The University of Liberia dormitory facilities at the Fendall Campus in Bensonville have remained unoccupied since it was constructed by the Government of the People’ Republic China and turned over to the UL Administration several years ago.
While Madam Madaline William, UL Director for Housing, remains tight lipped on the status of the dormitory facilities, there is general consensus among the public and UL students that the dorms are a “white elephant project”.
In plain language, there is no one, not the students or any member of the faculty willing to occupy the dormitories owing to what insiders blame on the exorbitant (overpriced) fees charged per semester by the Administration.
Several faculty members and a cross section of students, who spoke to the Daily Observer on condition of anonymity, claim that in addition to the high cost of living in the dorms, there are several other restrictive and difficult conditions for students and faculty to meet before they can occupy the dormitory facilities. These conditions include filling in forms committing occupants to adhere to certain conduct rules and guidelines, signing maintenance and breakage fees, as well as agreeing to provide their own food but be restricted to eating only in the cafeteria.
Students Darling Tommy and Sieh Williams, both from the Science College, said they wanted to apply to at least occupy one of the units, “but looking at the pre-conditions and the restrictions, we decided to rent a single room near the campus.”
The views of the two students are no different from what most of their colleagues, especially the female students have said.
For students Precilia Kakolian and Patience Peters of the Agriculture College, they would not risk living in an apartment which their colleagues have “abandoned.”
The UL Fendall has four dormitories, with a unit costing US$125 per semester, which was initially priced at US$300. But since the reduction in the boarding price per student, not a single student has applied to live in the dorms as of last Thursday, August 13.
“These are hostels that are meant to be hosting a large number of students, but since it was constructed, the facilities have not been used,” a source told this newspaper during our investigation.
A considerable portion of UL students can move into the campus and it is hoped that it can contribute to the improvement and enhancement of higher learning in Liberia.
In the midst of the confusion surrounding the shunning of the dorm facilities, the vice president for administration, Weade Kobbah Wureh, recently announced that the rental fee had been “drastically” reduced with immediate effect from US$300 to US$125 per semester for students.
Also reduced, according to Prof. Wureh, is the faculty and staff rent, which has now been cut down by US$50. The rental fee was as high as US$200, which kept UL staffers from making use of the facilities especially considering the inconvenience of not having regular electricity and water supply.
Meanwhile, the number of students residing or renting in private homes within the Fendall Community has reportedly increased, a staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed.
As for the faculty housing buildings, our source said several of them are unoccupied, but again it is learnt that less than three are occupied by faculty.
The UL Fendall Campus is so far the biggest project built with assistance from the Chinese Government since the resumption of diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Liberia.
The construction took 26 months starting from April 2008 to June 2010. It covers an area of 110,000 mm with 24,800 mm of floor space. The Campus consists of a four-storey teaching and administrative building (about 12,000mm) which is supposed to house an academic exchange center accommodating 360 students, two large classrooms with seating capacity of 150 each, 27 classrooms, four audio rooms, four computer rooms, a five-room library, 63 offices, three research rooms, eight conference rooms and two cafeterias.
The UL was established in 1862 as Liberia College and became a University in 1951. UL as the oldest degree-granting institution in West Africa has trained leaders of state, church, industry, and commerce for Liberia and other African countries. During Africa’s colonial period, the university provided higher education for many Africans for whom such education was unavailable in the colonies, and continued during postcolonial times.
Liberia College was incorporated by an Act of the Legislature in
December, 1851. The cornerstone for the first building, financed by the
Trustees of Donations for Education in Liberia, was laid on January 25, 1858. Consequently, in 1951, the Legislature of the Republic chartered the University of Liberia. The Charter granted the University of Liberia by the Legislature merged its constituent elements: Liberia College (by then, the
Liberal and Fine Arts College) and the William V.S. Tubman Teachers College.
The mission is to advance new ideas and promote enduring knowledge. The UL strive to create an academic environment in which outstanding students and scholars from around the world are continually challenged and inspired to do their best possible work.