Education Ministry officials, led by Deputy Minister Alexander Duopu with Assistant Minister Felicia Doe-Sumah in tow over the weekend over the weekend stormed the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Levi C. Williams School System and ordered a shutdown of the program. The closing exercises had been planned for months and it included graduation exercises for 12th graders.
The Ministry of Education, it would appear, is issuing policy directives through radio announcements and paid newspaper adverts. Reporters covering the program quoted the Ministers as saying that the Ministry, rather than issuing written policy directions circulated to all schools, it instead opted for repeated radio announcements forbidding the holding of graduation exercises for 12th graders before the WASSCE results are officially out.
And in their judgment, according to the officials, the Levi C. Williams School System had flouted the authority by scheduling graduation exercises. But in its attempt to ascertain the facts of the situation, it was learned from a number of teachers and principals of schools both in and out of Monrovia, that the Ministry of Education has not officially communicated such information directly to them but had instead chosen to do so through radio announcements.
Another point which they raised is the Ministry’s unilateral change from the regular six-week period to seven weeks but has yet failed to formally communicate such information to schools. By its own declaration, the Ministry directs schools to close in June and reopen in September, yet even public schools, in many instances, have failed to scrupulously adhere to these directives and they have done so with impunity.
Equally so, this newspaper could not find any evidence anywhere on record of disobedience, disrespect to the Ministry or non-cooperation with the Ministry on the part of authorities of the Levi C. Williams School System over the last 25 years. Indeed this school has proven to be a shining and outstanding example of what every school head would wish for their school.
The school has scored a hundred percent passing for its students in the WAEC/WASSCE since the school was established. Nearly all the parents whose children attend the school, according to a parent are indeed satisfied that they have received full value for money paid as tuition fees.
Starting off with only one student when the school first opened its doors in 1993 the school has since grown to what it is now with a population of over 600 students in all grades from kindergarten to grade 12, and an instructional and support staff of over 200 individuals. Its monthly payroll hovers close to US$40,000 per month. But that is not all. Faced with the chronic shortage of text books for students, founder and proprietress, Hester Williams Catakaw, herself a University of Liberia trained teacher, embarked on a book writing project to help fill the void.
To date she has written over 15 books which are approved by the Ministry of Education for use in Liberian schools including her school. Her school, unlike many others in the country, has well trained professional staff and excellent laboratory and library facilities. Indeed a quarter of a century of successful existence, despite the many odds and challenges, was enough reason to celebrate with students, staff and parents for their support and cooperation.
Staffs, students and their parents, friends and well-wishers were all on hand to grace what promised to be an auspicious occasion when suddenly Education officials, without prior warning or notice of any kind showed up to shut down the anniversary celebrations. The Education officials, this newspaper is told, had been informed in advance and both sides had reached an agreement to hold graduation exercises for kindergarten and elementary students and not 12th graders.
According to our Daily Observer reporter who covered the program, Simeon Wiakanty, proprietress Hester Williams Catakaw told journalists that she had informed the Ministry about her school’s completion of the 200 days of instruction required by the Ministry of Education and was therefore requesting permission to graduate about 71 students who had completed their studies.
Because she did not hear from the Ministry, she opted instead to hold graduation exercises for only kindergarten and 6th graders and a thanksgiving service for 25 years of existence including an appreciation ceremony for parents and staffs which were all ordered shut and thus cutting short the happiness of parents and students who had turned out to witness the program.
And so what is the lesson learned? There will be challenges lying in wait at every step of the way from which we must not waver or shrink. Let us all become Nation Builders and not Nation Wreckers.
Ms. Hester Williams Catakaw, from our observation, truly deserves commendation and support for her work and we at the Daily Observer say Hats off and Bravo for a successful quarter of a century achievement.