I have read with vested and inherited interest, the historical accounts of the foundation of the Bomi Community College (BCC) as narrated by the just-appointed Chairman of the Board, Mr. Varney Arthur Yengbeh, Jr.
I am obliged to join the discussion, not only as a citizen and former youth leader in Bomi, and at the University of Liberia, but to further accentuate on the unequivocal importance of education as a driving force for development and nation-building as Mr. Yengbeh also rightly alluded to.
I too, like Mr. Yengbeh, graduated from the C. H. Dewey Central High in the mid-eighties amid joy and fear, fear of limited opportunities in my desire for higher education (but, lucky me!!).
It is really not about me, who managed to have matriculated to the University of Liberia by God’s grace, but the vast majority of my brothers and sisters at that time and even now!
I was very glad to know that some of my classmates with whom I graduated from the C.H. Dewey Central High in 1986, were part of the recent BCC graduation a few days ago, some 30 years later. At least they made it at long last! But what about the others who were not strong enough to brave the storm to this point?
Even the few of us, the likes of Telee B. S. Brown, Andrea Pope and I who made it at the University of Liberia, survived through campus-based scholarship programs and had to study overtime to stay on; we barely had strong guidance in Monrovia than Tubmanburg, where our parents lived.
We went on to stay with relatives and friends in Monrovia in the quest for higher education at the University of Liberia; it was a must and not a matter of choice. We gravitated toward the University of Liberia because it was the only higher institution of learning whose fees we could afford. Do not get me wrong, there was Cuttington University, but we had to cut our coats according to our measurements. Thank God today for the proliferation of universities; AMEU, UMU to name a few.
Education for Liberia’s development
Development studies have shown that the progress of a nation depends foremost on the progress of its people. Unless it develops their spirit and human potential it cannot develop much else – materially, economically, politically, or culturally.The basic problem of Liberia, like most undeveloped countries, is not poverty of natural resources but the underdevelopment of its human resources.
Hence, our first task is to build our human capital that means improving the education, skill and thus the mental and physical health of the men, women and children. Education and development are intertwined; in fact research has proven that it is one that enhances the other. Education is never a luxury that can be obtained after development has taken place; it must be planned hand in hand with the development agenda.
This development postulation is further buttressed in Frederick Harbison’ book “Education for Development” remarking that, “In its educational investment a country must adopt a balanced program, suited to its own needs and stage of development, or it may run into trouble.” I must admit that we are connecting this path under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf with the emergence of community technical colleges around the country; the Nimba Community College, Bong Community College, Grand Bassa Community College, Bomi Community College, the Lofa Community College and the Grand Gedeh Community College, we are on the development trajectory because development begins with investment in the human person.
Liberia’s education needs to be focused on technical and vocational training if we are to surmount the avalanche of development challenges.We have talked and focused too much on politics for the last 168 years of our existence without practical steps to nation-building.
Research has again shown that too much training in a particular area can be alarming, if there are no incentives to use such training. No wonder why we broke down everything we had in this country under the disguise of political change, and we are now shifting blame here, there and yonder. I am in no way trying to denigrate formal training in political science; all I am saying is that we have too many overnight politicians who have undermined our development processes as evidenced by the phases of senseless wars we experienced in this country.
The introduction of community colleges around the country can catapult Liberia’s development if the government and communities give them the support needed. Just establishing them is not enough. Their allocations in the national budget should be augmented and disbursement done in a timely fashion so as not to interrupt the academic calendar. “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” the saying goes. The legislative caucuses and the citizens must take ownership of these colleges and ensure their survivability.
The challenges of Bomi Community College as I see
I am not a naysayer or an academic obscurant, but BCC stands to face insurmountable challenges, like many of the development projects due to the lack of support and “blessing” from the County Legislative Caucus. It was very disdainful to have learnt that none of the caucus’s members was present for the 4th graduation exercise with the exception of Senator Morris Saytumah, who served as the commencement speaker.
This is not only a disservice to the people who elected them, but a sheer lack of interest in the development of the county and above all, a non-cooperative altitude with the President of Liberia, who is a daughter of the county. No wonder why President Sirleaf lamented in her remarks at the graduation ceremony of the BCC, “If your house does not sell you, the street will not buy you.” No amount of excuses for their absenteeism would suffice to the people of Bomi County.
I am on record for calling on the Bomi Legislative Caucus to mend their broken pieces and unite if the county will achieve any meaningful development under the leadership of one of their own. Recently the Assistant Superintendent for Development, Hon. Ernest Gray Davies lamented the failure of companies to implement 30 percent of 13 pre-financed project requirements in the county. Some citizens have even threatened to take the matter up with county officials. “We cannot sit here and look at these projects being delayed. Something has to be done. We will bring it to national authorities if these issues cannot be resolved,” the citizens said, according to a dispatch by the Liberia News Agency (LINA). These are issues the caucus could follow up if the members were united. They have statutory oversight responsibilities.
If the county leadership is not getting the caucus’ support, I am not sure the BCC under the leadership of the brilliant educator, Dr. Zongbon Boima Norman will get it. For only “ants can see ants eyeball.” I challenge the caucus to prove me wrong.
May I tender in my few recommendations to the BCC, County Leadership, Legislative Caucus and Citizens as well, as a citizen with vested interest in the county:
➢ A stakeholder meeting held shortly to discuss the future of the BCC.
➢ Establish an endowment fund for BCC by Bomi citizens (at home & abroad)
➢ Secure a parcel of land from the county for agriculture purpose; proceeds generated go to the BCC established fund
➢ Chiefs and elders should work with the Legislative Caucus to sort out their differences
About the author: Douglas Jones is a citizen of Bomi County and holds Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Mass communication from the University of Liberia and postgraduate international certificates in Dvelopment Studies, Civil-Military Relations, International Humanitarian Assistance, Human Rights Planning in Project Management from Kofi Annan Institute, Ghana and Senegal; Certified Project Manager by the APM Prince 2 Foundation Project Management Course, United Kingdom. He is also a graduate of the La’ Scientific College in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire. He has worked for several International organizations and can be reached: [email protected], or 0886533223 /0770533223.