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In Liberia, University Faculty are on Strike

At the University of Liberia, faculty members are on strike in protest of the University President Doctor Al-Hassan Conteh, who they allege has mismanaged university funds. The staff says they have not been paid for three months and that their salaries and wages are too low to support themselves and their families. Liberia’s Minister of Education, Joseph Korto, spoke with Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty about President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s request that the faculty return to their classrooms.

“After I heard the announcement, I immediately contacted the University president and then I contacted the leadership of the faculty association. So I had a brief meeting with them and I told them, at this point in time, when we are trying to consolidate peace, it would send a very wrong signal out there to have the University of Liberia having some crisis. For these and other reasons, I made a strong representation to the faculty that while it’s true they may have some serious issues, there is a need for them to return to the classrooms.”

Minister Korto says President Sirleaf assured the faculty association that she would examine their grievances; he said the faculty informed the president that they would respond to her request on Wednesday. Minister Korto says he sympathizes with the concerns of the faculty.

“What the University faculty is saying is the case with all of the civil servants. They have made their grievances known to the president and the president has promised that she will be looking into it. When the 2006-2007 budget passes in July, that’s when the government will have an idea whether there will be salary increases and how much.”

Regarding the faculty demand to replace Conteh, Korto says only President Sirleaf has the authority to make this decision. However, he says President Sirleaf does not have any evidence that warrants that type of action.

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