Liberia: MTM Parents, Students Against School's Closure

Facia Harris, the spokesperson of the group in a petition to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Gender and other government agencies, said they were deeply troubled by the ProPublica report released on October 11, detailing the incidents of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of the Liberian girls under the care of the More Than Me Academy.

Students of More Than Me Academy, in peaceful protest, want their school to remain open

Dozens of protesting parents and students of the More Than Me Academy yesterday marched through the streets of Monrovia to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present a petition to President Weah seeking his intervention to prevent the closure of the school on accounts of reports of sexual abuse, including serial rape, perpetrated by individuals occupying position of trust in that institution.

The protesters said they want the institution to operate and Ms. Meyler, the founder to continue her humanitarian support to the more than 4,000 disadvantaged girls in the Township of West Point.

Cecelia Freeman, age 14, who is a 9th-grade student at MTM said she has been in the institution since 2013 and therefore shutting down the school will cause a great setback for her and thousands of girls whose parents are unable to pay their fees.

She said people who are calling on the government to shut down the institution do not understand the actual story involving those girls who were raped because the incident took place five years ago and, when it was found out it was discussed and the girls were taken care of and they were relocated to a safe home after which MTM ensured that they were back to school.

Cecelia said after the abuse was brought to light the academy's authorities put in place policies to protect girls in order to avoid similar or other forms of abuse at MTM, although she could not say what those policies were. But she said those rights advocates calling for the closure of the school are not willing to take responsibility of the ten girls who survived the abuse.

"Those who are protesting are all saying that Macintosh died of HIV/Aids, is there any certificate that says he died of Aids? I think the Government of Liberia should provide evidence that he died of Aids," she said.

Lovetee Gray, age 17, and a 9th-grade student said though it was confirmed that those girls were raped Katie took them from the community to ensure that they got the needed care and treatment.

"With all the love that Katie has shown to us this is why we decided to get in the streets today (yesterday) to tell the people that she is innocent and must be left alone to continue the good work that she has chosen to do," Lovetee said.

Meanwhile, according to reports, President Weah, assuring the protesters the doors of the school will remain open, has reportedly urged parents and students to remain calm and await the outcome of an investigation into the matter as the incidents occurred during the last administration.

According to Paul Jarbah, a representative that met with President George Weah, President Weah promised to ensure that the MTM will not shut down and he instructed the gender and education Ministers to have a meeting with Katie before Friday and will set up a committee to test the children to determine their HIV status.

In a related development Ms. Katie Meyler, according to eyewitness accounts, was seen riding in a taxi close behind the protesters urging them to press on at which time the kids went wild singing and shouting that she is innocent. Her action has fueled speculations that Ms. Meyler stage managed the protests in order to impress donors that she is above reproach but was let down by a trusted employee, Macintosh Johnson.

A local human rights advocate (name withheld) commenting on the situation says she believes that Katie cunningly used Macintosh Johnson, a former child soldier, as a poster boy for her grants appeal. Johnson was captured in an iconic photograph showing him leaping into the air with glee and excitement after firing off his rocket propelled grenade (RPG)at the foot of the Gabriel Tucker Bridge during the 2003 siege of Monrovia by rebel forces.

The photo went viral and Katie, having smelled opportunity, was smart enough to latch on to it to help convince donors to support her cause the rights advocate maintained

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