The Liberian operations of Malaysian oil palm giant, Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL), has been commended for offering ‘hardship allowance’ to beneficiaries of its scholarship studying agriculture-related disciplines at major universities in Liberia.
A number of students benefiting from the company’s US$135-monthly hardship stipend say the offer would not have come at any better time.
Sime Darby Liberia launched the hardship allowance scheme during the height of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the country few months ago to help the students earn their living during the Ebola crisis.
The scheme is an augmentation of existing monthly US$45 scholarship allowance for each of the beneficiaries.
About 51 students at various tertiary institutions in the country are benefiting from the Sime Darby’s scholarship program and their benefit under the hardship allowance scheme has now been increased to US$135 per month.
Beneficiaries spoken with said the gesture by Sime Darby Plantation Liberia (SDPL) during this Ebola outbreak is far from just a corporate social responsibility of the company. “It is a great sense of humanity that any company would consider,” one of the beneficiaries said in a recent interview.
They believe that the company could have stopped the scholarship allowance scheme since all schools including universities and colleges have been close because of the Ebola outbreak. “But, Sime Darby Foundation decided to go extra miles to ensure our survivability,” said Miss Hannah Karnwhiene. Miss Karnwhiene is studying agriculture at the Stella Maris Polytechnic in Monrovia.
The Sime Darby Foundation had always given beneficiaries of its scholarship in Liberia monthly allowances of US$45 to US$135 per month, but the Company decided to step up the amount for all 51 students to US$135 per month after Ebola struck the country, leaving schools closed. And with economic activities taking a nosedive, the Malaysian Company decided to come to the rescue of its students.
“For me, what the company is doing is more than a help. There is no active work going on at the plantation due to the Ebola outbreak, yet the Company is paying us and they have even increased the amount. I am just grateful for such assistance,” said Miss Karnwhiene.
Many Liberian girls have the tendency of shying away from entering into the field of agriculture due to what they call difficulties in obtaining jobs after graduation.
According to Sime Darby Liberia Management, the ‘hardship allowance’ will last until the Ebola is finally eradicated from Liberia and normalcy returns to the country.
Sime Darby Management has also declared that the hardship allowance will continue until the economy is lifted from recession. “Once normalcy returns and the students are back in school, the company would revert to its old US$45 per student payment scheme which it started,” said an SDPL official.