Tubmanburg, Bomi County – The global coronavirus pandemic is not only ravaging the world’s public health system, it is ruining countries’ economies and education systems. In Liberia, it has created a serious setback for thousands of high school students, who were scheduled to take the premiere regional exam.
The outbreak began at the time schools across Liberia were preparing students for the 2020 Liberia Junior High School Certificate Examination (LJHSCE), the Liberia Primary School Certificate Examination (LPSCE), and the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
The West African Examination Council (WAEC) Liberia had earlier scheduled April 6, 2020 as the start date for the administration of exams for all levels – 6th, 9th, and 12th graders.
But due to the pandemic, WAEC Liberia national office on March 21 announced on its Facebook page the indefinite suspension of the exams, citing negative impacts of the novel coronavirus as its reason.
Earlier, the Ministry of Education had suspended all academic activities across the country as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The situation has not only affected the examination process but has also affected regular instructional activities in various schools. Teachers will face a challenge of completing the national curriculum for various levels and the WASSCE syllabus for 12th graders.
Mariama Taylor, a senior student of the Saint Dominic Catholic High School in Tubmanburg, is worried that the pandemic has “carried our school backward”.
“We were about to take our exam and age is not in our favor,” she lamented. “Some of us were getting prepared to sit for entrance at various universities, but look at what’s happening now.”
Another 12th grader, Jehu Nuslah of the Charles Henry Dewey High School, said COVID-19 has similarly disrupted his plans.
“I had plans to further my education after WASSCE and graduation,” Nuslah said, “and now coronavirus has interrupted, so we are living with uncertainty now.”
“I want the Ministry of Education to work with the WAEC office to come up with a timeline and schedule for us to sit our exam, instead us going back to class to start learning again.”
“We were in the middle of the year where students were prepared to write their exams, but the outbreak of the virus has stopped all of those things,” decries Massa Sonii, a female student of the Sime High School in Senjeh District, Bomi County.
“Right now, we are not in school to do our normal study to go on camp, so we are worried as students – how will it be like if it continues from now to June or July [this year].”
WAEC Liberia office did not respond to several questions about the concerns of students when LocalVoicesLiberia contacted them via texts and calls.
Meanwhile, as these senior high students bewail the disruption by the coronavirus pandemic, school administrations in the county are also worried about the setback.
Kia Wesseh, principal of the C.H Dewey High School in Tubmanburg, told LocalVoicesLiberia that before the abrupt closure of schools due to the health crisis, his school was preparing 125 students for the 2020 regional exams.
With the existing uncertainty, Mr. Wesseh said the school administration will have to wait for the government’s mandate.
Mr. Bartholomeo K. Weah, principal of Tubmanburg’s Saint Dominic Catholic High School, echoes Wesseh’s concerns, adding that COVID-19 has presented a “difficult time for students, teachers and school administrators”.
“I am very concerned about the time that students are to be in school which will have some serious impact on their educational activities,” Weah said. “We were scheduled to close school June or July 2020 which is very impossible right now.”
He continued: “Another problem is whether our teachers will be able to cover all the topics before the school year comes to an end after the COVID-19. Even during normal condition some teachers were very lazy and now we have been delayed, it is troubling. The government through the Ministry of Education needs to put into place a system for schools across the country for the resumption of classes soon.”
Prior to the interrupted 2019/2020 school year, senior students (12th graders) were being prepared to write six marking period tests, while others were completing activities for 4th or 5th marking period.
“Due to this ourbreak teachers will have to work overtime to complete the topics in the national curriculum that were not covered,” said Francisca Chinyere, an English Teacher of the Saint Dominc Catholic High School.
Responding to the decision of some schools to share lessons with students while they are home, Mr. Maxim Blatant, Communications Specialist of the Ministry of Education, said the Ministry has resolved that there will be no lessons, assignments, and test for all schools.
“Allowing students to go on their campuses where they will be hugging, and interacting with each other, the ministry decided that since this is the case, we will now suspend all activities on these various campuses until further notice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry has not set any new date for the reopening of schools in the country, according to a release published on its website on May 27.
“The Ministry of Education in consultation with education and health sector stakeholders is finalizing a comprehensive policy aimed at outlining cleared strategies on mitigating several factors and challenges to facilitate the reopening of schools and complete the academic year 2019/2020 in line with the National curriculum,” the statement reads.