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Liberian Schools Opening February 16, Contrary to Report of Delay

  • James Butty

FILE - Liberian students are seen assembled to salute the flag at a Catholic school in the Liberian capital Monrovia.

FILE - Liberian students are seen assembled to salute the flag at a Catholic school in the Liberian capital Monrovia.

Liberian education officials say schools will reopen February 16, contrary to reports that the reopening had once again been postponed for the third time.

The schools have been closed since July 2014 due to the Ebola outbreak. The government announced in January the schools would reopen February 2.

But the education ministry postponed the reopening to February 16 to give parents enough time to register their children.

News reports attributed to the ministry of education yesterday said the February 16 date had again been moved to March second.

Liberia’s acting minister of education Etmonia Tarpeh said the report is erroneous.

“The truth is that schools will be opening on the 16th of February as we have indicated. And I think there was some confusion with some of the information that went out unfortunately the way it did. And so we are trying to correct that,” she said.

Tarpeh said she realizes the confusion the new information might have caused. But she said it was not intentional.

She said the ministry of education has a mode of operation which states that no official policy is released unless the minister of education has seen and approved it.

Acting education minister Tarpeh said the official who put out the wrong information has since apologized.

On the other hand, Tarpeh said the education ministry is very conscious of the concerns and needs of parents, some of whom have said that they might not be able to get all materials necessary to register their children on February 16.

“So we’re making it like a roll-out kind of opening so that even with opening on the 16th people will still be able to register and get in school, and hopefully maybe whenever time they get all the needs for their children that they will not be denied entry into schools,” she said.

A group of Liberian lawmakers recently called for a delay in reopening of schools because they said the education ministry had not delivered Ebola prevention equipment, such as temperature check devices, hand pumps and sanitary accessories, to all provinces.

At the height of the Ebola outbreak, some schools were used as Ebola treatment centers. Tarpeh said school renovations will be ongoing even after schools have reopened

She also said having Ebola prevention measures in place is one of the biggest objectives of her ministry.

“One of our biggest focuses has been to ensure that the school facilities are adequate and they are in the condition that we would like for the children to be as safety zones so that they have all the protocols against Ebola. The teachers are trained; the community people are trained; and the PTAs (parent teacher associations) are all trained to know how to work together to support the school activities of the children,” Tarpeh said.

She said the education ministry has instructed school administrators to be understanding of students’ situations when they return to school on February 16, including not sending students home because they don’t have the proper uniform or the full tuition, at least for the first semester.