Looming Disaster In Harper

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-As ‘Death Trap Building’ Is Used As School

By R Joyclyn Wea

In spite of increasing and grappling challenges facing 21st century education sector in Liberia, a small building in dilapidated condition with poor visibility, approximately of 30 feet by 45 feet in dimension, is housing three different schools with three principals in Jacksonville community in Harper, principals of two of the institutions have said.

During the tenure of former President William R. Tolbert who was overthrown early morning hour on April 12, 1980 in a military coup orchestrated by 17 enlisted men in the Armed forces of Liberia, the building had been the traditional home to people living with disabilities, the Group of 77.

Making the confirmation Tuesday, May 1, 2018 when journalists from the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) toured school facilities in Maryland County as part of activities marking the celebration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, the two principals said the building is currently being occupied by teachers and students of East Harper Elementary and Junior High School, Sarah Elizabeth Gibson Nursery and Elementary School and the Jacksonville Night School.

students sit on the floor in classroom

The building, as a public school houses East Harper Elementary and Junior High School, established in 1958 as an annex to Tubman University formerly William V.S. Tubman Technical College which currently has an enrollment of 833 pupils of whom more than 50 percent are girls, is operating the morning session with different set of uniforms, blue and white, while Sarah Elizabeth Gibson Nursery and Elementary School, established in 1970, with green and white uniforms as well operates the session in the afternoon, and the latter depicts the session in the night

Though the facial expression of the principal of the morning session could suggest that she was emotionally unstable with the presence of a team of journalists, she traded question as to whether local education authorities in the county were aware of the team of reporters to conduct interviews at the school.

students sit on the floor in classroom

Joanna Sackor, who had been a school teacher since 1999, highlighted several challenges to include lack of better sitting capacity for students, the absence of teaching materials and school supplies, poor visibility in the classrooms among others.

“Inside the building is very dark with poor ventilation; lack of playground for the children, poor sitting capacity and lack of school supplies,” the principal of Sarah E. Gibson Nursery and Elementary School lamented.

With a classroom size of approximately 10 feet by 16 feet, more than 50 students sit on the floor and on plaited mats purchased by parents for their children while in the classrooms. It was also gathered that students are often coerced to pay L$5.00 as sitting fees before they sit on the mat in order to participate in class discussions.

In a statement also, the principal of East Harper Elementary and Junior High School, Ambrose S. Nollen expressed similar concern that the learning environment was quite challenging to teachers, students and parents.

“The learning environment is a little bit challenging because it is not conducive for learning as there is noise pollution due to close proximity to the main road and worst of all, the size of the classroom as well as the lack of school supplies are issues of grave concern to us,” Nollen indicated.

He also revealed that with a total enrollment of 188 students sit on the floor the entire afternoon during the learning process and are clustered from one classroom to another.

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