Vice President Advocates for Boarding Schools to Ensure Safety of Girls

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor says the government needs to remove school going girls from communities and place them into dormitories at boarding schools.

Speaking at a program on October 11 organized by More Than Me in observance of International Day of the Child in Monrovia, Howard-Taylor said placing school-going girls in dormitories will allow them to concentrate on their lessons.

“It is important for a girl to grow up in an environment of love, peace, safety, and security,” she said.

Howard-Taylor emphasized the capability of girls to reach their potentials if given the right opportunity.

“When girls are happy, they can produce,” she said. “They are multitaskers and are able to perform more than one task or activity at the same time than their male counterparts.”

Howard-Taylor said the government must look at the issues confronting girls such as sexual abuse, early marriage, empowerment, and education opportunities.

Students from the More Than Me Academy graced the occasion marking the International Day of the Girl Child. Photo: Zeze Ballah

The vice president’s appearance at the program coincided with the release of a damning article alleging widespread negligence by More Than Me in protecting its students from sexual exploitation.

The organization operates its own private all-girls school, the More Than Me Academy, in addition to 18 public schools as part of the Liberia Education Advancement Program, previously branded as Partnership Schools for Liberia.

The article, jointly published by ProPublica and Time magazine, reports that a man who had helped Katie Meyler launch More Than Me, Macintosh Johnson, abused his position of privilege by sexually assaulting many of the girls in the academy. The article recalls tales of Johnson raping students at his house, in the school building, and in the organization’s guest house. The events culminated with his arrest in 2014.

In response to the article, the vice president said More Than Me was transforming the lives of disadvantaged girls.

“There are difficulties everywhere, and we must look at the positive things coming out of the More Than Me Academy,” she said. “Let us not look at the difficulty it is faced with because everyone got some.”

She added, “The government will try to provide funding for some of the things that are lacking at the academy and also try to get the girls back on the dormitories so that [they] cannot be harassed.”

On Sunday, the vice president had been scheduled to appear at a town hall event in West Point along with officials from key ministries and More Than me. The event was later “postponed” after it elicited concern from the public that the issue would be mediated “the family way,” instead of perpetrators facing the weight of the law.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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