Liberia: Catholic Schools' Teachers Go On the Rampage Over Secretariat's Threat to Replace Them Due to Their Go-Slow

Monrovia — Several aggrieved Catholic School Teachers, under the banner "Association of Catholic School Teachers" (ACTS), went on the rampage on Monday, besieging the main entrance of the Catholic Education Secretariat (CES) on Ashman Street, Monrovia over the refusal of the secretariat to honor their demands for the settlement of arrears of salaries.

The aggrieved teachers are disenchanted over what they termed "gross refusal of the CES to adhere to five counts put forth before them, in addressing salary and other issues."

They gathered at the front on the Catholic Archdiocesan Secretariat in Monrovia as early as 7am, with placards, and chanting slogans for the Secretary of CES Rev. Fr. P. Varfee Sumo Mulbah to ensure that their welfare and other benefits are addressed.

At the protest scene, the President of ACTS, Alphonso Nimely Quire said that aside from October, CES is yet to give them three-month salaries due them since the height of the COVID-19.

Quire argued that CES has collected full tuition fees from students, but has "refused to pay teachers."

He is also demanding a change of the CES Policy Manual, reduction of probation period from 3-year to three-month, issuance of a National Social Security and Welfare Corporation Identification Cards and that CES should denounce its plan to recruit new teachers.

If these demands are not met, the aggrieved teachers through their President Quire, said teachers would not go to class and their protest action will remain enforced.

The protest action brings to the three, sequence of actions taken by Catholic School Teachers In less than two months and four between 2019/2029 academic school year.

Last week, the teachers through a mandate from ACTS boycotted classes, just when 10th and 11th graders were resuming classes, aimed at calling the attention of CES to their plights.

According to the aggrieved teachers, their actions stems from the fact that CES remains mute on their concerns, despite previous actions to include communications and go-slow.

He further noted that all efforts to get the attention of CES, including actions have proven futile.

On Tuesday, October 12, ACTs mandated all teachers and staff to go-slow until CES can address their plights.

"By directive of ACTS INC executives, all teachers and support staffs of the Catholic Education Secretariat, are hereby mandated to stay home effectively Tuesday, October 12 until further notice," a communication signed by ACTS INC President Quire and Secretary Augustine Nimely said.

They fear that CES has allegedly opened vacancies to replace them and that at the same time threatened to dismiss anyone who refuses to show up at work.

On Monday, February 25, 2019, catholic school teachers went on strike, calling for increment in their salary and payment of other benefits.

However, they later ended their go-slow following an intervention by Education Minister Ansu Sonii to mitigate the crisis.

At the Same time, the protest was later halted, following the intervention of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, through its Regional Director Pilate Johnson.

Mr. Johnson during his intervention informed the aggrieved teachers that Rev. Fr. Varfee Sumo Mulbah has agreed to again go on negotiation table with the teachers, and that there would be no dismissal.

He said Fr. Sumo-Mulbah has agreed to pay the fees for October and other arrears owing to the outcome of the negotiation.

"I have gotten the commitment from Fr. P. Varfee Sumo Mulbah that once we go to the negotiation table and agree to put it to black and white, and that teachers agree to go back to classes, the payment for the last three months will be addressed," Mr. Johnson said.

Johnson said JPC believes the dignity of human is paramount and they are doing everything possible to ensure a possible negotiation between ACTS and CES.

He added: "We cannot say this is what we stand for and we do the contrary."

Mr. Johnson at the same time maintained that Catholic Schools are currently in the middle of collecting fees due to the COVID-19 that stalled the process, as he appealed that ACTS dissolved its protest action and revert to negotiation table on Wednesday.

"I am telling you these things because I have spoken with Fr. Sumo-Mulbah but we cannot go to negotiation in the midst of this chaos," he averred.

Responding to JPC intervention, the President National School Teachers Association, Mougnuemuetah Sackor wants Fr. Varfee denounce his statement of recruiting new teachers in the midst of crisis, before a negotiation can be made.

"We stand by the teachers today and forever. We are giving him 24 hours to denounce his statement of recruitment and if he does not, we will not come to the meeting on Wednesday," Mr. Sackor said.

Mr. Sackor said it was the right of the teachers to demonstrate, if they felt their rights have been infringed upon by the Catholic Church, which runs the Catholic Education Secretariat.

Mr. Sackor added "They should note that any action they take, will have an opposite reaction to that."

He expressed his confidence in JPC but noted, that they are prepared to take legal action, if any teacher is affected by CES action.

Sackor also wants teachers who have served for over three months without employment, be employed immediately after Wednesday meeting.

Mr. Sackor, however, informed the JPC that teachers would not return to class until Wednesday meeting is concluded, which outcome he believes must be in the interest of teachers.

At the same time, ACTS President Quire said if the notice to recruit teachers is not removed, no teacher will go to class.

He said their concern is not primarily about October salary, but for the last three months.

Mr. Quire, meanwhile, agreed to discontinue their protest until Wednesday meeting is concluded.

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