The following is a heartbreaking story. One of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, on March 18, 2021 published an article, entitled ‘School Expels K-1 Pupil for Alleged Witchcraft’. To read the article click here.
I was baffled. The administration of the TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, which runs a school in Paynesville, in Greater Monrovia, asked the parents of a six-year-old kindergarten pupil to stop sending her to the school. The reason? The child’s alleged involvement in witchcraft activities. My initial reaction was, and to a certain extent still is one of disbelief. Knowing Liberia, I am aware that among members of certain communities the belief in witchcraft still exists, even today, in 2021, in the 21st century. Many Liberians use a mobile telephone. Also, the use of internet is widespread in Liberia. Yet the belief in magical powers, superstition, witchcraft hasn’t disappeared. Superstition can only be eliminated from society through education and awareness, yet in this case those who are engaged in educational institutions show that they too believe in witchcraft.
I was struck and outraged for three reasons. First, parents entrust their children to teachers in schools and kindergartens because they expect that their children are thus protected by people who are well educated and trained, and qualified for their job. And yet these teachers and administrators disappoint us by believing in witchcraft, humiliating an innocent six-year old child by expelling her from school and making her an outcast in society!
Secondly, in any well functioning society there exists a system of checks and balances, institutions that watch and check on the respect of rules which we have agreed on as a society. In Liberia, the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing the activities of schools. Moreover, there is a Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with a clear mandate. I woud have expected an immediate reaction of these two governmental institutions. Besides, the school is located near the residence of President Weah. Where are the authorities in Liberia when a six-year old child and her parents need them??
Last but not least, it is mind-boggling that responsible, adult people decide to insult, hurt, – I even call it torture – an innocent, small child that needs love, protection and guidance, and who should not be rejected, stigmatized, expelled from school, rejected by her friends and the society. Those who are responsible for this reprehensible, repulsive behavior should be brought before justice since what they have done is nothing less than a crime. I mention here the school’s principal and notably the proprietor of TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, Napoleon Chattah.
On a national level, President Weah and/or the Legislature should immediately summon the Minister of Education, Prof Ansu D. Sonii, and the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, William-Etta Piso Saydee-Tarr, question them how this can happen, ask them whether this is an unique act and situation or if it happens more frequently in the country, and instruct them to take all measures needed to avoid a repeat of this situation.