students returned to campus, UL Vice President for Public Relations, Norris Tweah, informed them that the university administration has been embroiled with financial crisis recently.
He did not say when the salaries and allowances of the teaching staffs would be addressed.
Mr. Tweah added: “We want to assure you that we have paid the salaries for the month of June. However, for the month of July, the salaries will be settled today (July 24), and that we are doing everything to make this happen. We are very sorry for this inconvenienced situation and, if there are other issues, we will handle them later. Currently, this situation has been handled, although there are other issues raised by the faculty which have not been resolved, but will be resolved it very soon.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Tweah has appealed to the faculty to abandon their strike action and return to classes, while the administration works to resolve other issues raised in their letter of complaint.
“There will be great consequence if this strike action by the faculty members continues. It is for this reason, we want them to return to classes and administer their exams while we resolve some of the concerns,” Mr. Tweah added.
Among those held up in the traffic blockade on the Capitol Bypass, staged by the protesting UL students, was former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who disembarked from her vehicle to plead with the students to leave the streets. The students refused to listen to her.
Some of the students had blamed Madam Sirleaf for “putting the country in its present woes.” Though they did not name the specific part she played, some of the students were overheard blaming her for backing the country’s present leadership during the 2017 elections.
In a Facebook post, Martin Kollie, an executive member of SUP, said the students are protesting for the full payment of salaries and allowances of the faculty, including adjunct professors and part-time lectures for June and July 2019.
“… And the full restitution of all monies deducted from faculty members, and exemption from any and every form of Pro-poor cut, and the lifting of ban on student political activities, as well as the revision of the ‘New Student Handbook,” Kollie said.