In the midst of severe economic challenges and skyrocketing school fees, Mama Liberia and dozens of families mourn the death of 26 pupils and their teachers who fell to the cold hands of death during a catastrophic fire outbreak while on campus. I imagine their shouting and screaming... the physical pains they felt while battling for their lives. Today, we are in sympathy with their families and love ones, a good sign of "national solidarity".I would like to draw the public attention to the other side of the coin - our educational environments. How safe are they for Liberia's treasures - the children? Where are they located? Who monitors them? My 2017 research experience in Liberia confirmed that many schools in our country, especially in Monrovia do not have the prerequisites to exist and operate under the name school. Firstly, they are neither accessible by cars or bicycles. This means that, in case of any eventuality, like fire outbreak, fire fighters will be unable to reach and rescue the situation. However, they do exist in our capital city and other parts of the country as recognized places for molding the minds of our children or better put, Liberia's future leaders. These also illustrate and expose the weakness and underequip educational monitoring system we run as a nation.
Additionally, many of our schools whether primary, elementary, junior or senior high schools do not have fire extinguishers, infirmary, safe drinking water, cafeterias or playgrounds. Not to talk about libraries, research laboratories or proper toilet facilities. Neither are they enclosed or having separate places for entrance and exit like in the case of the school where our children were engulfed by the furnace fire... it was just one way into the building and out of it! No emergency exit places like we have in contemporary schools' buildings around the world. Even cars, ships, trains and airplanes have emergency exits, why not our schools too? Why should we often wait for disasters to destroy us first before taking precaution? Is it not wiser to be on the preventive side than to be victimized often by controllable circumstances?
We cannot just mourn and allow our other children to remain vulnerable in those so-called schools. The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education (MOE) must now step fully into the picture to make sure our schools environments are safer and conducive for learning. I do recognize the gradual reforms that are ongoing in our educational system. Notwithstanding, MOE needs to be more proactive in the supervision of schools in order to ensure that our kids are in a happy and safe learning environment. Even if such monitoring operations will lead to the suspension of license or closure of those "by-the-way-side" schools, the Ministry should unwavering endure to do so, as a viable remedy towards having a secure educational environment for Liberia's children and the next generations to come.
If we must act as a nation in the interest of its children, the time is now! Let us not delay this process of transforming our schools into more conducive and suitable learning centers for Liberia's children. This gone fire disaster is a wake-up call for MOE. There are lots of schools' buildings in Liberia that may be "death traps" for our children. The sooner our Government will put into place practical implementation plans to curb out this situation, the safer for Mama Liberia's children in those so-called schools.sayee
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cornelius Robert U-Sayee is a conscious Liberia, member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, a Certified Educator, former Instructor of the Don Bosco Technical High School in Monrovia and a former President of the Liberian Students Association of Ghana (LISA-GH). In 2017, he was awarded by the National Students Alliance (NSA), Ghana as "One of the Big Six Most Influential and Impactful Students" in the Republic of Ghana. He holds an MPhil. degree in Educational Administration & Management, a BA degree in Philosophy and a Postgraduate Diploma in General Education. He is currently a student of Biblical Studies, Ecumenism, and Interreligious Dialogue at the Salesians Pontifical University, Jerusalem Campus, Israel. He can be reached on the below address:
Cornelius Robert U-Sayee, Sdb.