Liberia: Suspected Arson At St. Matthew Lutheran High School

-Principal Suspect students involvement

The Principal of the St. Mathew Lutheran High School in Red Light, Paynesville, has alleged that the recent fire incident that gutted the school may have been caused by some disgruntled students who did not meet the school's requirement for graduation.

The fire incident, according to Principal Tarnue Godobeyan, occurred within a space of two weeks after the school administration had a meeting with the senior class students to inform them that some of them would be required to repeat a semester at the school.

"Two weeks ago, we had a meeting with the 12th graders to inform them about the school's decision to have poorly performing students attend vacation school or repeat a semester before graduation. In that meeting, those who were affected bitterly disagreed with us, despite the decision having already been made.

"So I suspect that the fire incident may have been caused by some students who fall in that category," Godobeyan said. "They may have their own reasons, but I am sure they did it in order for us to lose the academic records on them."

The Office of the registrar was totally damaged, including student's documents

Godobeyan added that while he is still awaiting the police investigation into the cause of the fire, he believes strongly that the incident was carried on by some students as revenge against the school for its decision to punish them for poor academic performance.

Godobeyan's suspicion about the fire is based on the fact that it started directly in the registrar's office before bringing down the entire building. According to him, the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) transformer, which the school is connected to, has been off, effectively ruling out the possibility of electrical fault.

"This is a clear indication that the fire incident was carried out by some students. They waited patiently to carry on their acts in the night hours so that people are not around to help quench it. Electricity was not in the building so it cannot be blamed. The fire started in the registrar's office, where all the school documents are kept after we had closed for the day and gone home more than ten hours earlier.

The St. Matthew Lutheran High School, which is located in Paynesville, between the Red Light commercial district and the Coco-Cola factory community, has been in operation since 1996. It is one of the biggest high schools in Paynesville, operating classes from grades seven through twelve.

The school's 15-classroom edifice, including administrative offices, was burnt beyond repair resulting in a loss of hundreds of students' documents dating as far back as 2009, including cash. Such losses, particularly students' academic records, the principal said, has hit the school hard since these documents were neither stored with redundancy.

"The incident is very frustrating because it is a great setback for the entire generation of St. Matthew. I had certificates here for students who attended the school as far back as 2009 and other important documents, which all got destroyed. What is of major concern here now is how we are going to get all those documents when we never had a computer that has those data. I am sure students whose results were not satisfactory set the school ablaze, so we can lose all our document," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Godobeyan has disclosed that the school administration is in the process of finding means to ensure that students complete this year's academic semester.

"We are devastated and saddened by this incident, but we have to find way out. And this is what we are doing now. However, we are appealing to well-meaning Liberians and alumni of the institution to join hands with the administration in such a difficult time in the school's history to get it up and running," he said.

Godobeyan added that the security officer who was on duty when the fire incident occurred around 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 27, is undergoing investigation by the Liberia National Police to determine if he had any role to play in the matter.


Hannah N. Geterminah

Hannah N. Geterminah is a 2016 graduate of the Peter Quaqua School of Journalism with diploma and series of certificates in journalism from other institutions. She has lots of knowledge/ experience in human interest, political, Health, women and children stories. Hannah has worked with the Daily Observers Newspaper and the Liberian media for the past years and has broken many stories.

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