Trouble at Harbel College, Students Want Entire Board Resign

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Some protesting students gathered at the Palava Hut to demand the resignation of the Board during a Board meeting on August 30, 2018.

With less than a week to resume the 2018/2019 academic activities, students attending the Harbel College in Margibi County are demanding the resignation of the entire Board for “ineffectiveness on the part of its members in performing their assigned duties.”

But Board Chair, David S. Menyongai, told the disgruntled students, that the delay in the renovation works on campus was to ensure that every cent spent is void of corruption. The protesting students, among other things, accused the Board of micromanaging the college, and remaining unconcerned about improving student learning activities.

“Members of the Board are not in the interest of us as well as being dysfunctional under its slow-to-act Chairman, David Menyongai. The Board must be removed, and restructured, because the members cannot manage the school,” the spokesperson for the protesting students, Jupor Gborkerquelle, said.

According to Gborkerquelle, “the college is supposed to resume basic academic work early next month, but because funds meant for the renovation of the dilapidated classrooms and library have not been released, the campus has remained in ruins.”

The funds, Gborkerquelle said, are already available, “but have not been released, because of disagreement among members of the Board, a situation which has stalled the project.

“For members of the Board to allow their personal disagreements to deprive us from having a better learning environment is a clear indication that they are ineffective. As we speak, the classrooms, library and administration building, which should have been ready by the end of August, have remained in the same appalling condition. Classes are not starting anytime,”  Gborkerquelle said.

He said that members of the Board have also failed to address the shortage of instructors in specialized areas, although they have funds to do hire some of the best brains to teach.

“This micromanage ideology has over the years affected the learning environment here. It so sad that the college is offering full-fledged degrees in several specialized areas, but does not have instructors to teach many of the courses. As a result, we are learning under the appalling condition without zest from Board members to address our condition,” Gborkerquelle said.

Harbel College, established in 2012 by an Act of the Legislature, offers degrees in climate change studies, Liberian Studies, occupational safety and health, agro-business, environmental studies, mechanical and renewable engineering.

Gborkerquelle further accused board members of only visiting the college when they want to hold a meeting to distribute their Board sitting fees.

“This is heartless, because they are not performing their duties by evaluating the quality of educational programs offered, a process that should not have been delegated. This is one of the primary functions that they carelessly  perform.

“And since they cannot perform such a responsibility, they should all resign, because we need Board members that will care about our learning environment, and the quality of education that is being provided here. It is time for them to go, no more micromanaging, and no more collecting sitting fees.  The Board has not done any meaningful project to improve the college,” Gborkerquelle said.

Though students want the Board resign, they named Fr. Gabriel Jubwe as one Board member who is actually up to the task.

“The Father is a good man and, as a professor, he is doing his very best to impart knowledge to the students,” the protesting students said.

Board Chair Menyongai said the the board has been working to solve some of the problems the college has been experiencing.

“Ongoing renovation project has not delayed because we want it to be,” Meyongai explained, “but we want to ensure that the appropriate financial system is put in place. Certain things were not going right so we have to intervene. We want the best of education for y’all and we are making sure that happens. If enough funds were available, we could have done more.

“The funds government give us per annum is little, so we have to manage it and implement strategic projects.  The Board is equally concerned about progress on the college campus and you have to be aware that development is a gradual process,” Menyongai added.

He also accused the College President, Dr. Syrulwa Somah, of engineering the students to protest against board members because of their “refusal to dance to his tune.”

Dr. Somah denied the board accusations of engineering the protest, but confirmed that there is poor relationship between his office and the board.

“The disagreement stands from my refusal to mismanage funding intended for the college operation as being suggested by some board members. They came the last time and brought US$300,000 and told me that they want to take US$100,000 for themselves. Since I refused, this has been the big crime I have committed,” Dr. Somah told the Daily Observer.

“One of the board members wanted to bring her own contractor to complete construction work at the college and I refused. Since then, she keeps finding all means to get me out and the students are observing what is ongoing here, especially construction workers,” Dr. Somah said.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Here we go again…they’re preparing to turn a good school into the University of Liberia with all the violence. Why can’t students solve problems without violence? The school should suspend or expel the troublemakers.

  2. Phil,

    You have missed the bedrock of the problem.

    First and foremost, why Harbel college when there is no quality elementary, Junior, and senior high school? In fact where are the instructors coming from? The same old ones that could not pass the LU entrance and are running to so-called private universities graduating and calling themselves instructors?

    Look Phil, here is the solution.
    (1)Shut down all the county community colleges. Open regional select-colleges from the UL – bomi, bong, nimba, and Maryland, for now. Follow the same old university curriculum and instructor recruitment guidelines.

    (2) Reduce all of the so-call mushroom universities to AA degree colleges until they can truly justify their credentials – they are all borrowing and sharing instructors that are fatigue and teaching nothing. Some of them have no qualification to teach but a so-called Master degree from where God one knows. FYI, I have a friend who got a master degree from the UL 4 years ago but I hardly saw him go to school or study. Yes, we used to hang-out together most of the time.

    (3) where are the jobs? the last time I check, most of the jobs are technical and career driven – professional carpenters, masons, blacksmith, welders, mechanics- motorbike and automobile, heavy duty mechanics, etc… Use BWI or the polytechnic and regionalise them as should be done to replace county colleges.

    Let’s not waste our time, the flunky Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said it right, our education is a mess. Take all the money from these failed projects called county colleges and invest those moneys in elementary, junior, and senior high schools. we will become a better country in 10 years. There is no quick fix. With the current trajectory of things, we are heading no where but a trickle down effect.

    Thank you, Daily Observer for the opportunity to share my view. I hope I could have expanded on this and do a full commentary page – we will see.

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