Margibi District Education Officer Marcia Edwards was frank in her letter to the Founder and CEO of Dolo Town’s New Hope Mission International which, since 2008, has provided free education to 900 impoverished children.
In her letter to New Hope Mission’s CEO, Reverend Louise Reeves, DEO Edwards promptly announced that, having been informed by New Hope’s teachers that they had not been paid, she was closing down the school.
That action has suddenly interrupted the education of 900 students, who have attended the school since 2008, free of charge!
The Liberian civil war drove Rev. Louise Reeves and a million more Liberians into exile. But she returned home in 2008 to help Liberia’s needy children, so many of whom were left impoverished by the war.
With the generous goodwill of some of her friends, Rev. Reeves opened the school to give these children an absolutely free opportunity to attend school.
But Ebola, which devastated Liberia’s economy, overturned the fortunes of most Liberians, including New Hope School’s benefactors. Faced with financial difficulties, Rev. Reeves became unable to pay her teachers.
For a while, they understood her plight and continued teaching. But they, too, it must be admitted, have families to feed and eventually they expressed their anxiety to the Margibi DEO.
It is a sad commentary on Liberia’s education authorities that, instead of asking Rev. Reeves “How can I help you?” DEO Edwards proceeded to close down the school.
As this newspaper, the Daily Observer, has often asked, what are governments for, if not to help their people, especially the most vulnerable—the destitute children who cannot help themselves? Here is a young pastor who, purely out of compassion for Liberia’s destitute children, most of them orphaned by the war, has in compassion reached out to them, assisted by other caring Liberians. Now, through no fault of her own, but the country’s economic difficulties, the government has taken this drastic action against her and 900 beleaguered children, by closing down the school.
You mean the Minister of Education (MOE), George Werner, for the sake of these poor children, could truly do nothing to help Rev. Reeves keep the school open? Has MOE truly no emergency funds that could save this school, even temporarily? What of the Minister’s power and influence? Could he not have gone to the President, the Vice President and others in government and society to solicit their help?
Has this government truly no compassion for its people?
This is indeed the distinct message that the Margibi DEO Marcia Edwards seems to have proclaimed to the Liberian people and the world—that she and her government have no compassion for their people, not even the destitute children, most of whose parents are gone, or cannot afford to send them to school.
This lack of compassion, this uncaring attitude, this total neglect of what Jesus called “the least of these, my brethren,” buttressed by bureaucracy, is classic testimony to the government’s own admission that Liberia’s education “is in a mess.”
But for how long can the people wait for relief? How long can they wait to see their children afforded one of most basic of human rights—an education?
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently, with glowing pride, spoke about her grandnephew, Estrada Bernard, the teenager who flew from Alaska, United States of America in mid-March, 2014 to participate in a conference organized by the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). “He has just been admitted as a freshman into Stanford University!” the President said. And, she added, “Because of the way the Liberian media treated him, he’s not coming back here.”
Estrada the younger, grandson of the President’s sister Jennie and brother-in-law Cllr. Estrada Bernard, was turned off by the public reaction to his appearance at the conference because the President’s son Robert, NOCAL Chair at the time, and his colleagues in the company, could find no other Liberian youth than his cousin to address the conference. At absolutely no fault to young Bernard, that action was interpreted by the public as a brazen act of nepotism on the part of the Ellen government. And because the public questioned their insensitive government, the President said of her grandnephew, “He’s not coming back here.”
We hope that young Bernard will find reason to recognize that though by birth he is a US citizen, he still is a Liberian and will someday return to do something for the land of his fathers and mothers.
Finally, we appeal to Minister Werner to call Rev. Reeves and ask her, “How can we help you and, by extension, other people’s 900 or more children whom you’re trying sacrificially to help?”