Liberia: Disabled Community Protest Ownership of Group of 77 Building

Monrovia — Normal learning activities at the Group of 77 Public School campus were on January 8, 2018 cancelled when a group of disabled persons stormed the compound in an attempt to reclaim the building, which they claim is their home.

The protest came about when one member of the Group of 77, Christopher Vesseli, who had been living in a deserted structure near the beach died over the weekend.

They carried placards with inscriptions like: "We want our building back, we are homeless"; "Respect the right of the disable people", the protestors said since Ellen Johnson-Sirlear-led government came into being, their home (Group of 77) was taken from them to be used as a school building - something they said put them in the streets and other deserted areas.

Explaining her ordeal, Catherine Kwiah said she and her family had been living in the Group of 77 since the place was established for people with disabilities.

Although she now lives in Tumanburg, Bomi County, Kwiah said they were taken from their building in early 2000 when Handle Cap International came to renovate the building.

According to her, when the Unity Party government came into power in 2006, they (people with disability) were taken from their building to make way for the school (the Group of 77 Public School).

She added that many of them do not have a better place to sleep since they were taken away from the compound.

"Our friends are dying in the streets because we do not have place to sleep," she lamented.

Kwiah continued: "People do not want to take us in their houses to rent because they say we are dirty, we do not know how to take care of ourselves. So that is why we are here today. We want our building back".

Another disabled woman with placard, Weedor Dorley, said it is quite unfortunate that their real home was taken away from them and given to people without disability.

The Principal of the Group of 77 Public School Mark Sorbor said he was not aware of the protest at the school building.

According to him, the action of the disabled is completely disheartening.

Being the principal for over five years, Sorbor said the disabled community had never confronted the school administration about the building.

Although many of the disabled were tight-lip when asked whether they informed the school authority before carrying on their protest, one disabled, Raphael Vonvon, openly said they never informed the school administration because since the school was established they (school authority) had never been part of any meeting pertaining to the Group of 77.

He said children of the able and the disabled pay the same amount for tuition, though the property belongs to the disabled.

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