Liberia: Monrovia Lockdown-Protesting Students Barricade President

The Ebola outbreak has altered the Liberian school calender (file photo).

Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Thursday received one of the shocks of her presidency Thursday when students physically blocked the Presidential convoy, lying on the floor in front of the motorcade.

The students angry over the announced decision by the Ministry of Education to temporarily shut down all schools to reopen in September to make way for Liberia to return to its normal academic calendar which was interrupted by the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus took their anger to the doorsteps of the President.

After blocking the president from leaving the Monrovia City hall where she had gone for an official program, the students blocked the main road in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, office of the President preventing visitors from going in and out and averting free flow of traffic.

“We will not let this Ellen Woman go anywhere. We do not want negotiation, we want to go school”, Karnia S. Dahn, a young 12th grader of the Seventh Day Adventist School located on the Paynesville outskirt of Monrovia, one of the protesting students told FrontPageAfrica.

Last July, the government shut down all schools across the country to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

Six months later, the government against popular objection that it was too early to reopen schools declared schools reopened to the dismay of parents and students who had to struggle to find funds to pay tuition fees.

Liberia was one of the worst affected countries by Ebola with at least more than 4,000 people killed.

Thursday’s protest comes a day after Ebola health workers staged a demonstration before the Ministry of Health demanding hazard pay and lost benefits.

Students also took their concerns to the national legislature last Tuesday in similar protest by new Education minister George Werner to close schools.

Warner’s proposal was last week rejected by the legislature which cited him to provide clarity on his proposal.

At the time, lawmakers also instructed the education minister to commit that moving forward he will work with the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Legislature-at-large to determine any future adjustments or proposals that will be discussed fully between the three branches of government before any public announcement.

Minister Werner was also mandated to withdraw any letter written WAEC with immediate effect. With the news that Minister Werner was to appear before the Plenary of the House of Representatives students trekked to the Capitol Building to get answers to their questions. The wetness and heavy downpour of rain was not enough to discourage students from several communities in Monrovia, from gathering to demand answers to rumors about the Government proposed plan to prematurely shut down school activities.

Ironically, Mr. Werner denied to lawmakers that he had ordered schools closed, insisting that it was only a proposal that was similar to the rumors. Minister Werner said: “What we will like to say on behalf of the Ministry of Education is that there was never a pronouncement from the minister of Education describing the academic calendar as we have it as a study class. There was never a pronouncement from the Education Minister saying that schools will close on the 30th of June”.

The Schools closure issue has spurred tension between the Executive and the Legislative branch of the Liberian government. This week, a majority members of the House of Representatives, 45 out of the 47 lawmakers voted in favor of a motion to summon President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to appear before the plenary of that august body in open session to according to the lawmakers show reason (s) why she has shown disrespect to the legislature over the years.

The House plenary decision to summon the President emanated from a communication from the President to that body last Thursday informing the lawmakers that she has instructed Education Minister George Werner to ignore an instruction given him by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives.

“I took a Solemn Oath in compliance with Article 52 to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic, and I am mindful of Article 56 which subjects Ministers and other state executives to the authority of the President”, President Sirleaf declared in the letter. The President indicated in her letter that she instructed the Minister of Education to ignore the mandate from the lawmakers.

“I have therefore instructed the Minister of Education to ignore what appears to be instructions conveyed to him under cover of letter dated June 23, 2015 by the chief clerk of the House of Representatives,” the President stated.

The lower house has expressed anger over the communication from the President which led to a motion from a lawmaker for the President to be cited to appear before the body.

This developing Story will be updated shortly

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