Concerns are mounting in Gbarnga, Bong County, over the slow pace of construction work being done by Chinese contractors at the Bong Technical College (BTC), formerly the Gboveh Community College in Gbarnga.
The Bong Technical College is one of several community colleges legislated by government to be built in every county capital as part of the Government of Liberia’s provision of education to its citizens.
Funding for the construction of the BTC is directly from the County Social Development Funds (CSDF) provided by concessionaire companies operating in the county as a means of realizing benefits in keeping with their corporate social responsibility as enshrined in the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) signed with the Liberian Government.
The community college, when built, will have a greater impact on county inhabitants pursuant of government’s commitment towards creating an enabling environment to enhance transformation in the lives of its citizens through quality education.
The BTC construction project is being implemented by the Chinese-Liberia United Construction Company.
Active work on the college started in September of 2010 with the agreement between the contractors and the county leadership that the first phase of the project, which comprised the school and the administration buildings, would be completed in 2012. But it appears that deadline for phase one has elapsed and the project has not gone 50%.
The President of the college, Dr. John Flomo, in an interview with this newspaper, maintained that the BTC may close down this semester if the necessary financial support is not provided the to complete the project.
Dr. Flomo explained that at present the BTC is being housed at the United Methodist William V.S.Tubman-Gray High School in Gbarnga. He stressed that the Tubman-Gray school cannot accommodate the existing enrollment.
The BTC president also informed this reporter that the institution may not administer placement entrance exams for this semester as the result of limited space at the Tubman-Gray High School that cannot host additional students.
Dr. Flomo emphasized that the school as a technical institution has procured some laboratory equipment for students who are reading engineering and biology but cannot access these equipment due to limited rooms at the Tubman-Gray High School.
“We have run the school for two semesters now and most of the students are sophomore, so they cannot be in the school without having access to laboratory. We would not be doing good to ourselves,” Dr. Flomo emphasized.
He said as the result of the limited rooms, his administration is finding it very hard to establish departments at the school; noting, we need to constitute departments as a college.
“The BTC will not open for this semester if the building to house the college is not complete” Dr. Flomo stressed.
He said during his recent trip to United States of America he met with faculties and officials of the universities of Minnesota, Iowa and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to build international partnerships in order to make the BTC a viable institution to meet international educational standards.
He said the community college will be offering Bachelor of Science degree in six distinct disciplines: computer engineering, mining engineering, civil engineering, agricultural technology, nursing and education.
Dr. Flomo explained that his administration is in constant negotiation with the administration of Iowa University for some of its professors to come to the community college when completed to offer their expertise in agriculture since the university is one of the best agricultural universities in the world and to also develop agriculture curriculum for the school.
An investigation conducted by the Daily Observer in Gbarnga established that the county leadership has provided a little over US$4M to the Chinese Company for phase one which includes the construction of the school and the administration buildings. The estimate of the entire project was put in the tune of US$ 7.9m, which comprises of teachers’ quarters, students’ dormitory, the school and administration buildings.
In March of 2013, at the County Council sitting, the leadership of the county allotted US$ 800,000.00, to the college for the roofing of the building but the money is yet to be provided to the administration of the school.
There has been rigmarole amongst county officials over the construction of the BTC on grounds that the college is close to the Cuttington University and may undermine the enrollment of Cuttington University.
The BTC was conceived in 2009 by the 52nd Legislative Caucus of Bong County, with Senator Jewel Howard Taylor and Representative George Sylvester Mulbah being at the forefront, to address the growing demand of high school graduates in the county who do not have the financial will power to enroll at Cuttington University.