10 December 2012

Liberia: Ellen Raises Govt. Teacher's Hope - Water, Power Supplies Imminent in Schools

The plights of public schools' teachers--low salaries and lack in teaching materials and incentives--have remained unabated, many times forcing them to down their chalks, resulting into students taking to the streets in protest, but President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has assured them of a smiling future.

In meeting with heads of public school teachers under the banner of the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) last Thursday, President Sirleaf did not only promised to ensure a better learning environment in public schools but also better remuneration for teachers, who have been demanding better salaries over the years.

Based on level of qualification, teachers are now making salaries around at least US$150 to about US$500--said to be the best in the country's recent history--according to Education Ministry authorities, but there are also thousands of others who are not on payroll, especially in rural Liberia.

President Sirleaf, during the meeting, renewed her support to public school teachers, especially those working in the public sector, in addressing their concerns.

The President, according to the Executive Mansion, informed them that the government has begun working out the modalities for the supply of water and electricity to public schools as part of efforts in addressing some of the concerns earlier raised by teachers.

The Liberia Civil Society Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Network last month released a report damning the poor sanitation conditions in 10 schools and 19 communities. The CSOs WASH Network boss Prince Kreplah claimed that this was happening because President Sirleaf as Goodwill Ambassador for WASH in Africa was doing very little or nothing to bring about the needed change.

Kreplah said President Sirleaf was not leading by example to stimulate the rest of Africa's leaders to bring WASH issues to the political table and include it into national budgets.

The Executive Mansion said President Sirleaf also informed the teachers that plans to improve the salaries of civil servants have almost been concluded and will take effect after the festive season.

She encouraged the teachers to always exercise patience as government works to improve their living standards.

The President used the meeting to hand over the keys to a bus she personally repaired for the MCSS. The bus had not been operating for nearly three months, and had created difficulties for teachers in getting to class on time.

In October, President Sirleaf had to personally intervene in a teacher "go-slow" action that left classrooms empty for nearly two weeks, prompting students to take to the streets in protest.

The President of the MCSS Council, Madam Ollie White, thanked the President for making teachers a top priority in administering Liberia, and described her intervention as a demonstration of motherliness. She thanked the teachers for being patient as the President sought redress to their concerns, and she hoped that the patience, respect for authority and cooperation recently exhibited would always be the hallmark of their advocacy.

Speaking on behalf of the teachers, the President of the Association, Benedict S. Wreh, welcomed the initiative of President Sirleaf to supply water and electricity and rehabilitate school laboratories. He said the initiative would directly benefit the students, and went beyond just advocating for salary increments.

The MCSS teachers' leadership requested the President to meet with them to discuss education matters, to which the President consented.

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