Hundreds of aggrieved students in Sayewhen Town and its environs have embarked on a two-day peaceful demonstration in the gold-rich Kokoyah District in Bong County following an abrupt closure of the school.
The Monrovia Times has gathered that the school has been closed as a result of an alleged chemical spill including cyanide and mercury from a gold mining company, MNG Gold.
It is widely suspected that MNG Gold recently released some chemicals from its operation site into the grounds which allegedly affected the only hand pump at the Sayewhen Town Public School where Students of the public school usually drink water from the hand pump.
This paper also understands that since the chemicals reportedly contaminated the hand pump, students of the school have been drinking the “unsafe” water from the pump.
As a result of the situation, many of the school students are allegedly down with sicknesses such as diarrhea while others are said to be vomiting blood.
The Monrovia Times further gathered that the situation which led to more than twenty students being seriously impacted prompted the Administration to immediately close the school.
Even though more than twenty students have been affected in the mineral-rich region which is believed to have been the result of drinking from the polluted hand pump, more than three hundred other students took to the street of the Town yesterday with placards which had various inscriptions such as “We want to go back to school; Our school time is passing; Please relocate our school; take the sick people to hospital for treatment.”
The Administration’s decision to close the school is aimed at establishing the actual cause of the problem which The Monrovia Times cannot independently verify and the students and the best way to deal with it.
The School administration, through the Registrar, Mr. Eugene Johnson, has stated that the school will remain closed in order to save the lives of the students. He also called for an urgent relocation of the school.
According to our Correspondent who visited the town, MNG Gold chemical tank is approximately ten feet from the school which is very close to the only hand pump.
Our Correspondent says the situation appear like a ‘doomsday’ for both students and other residents of Sayewhen Town and surrounding villages.
“All of my children are sick, I don’t have money to send them to the hospital,” Mary Wamah, a mother of four told The Monrovia Times Correspondent.
She said since they realized that the water from the hand pump was affecting their children, there has been no response from the Company’s Management concerning the matter.
“Our Children are suffering from various sicknesses, some of them are vomiting blood, some do not eat or even drink as usual, and others are feeling weak,” Madam Wamah added.
Also speaking on the issue, an Elder of the Town, Flomo G. Nakulah, said the situation has brought to a complete halt the children’s learning activities.
He added that the demonstration by the students is aimed at attracting the attention of the company’s management and by extension, the Government of Liberian (GOL) through its concerned ministries and agencies.
“Our children (the ones who are well) are demonstrating in order for the Company to do something now. The situation can’t remain like this and they return to school,” he stressed.
“We strongly believe that the Company will quickly work on the chemical tank to stop the pollution of the drinking water,” he added.
When contacted by the Monrovia Times, the Government Liaison officer, Benedict Sayeh, categorically refuted claims by the town residents that the sick conditions of the students were caused by any pollution of the hand pump by the company.
He stated that the company’s technicians worked very hard to build the tank and as such, there is no way that such tank will release wastes to contaminate the hand pump or groundwater being used by the school and residents.
Mr. Sayeh further stated that he will only believe that the residents’ concern is true when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bong County Health Team to investigate the matter and announce the outcome of such scientific investigation.
Other citizens in Bong County called on the Government of Liberia to quickly intervene by investigating the situation.