CESTOS, River Cess – Nearing the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Principal Peter Gargar of the Gbediah Public School in Central River Cess was finding it difficult closing school. He lacked the stationeries necessary for printing the year end report cards.
Gargar called in to a community radio station to complain about his predicament: “If we even close, students may not get their report cards because we have not received any. This is an embarrassing situation because teachers have to go for breaks and get prepared for the next academic year.”
According to Gargar, his school had not received the materials that the Ministry of Education is supposed to distribute to schools to allow them to continue their operations. In fact, the Gbediah Public School was not the only one affected. In early July, the human resource manager of the River Cess School System, Jacob Kouviakoe, confirmed to The Bush Chicken that the county’s public school system had not received any stationery supplies for three academic years.
“This is a serious a problem now as we speak,” said Kouviakoe, who often acts as spokesperson for the school system in the absence of the county education officer. “You can’t be developing human resource and you don’t have those requisite logistics or materials to implement what you are supposed to do.”
The principals at the various public schools were eventually able to get the funds to print the report cards and close school for the year. Many of them asked the general public and Parent Teacher Associations to contribute. However, many parents were not pleased when told to assist in providing funds for the supplies.
“The whole thing is a burden for us parents,” said Trokon Browne, a father of four students in the Yarpah Town Public School. “But we just have to do whatever it takes to get our children’s reports.”
“This means some of our children will not go to school next year,” added Betty Miller, a mother of two. “The money to even register our children for next year, we don’t know how to get it and they are talking about report cards money.”
Kouviakoe worries that the lack of supplies coming from the central ministry may delay the reopening of schools, as school administrators need stationeries to conduct registration of students. They will also need other items such as textbooks, and teaching materials like posters, crayons, and chalks. If the Ministry of Education does not ensure that the schools receive these supplies, the school will again be stranded.
“We have been flagging these challenges in our reports to the ministry,” Kouviakoe said. “Besides the issue of stationeries, there are schools that need renovation while others need manner repairs.”
He said River Cess education authorities plan to include these challenges in this year’s annual report to claim the ministry’s attention “because even the report cards for the pre-primary and primary schools that the ministry talks about are not enough.”
While education at the primary level in Liberia is, by law, compulsory and free, the government allows public schools to charge registration fees to a limit. Besides those fees, schools do not receive a budget to fund their activities and the Ministry of Education is responsible for providing supplies.
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue