We do not know how many other counties have experienced delayed school re-openings due to various logistical problems.
But our Nimba Correspondent Ishmael Menkor reported yesterday that school reopening across the county was delayed for two primary reasons: first, the absence or delayed arrival of anti-Ebola supplies, such as chlorinated hand washing buckets and temperature taking devices. The second was the delayed disbursement of subsidies to public schools, which the Ministry of Education (MOE) has directed not to charge entrance, registration or any other fees whatsoever. The MOE’s reason was a good one—to minimize the hardship on parents, most of whom have suffered substantial economic and financial setbacks due to the Ebola epidemic.
In order to save public schools from financial shortfalls since they had been ordered not to accept registration or other fees, MOE pledged subsidies to these schools. Alas, in Nimba County at least, Menkor reported that the subsidies have not been forthcoming.
Surely Nimba is not that far away. Due to the deplorable road conditions and also the ongoing highway construction that necessitates many detours, it takes about five hours to reach Ganta from Monrovia. That is not that far; so what is the reason that MOE could not get the subsidies and Ebola-fighting materials to Nimba schools in time?
It was in early January that the Ministry announced the reopening of schools by late January and then early February. Surely, before making that pronouncement, MOE should already have made sure to line up its promised subsidies, its anti-Ebola supplies, books and all other necessities for distribution throughout the country in time for school reopening. This was the minimum the Ministry could have done to take itself seriously in order to meet its own target date.
It is a sad commentary on educational administration, most especially at the governmental level, for MOE to not be in compliance with its own deadlines. And if these deadlines are not met for schools as near as Nimba, how much more the schools in much further distances, such as Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Grand Kru, Maryland, Sinoe, River Cess and Lofa counties?
But this is nothing new. We recall that a few years ago it took months for textbooks to reach the schools in River Gee County.
Liberian administrators have to take themselves far more seriously. They must realize that Liberia is a small country—only 43,000 square miles, with a population of hardly 4,000,000. So why does Liberia seem so hard to manage? Why did it take months, well into second semester, before River Gee students could get their textbooks?
How long did it take further distances—Grand Kru, Maryland, Sinoe, River Cess, Lofa Counties—to receive their text books, if at all? In this post-Ebola season, how long will it take for all these distant places to receive their subsidies and supplies?
Surely MOE should give credit to the progress in the banking sector, which has made it possible for every county to boast of at least one bank. That is progress which should make it easier for the MOE—or anyone else—to move money around. So what is the reason for the late arrival of subsidies, especially in a centrally located and progressive city like Ganta, where there are at least FIVE banks? MOE leads us to ask the totally unnecessary question, What is the purpose of progress, if our very government fails to recognize the progress that its own regulatory institutions, such as the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), are making sure to establish around the country? All MOE needed to do was to instruct the Ministry of Finance to channel the subsidies through any of these banks—or MOE could have made sure that Finance remitted the money directly to MOE, which could then transfer it to the various counties directly through the banking system.
We hope Minister Etmonia Tarpeh and other MOE authorities do not think we are being needlessly critical. All we are trying to do is to remind them that Liberia is a very small country. Therefore, apart from the reason of the lack of budgetary allocation, it should not take that much time and effort to get things done efficiently and expeditiously.