Liberia: Students Risk COVID-19 Infections As Schools in Rural Montserrado Lack Preventive Materials

Montserrado County — Lack of adequate preventive materials at public high schools in rural Montserrado County is posing challenge for the effective prevention of COVID-19.

Some school administrators have told FrongtPageAfrica that although some students have managed to purchase nose masks, the lack of hand washing materials like soap and disinfectants is exposing students to the risk of contracting the disease.

During a tour of Kingsville Public School in Number 7, Frank E. Tolbert Public School in Bensonville, Oluremi Tinudu Elementary and Senior High School in Mount Barclay and the Careysburg Public School, it was observed that these schools' handwashing facilities had no soap or detergent.

At the same time, some students were seen not observing the social distancing measure while others were not wearing nose mask.

These schools are currently operating without thermometer which should be used to check the daily temperature of students.

At the same time, two of the four schools ended classes before 1:00pm, contrary to Ministry of Education's 2 pm deadline for instructional period.

Even though, according to one of the administrators, they have bucket for washing hands, the government has not supplied preventive materials to these schools.

Mohammed Bongloh is afraid that students are at risk because they are from different homes and are interacting with others.

"It's very unfortunate that since we were told that government was bringing preventive materials to us, we have not seen them, and school has to go on. So, we can just try to buy one or two bags of soap daily for students to wash their hands," Mr. Bongloh noted.

"We are talking to the students and we told them that if no one has on his or her nose mask that person will not enter the fence, but still some are stubborn. The worst thing is that, we are telling them to wash their hands with soap and water but the water we have has no sufficient soap. We are still awaiting MOE to come in."

Another administrator, who preferred anonymity due to risk of losing his job, added: "No one has brought anything here. I am even afraid to come, but I am forced to do it, because this is where I'm getting my daily bread. But the students are exposed and if one of them contract most of them will be infected."

He continued: "We are talking with the students, but as soon they get to class, they start to do their own things and even on campus, not all of them will adhered to the measure."

Meanwhile, the students themselves are dissatisfied due to the lack of preventive materials at their schools.

Student Muna S. Yarr of the Frank E. Tolbert High School said: "We are washing our hands with pure water and nothing in it like soap; only water we use to wash it and there is no hand-gloves when we are washing the bathroom and no detergent for the bathroom."

One major problem is the refusal of students to abide by the preventive measures including social distancing during recess period, some administrators said.

But the students say they are taking precaution by washing their hands despite the impossibility of practicing social distancing.

Christian Sekpeh, a student of the Careysburg Public School, said: "Most of us do have sanitizer and some people do wash their hand when we mistakenly touch others."

"We want government to come in with some materials for our school like soap, nose mask and detergents."

Amid these concerns at public schools, private schools, on the other hand, had put in place some protocols including handwashing facilities, but administrators of these schools are also calling on the government to compliment their efforts.

According to Rev. John Jallah, Principal of the Confidence High School in Fendall, purchasing detergents and other preventive material is posing financial constraint for the school.

For Jackson Duah, Dean of Students of the Lucy B. Gibson High School in Mt. Barclay, the government should provide subsidies for private schools to help boost the prevention of COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education has declined to respond to FPA inquiry about the situation at these schools.

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