For over a month now, West Point residents have been landing a hand in repairing the Nathaniel Varney Massaquoi School, the only public school in the overpopulated township. Both skilled and unskilled volunteers have been working in shifts to ensure that the school renovations are completed by the deadline.
“I have a double plan to cover the worst case: if they work only during daylight hours and we don’t have any problems in budget and supply, by 1 May 2015 the school will be ready,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Koerner, the Project Director from UNMIL overseeing the renovation of the school whose 1,000 primary and secondary students had their studies interrupted when their school was closed and turned into an Ebola treatment center at the height of the epidemic.
As Liberia counts down to the 42 days required to be formally declared Ebola free if no new cases appear for that long, NV Massaquoi is the only school that has not reopened in the country due to the task involved in disinfecting then repairing the rundown building.
Victor Stryker, an engineer with the Department of Children, Families and Humanitarian Services, said that they have 45 volunteers working during the day and 35 at night. They also have another group on standby to work on Sundays.
The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) offered to help in the roofing of the school and has sent 30 engineers to help accomplish the task. “We have many people in the forces with technical skills and they rarely use them. Now is their chance to put them to use because some of them are very good at construction,” said an AFL Engineer who preferred anonymity.
Vivian Haines, an onsite supervisor said that from the initial stage it was evident that the building needed to be renovated because otherwise the building would not have lasted a year.
“We bless God for the donors that came in and this building is going to be a great one because we are putting steel in every area so that the building can be guaranteed,” she added.
Safety is guaranteed for Philip Jah’s children. Mr. Jah is a mason at the school with children enrolled in the 6th and 7th grades. “I am doing this work because I want my children to come back to school since right now they are sitting home,” he said.
Esther Geeko, a widower and mother, has three children enrolled in the school. Ms. Geeko cooks for all the volunteers working on the renovation. She is happy with the repair works.
For the parents and students enrolled at the school, Ibrahim Holmes, a mathematics instructor had a message for them.
“The school will be safe right after renovation because all measures have been taken to decontaminate the school.”