The Grand Bassa Community College in Buchanan City is said to be facing numerous challenges to effectively run the institution with an enrollment of over 1,200 students owing to lack of adequate funding.
According to students, the school does not have a bus to transport them and the technical department does not have the requisite instructional materials to enhance their learning abilities, among other issues.
It is believed that since the establishment of the Community College, it has never had a bus to transport students to school and as a result, the students are being transported to school in an old Man Diesel truck.
When this reporter visited the campus, which is about an hour’s walk from the main street of Buchanan, the stretch of road running to the campus was in deplorable state while the bridge over the “Benson Creek” (where all vehicles ply) was in a dangerous condition, something the students consider as a safety hazard.
“Motorcycle fare from the center of Buchanan to the college is about L$75 and it is not just easy to get a bike back home after school because of the condition of the road and bridge,” they added.
Gardawroh P. Larway, a student of the Electrical Department, said there are a limited number of computers in the computer lab, with three students assigned to a computer, adding, “and even the very department does not have the required instructional materials.”
Owing to the huge challenges the students as well as the school face in carrying out a smooth operation on campus, the students on Wednesday October 14, held board members and some faculties hostage, something Gardawroh said was intended to claim the attention of the county leadership, including the caucus.
“Our lives as students are in danger,” said Austin O. Garpue. “See the bridge you just crossed? It is not rehabilitated, and the county administration continues to delay the provision of the allotment promised the school.”
The aggrieved students explained that the Grand Bassa County leadership, including members of the 53rd Legislative Caucus, made a commitment to give the school US$400,000 from the Social Development Fund so as to underwrite some of their needs, including the purchase of a school bus, the maintenance of school facilities as well as the bridge, but the amount is yet to be released, adding, “that was from over two years ago.”
Railey Guson, Head of the Engineering and Applied Sciences Department, who was repairing the dilapidated bridge with some men, explained that the delay in the release of the funds promised the institution is greatly hampering the activity of the technical department.
He agreed with the students and added that the lack of basic instructional materials in the various departments remains a major challenge for the school “all because the county allotted budget is not coming.”
Pointing at the old Man Diesel truck, he said, “This old German made truck is the one that transports every one of us to school.”
However, the president of the college, Dr. Levi Zangai, agreed that the plight of the students and the staff is happening because of budgetary constraints, owing to the delay in the release of the allotment the Grand Bassa leadership agreed to give the college.
He said the college needs about US$2.2 million, including the subsidy from government, the US$400,000 from the County Social Development Fund and students’ tuition, but because of the delay to commit the US$400,000 from the county budget, it is causing constraints for the administration.
“As we speak, FED is willing to furnish the computer lab, but they are saying that unless we provide security. And how can we hire any more when we do not have money?” he asked.
“The subsidies we receive from the government go to faculty salaries and the balance is used for maintenance, such as lubricant for generator, stationery, communication and many more.
“We still owe our staff three months salaries for the times they were resting during the course of Ebola, but we thought we could get the allotted money from the county so as to pay them. But because we are not getting the money the staff members are threatening to strike anytime, beginning from Monday.”
Efforts to get to the Board Chairperson, Mrs. Augurie E. Herring, via mobile phone remained futile as her phone was switched off, but her deputy, Rev. Nelly Wright, said via mobile phone that they have appealed to the students to remain calm as efforts were being made to address their plights.
She added that a member from the Grand Bassa Legislative Caucus was due on campus on Monday (today) to meet with the aggrieved students and staff members.