‘Poro Masters’ Occupy School Campus against Use as COVID-19 Center

The gate of the Francis Nyan Manwian Public School campus in Bain-Garr, Nimba County, marked by palm thatches and banana leaves, signifying the presence of Poro masters

Amid controversy over COVID-19 Quarantine and Holding Center

Since the Coronavirus outbreak with about six cases said to be confirmed in Nimba, the county health team is yet to identify any area as a holding center for patients of the virus and their contacts.

With the desire to occupy the Francis Nyan Manwian Public School currently catering to hundreds of students in Ganta, community members and elders have vehemently resisted this idea proffered by the County Authority and the Nimba County Health Team on grounds that it would pose stigma on the students after the pandemic.  Furthermore, they believe that such a holding center should be in an isolated area to prevent people from contracting the disease since it is airborne.

However, to defend the cause of their plea to ensure that the school campus is not occupied by the county authority and the health team, the local community members have deployed a team of Poro Masters (popularly referred to as devil) to guard and preserve the facility for the health of students upon their eventual return.

The school campus is currently marked by palm thatches and banana leaves, indicating the presence of the poro masters, and anyone passing nearby is overwhelmed by the shouts of the masters warning that any non-member venturing in the vicinity would be arrested, and whoever comes to declare the campus as a quarantine or holding center would meet serious resistance.

“This is the only powerful government we ourselves have. So if people want to go against us we tell our uncles too to come in our defense,” Alfred Gbordor, Chief Elder of Bain-Garr, said in laughter.

The chief elder added: “The people don’t agree for the place to be used as a quarantine center.  People have their houses from here all the way to St John, and the school is almost in the middle of the city.  We are afraid that when the people come here, some of our children who are hard-headed will go around there for what interests them and might end up contracting the virus.”

Chief Elder of Bain-Garr Alfred Gbordor: “The Poro masters have spent two nights on the campus now, and will be there until everything is over.”

Earlier, residents of the area had blocked the road leading to the campus to prevent vehicles from entering.  Elder Gbordor said action by the residents was necessary because the leaders in the county do not respect people in the local communities.  “They do not respect us; instead of coming to us to talk and come to one conclusion, they do not do it but want to use power on us to go against our health and wellbeing,” Elder Gbordor added.

“The poro masters have spent two nights on the campus now, and will be there until everything is over,” said Gbordor.

He also contended that the only hand-pump they fetch drinking water from in the community is located in the school’s fence and therefore it will not be healthy for them to declare the place as a holding or quarantine center.

The Principal of the Francis Manwian Public School, Rennie Gbatu says he has not been consulted by the county authority on declaring the campus as a holding or quarantine center, and therefore he is not in agreement with the county authority and the county health team on the issue.  He said the facility belongs to the Ministry of Education, which is also a part of the government but, as principal, he is not in the know of the unfolding decision to have the area as a holding center.

Ganta Methodist Hospital Administrator, Allen Zormonway had said earlier that the hospital has decided to give its cafeteria on the compound to the county health team to prepare for the purpose, but members of the health team have not returned to let the administration know whether or not they would use the place.

“We had the Ebola Treatment Unit here at the mission’s facility in 2014 but, after the crisis, our own people came and looted all that were installed there, down to rocks without the belief that similar situation may occur.  So we told the county health team that when they use the place, nothing should be taken from there and since the discussion, they have not come back to us,” Zormonway said.