Sen. Grupee: Traditional Schools Need Reform

GANTA, Nimba – Senator Thomas Grupee has called for a reform in the traditional secret societies to reduce their impact on the education of students in Liberia.

Speaking to reporters during a recent visit to Nimba, Grupee said he is currently lobbying with his colleagues in the senate to pursue this reform.

“We have to refine these traditions at this point in time to see what works for us in this age, and see what don’t work for us,” he said.

Grupee’s call for a reform of the traditional societies stemmed from an experience he said he had three years ago when two schools in the Sanniquellie-Mahn education district were closed because students were participating in activities conducted by the societies.

He said after some girls were taken out of school and sent to the Sande society, their male counterparts refused to continue attending.

According to Grupee, the issue drew outrage and “the Ministry of Education had to move in quickly, and those two schools were closed.”

Grupee, however, did not reveal the names of the two schools that were closed by the Ministry of Education.

The Nimba lawmaker said he has since met with the National Tradition Council of Liberia to put forth his plans to reform the traditional sector.

The secret societies are considered custodians of Liberia’s culture. At the traditional schools, young people are taught values and skills that are thought to be conducive to communal harmony and necessary for preparing children for adulthood.

However, some practices of the secret societies have often clashed with Liberia’s development goals, including female genital mutilation. Additionally, harmonizing the schedules of the traditional schools to avoid interrupting academic schools has proven to be a challenge.

Grupee said he wants to ensure that the Ministry of Internal Affairs only grants licenses to traditional schools whose schedules will not coincide with the academic school calendar.

“They continue to give licenses and cause people to take all of our young children from the school and send them to the Sande Society,” he said. “We have corrected that and don’t want it to happen any longer.”

Grupee disclosed that a meeting was held with representatives of the National Tradition Council of Liberia, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the senate committee on internal affairs.

He added that “during the meeting, it was agreed upon that licenses must not be issued to the Sande and Poro Societies [to operate] during [the] regular academic period.”

Featured photo by Arrington Ballah

A resident of Ganta, Nimba County, Arrington has a background working with credit unions and other organizations dedicated to rural finance.

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