Better grades can get a student from one level to another in their academic sojourn. These grades are currently rumored to be on sale at the state-run University of Liberia following the completion of a fragile semester in April.
According to scores of UL students, who just completed their senior course in English, those who could not make the desired grades were asked to pay L$1,000 to “cross the bridge” from failure to passing. This amount being requested by unscrupulous instructors is being seen as too much by students.
The English course— coded as Engl. 411— was taught in the seventh section on the schedule, and is reported to have recorded mass failure due to academic limitations of poorly prepared students.
The affected students told the Daily Observer that the instructor gave an assignment to students as part of what will constitute their final grades in addition to the examination.
The students, who asked for anonymity, said they failed to meet the required grade points and ended up failing.
“Upon receiving our papers, one of our classmates told us not to search for the instructor on UL campus, but rather to go to the Stella Maris campus where he was eating. When we got there, he gave each person an envelope for us to write our names with our identification number to put L$1,000 into. When he took the money, he then returned the emptied envelope to the student and his/her ID is checked,” a student explained.
“The money is too much for us at this time because some of us are not working to get money. If it were L$500, it would be acceptable. But the L$1,000 is too much as we still have tests to do and the burden of transportation is still hanging over us,” another student said.
While our reporter was on the Fendell Campus on April 4, students copying the class schedule for next semester were seen and heard checking names of instructors to sit under.
Normally students look out for convenient days and times, but now they ask who the instructor is before choosing their section.
Students were rejecting certain instructors attached to courses because of past encounters with them.
When the Dean of the college was contacted via mobile phone, he said such an issue had been brought to his attention, and that he would conduct an investigation to ascertain the facts.
In another instance, students who did beginner’s accounting said the instructor charged US$10 to “cross the bridge.”
Coded as Acct. 003, the students who were in section 9 on the schedule said their instructor told them to pay the amount as a prerequisite to passing the course.
“This is my third time doing this course under this same instructor, I still can’t pass. Now that he has collected my US$10, I hope to see a passing grade and not an ‘F, NG’ or ‘I.’ If not, he will feel the weight,” one student threatened.
At the “Brother and Sister Restaurant” where this instructor and his female friend were sitting on the main campus, we were asked by this woman to use our phone so she could give us the amount to be paid. When my phone was given back to me with a figure on the screen, I was asked to pay L$500. The woman threw my phone on the ground and it almost broke,” a student said.
Amidst these instances at UL, affected students are regretting the absence of Dr. Wede Elliot-Brownell, who they say would not allow such activities to take place under her watch.
According to them, under Dr. Brownell instructors were careful about what they did in class as they needed to protect their jobs. Dr. Brownell was constantly on their (the instructors) backs to ensure that no one takes money from students for grades.
“These instructors were only advocating for the woman to leave the university so they could go about “business as usual.” Since she is not here, they will continue giving tests with intention of failing people so they can extort money from us and build their houses,” a distressed female said.
UL Relations Vice President, Dr. S. Momolu Getaweh, in response to a call from the Daily Observer, said such information was not available to him, but the Dean of Student Affairs would look into the issue.
Efforts made to contact the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Julius S. Nelson, proved futile as his phone was switched off.
Although Dr. Emmet A. Dennis’ Administration at the University of Liberia is strict in making sure that the problem is tackled, it is difficult to control as students themselves are willing to take part.
In most instances they are the first through, their class leadership, to propose money collection to bribe an instructor. Many students do not attend classes or take lessons seriously; preferring to use money to buy grades instead.
As a result of this issue plaguing the education system, instructors who teach and live by principles are often hated by students, who describe them as “harsh and uncompassionate.”