By Emmanuel Reeves
Due to COVID-19, the University of Liberia adopted a new approach to learning which was and it is still new to the University of Liberia both teachers and students. The University of Liberia introduced e-learning as a way of keeping students in school while home. This approach was greeted with mixed reactions. UL presented to its students a platform called module for easy learning. This platform afforded teachers the opportunity to upload courses and drop same on the platform and that at any time students would log in and have access to the material, this created more flexibility and it was also intended to safe students from this huge data burden. But this wasn’t the case with other professional schools under the University of Liberia especially the law school. Law is being taught using the Socratic style as opposed to the methodology of teaching at the undergraduate school. Due to this, the law school requested to use a zoom. But that’s not the crux of the argument.
The e-learning semester lasted for three months, exams were administered, grades were submitted, etc. We all thought that the e-learning was for one semester and that the following semester classes would resume on the main campus. Let it be noted that after the semester, no comments from students were taken who are the direct end-users of the product to get their feedback from the e-learning system. For example, we want to know how students were able to manage with data, how students who live far away in remote areas that have internet challenges were able to get along, what can be done to address their situation, was it easy for students to access the platform and how students were able to relate to instructors and vice versa; this and many more could have helped to further strengthen the system and add more layers to help the end-users, but same was ignored.
As students were gearing up to return on campus for this current semester(2021), the University of Liberia announced that the e-learning platform will continue, but how can we continue with this platform when there has been no proper evaluation done for aggressive improvements? Is it that we should just keep using a system without any improvement? The University reason for allowing the continuation of the e-learning platform it is because they’ve not met the health benchmark set by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, therefore the University is not permitted to operate classes on campus, instead, it should maintain the distance e-learning. Assuming without admitting that the justification given by the relevant authorities should be considered valid, can we also say that the Ministry of Youth and Sports decision to host the just ended County Sports meet undercut the reputation of the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute and trashed the very reason given to deny the University of Liberia the go-ahead to operate classes on campus? Part of their reasons is that the University of Liberia has many students which makes it practically impossible to have proper health regulation on the campuses of the University of Liberia, but according to them, it was very possible to properly regulate those who attended the county meet for which the Ministry of Youth and Sport was allowed to conduct the county meeting. This level of reasoning can be equated to 1847, even those who existed in 1847 never reasoned in such manner. It defiles every inch of logic to have Stella Maris, United Methodist University, African Methodist Episcopal University, African Methodist Episcopal Zion University fully operation on their various campuses except the University of Liberia on grounds that COVID-19 is very prevalent on the campuses of the University of Liberia.
On a wider scale, the government through the Ministry of Health and the National Public health Institute are being used as conduits to perpetually keep the University of Liberia closed. In time past, other regimes used both political and military power to arbitrarily closed the University because many of them saw the repeated students’ agitations as a threat to their regime, as such, they used their political and military power to closed down the University and this government is following a similar trend but from a different standpoint. Since the inception of this government, there have been several demonstrations carryout by students from the University of Liberia. To name few; the visitation of Nathaniel McGill and Samuel Twe on the University of Liberia capitol hill campus, the visitation of Henry Costa on the University campus in which FENSA decided to get Costa from the university campus, they were heavily resisted by SUP, the seizure of the palaver hut and SUP office by Jefferson Koijii and CDCians, it was a huge clash between SUP, Koijii and CDC. The issue with Zoely Zoe on UL campus, and several demonstrations in which this government has been on the losing end. We all witnessed the temporary banned that was placed on Student politics recently as a means to divert the students’ attention from the national discourse. But everything didn’t materialize therefore the issue of coronavirus which calls for social distancing, this government has seen the perfect opportunity to keep students off-campus in an effort to silence students who are bend on keeping their feet to the fire under the pretense of upholding health protocol. Because this government will come under huge criticism both home and abroad if they were to come out clearly to shut down the University, this government has decided to keep the online platform going regardless of the huge challenges and difficulties just to prevent student groupings from using the campuses of the University of Liberia as hosting ground to congregate and continue to pressure the government.
The next point is that the government has failed woefully to sustain the University of Liberia through budgetary support since it announced the Free Tertiary education at all Public University. Due to the government’s failure to meet up with its financial obligations which have caused the University to repeatedly owe instructors’ salaries, the University has been challenged to provide instructional materials, etc. and as the result of that, we have witnessed both students and instructors demonstrating on the various campuses of the University repeatedly. The government thinking here is that if the University remains operational online, the issue of instructional materials will be something of the past, the issue of providing toiletry to keep all the bathrooms on the campuses of the University functional will be something of the past. The issue of full electricity will equally be something of the past because instructors are not compelled to come on campus as well as students. The government will then use all that as justifiable reasons why it cannot meet up to its full budgetary obligation to the University because those compelling reasons have either reduced or no longer exist. The issue of teacher salaries will also not be compelling and teachers will be incapacitated to physically demonstrate and that they’ll not command the presence of the students to join in their demonstration. But if those are the underlining reasons for which the government has decided to keep the University of Liberia closed all campuses but operational online under the theory of observing health protocol, it is wrong in all standard. The suppression of the masses under the pretense of promoting health is unhealthy as well. Gone are those days when tyrannical leaders would shut down the University at will. Why does this government continue to use its shadow hands to perpetually keep the University of Liberia shut down but continue to allow private Universities to operate on their various campuses?
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