Contrary to popular belief, prior to 1990, the majority of students outside Monrovia did not enjoy a normal life after their graduation from high school. Most students in rural counties lacked access to essential opportunities for academic advancement at the University of Liberia and other public and private universities and colleges across Liberia. The situation in Bomi Territory, now Bomi County, was not different at all, even though the reputable C. H. Dewey High School produced some of the most talented and outstanding students before the 14 year civil war.
Several private and church-operated high schools such as the Suehn Industrial Academy Mission, St. Dominic Catholic Mission, St. Paul Episcopal, Pentecostal, Charlotte Tolbert High, Parker High and others, equally made significant contributions.
Teachers and students in these schools came from all sixteen ethnic groups of Liberia as well as friendly countries such as the United States (Peace Corps volunteers), Ireland, India, Ghana, The Gambia, Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Benin and many more. Mining companies, rubber plantations, forestry and plywood industries, with their expatriates from the global community, along with their respective Liberian colleagues also contributed positively towards building and supporting the educational system and economy of the county, and country.
Bomi Hills benefitted from a rich ethnic and cultural diversity. We lived happily together and sustained a genuine sense of peace and harmony in our schools, churches and mosques as a local community of one people. It was a beautiful place for children to live, grow up and learn. Graduation day, however, was a time of contradictions. It brought both great joy and sadness for the graduates and their families from year to year.
On that day, graduation meant the end of academic endeavor for a large number of smart students. On that day, the graduates and their relatives would begin to worry about what to do next. With a few exceptions, the reality was that most families were simply too poor to finance the huge cost of education for their children beyond high school. This majority of students will have no other alternative but to put hope on the generosity of patriotic Liberians and well-meaning foreigners. This was a common reality from year to year.
In my personal case, finding myself in the aforementioned category of vulnerable students, I was blessed with a solid college education in Boston, Massachusetts, by an American and former Peace Corps volunteer, Mr. Thomas C. Block, and his family. Other well-connected students were often fortunate to get the small number of government scholarships available at the time.
The devastating consequences of the prolonged civil conflict did not help anyone at all. I travelled many times to Liberia from the United States over a period of 13 years from 1992 to 2005. Whenever possible, I visited my families and friends not only in Monrovia but also in Tubmanburg in Senjeh District, Jorjormah Town in Klay District and Moila Town in Suehn-Mecca District. My visits also took me to other towns and villages.
These trips gave me ample opportunity to talk to our people including religious and traditional leaders, chiefs, the elderly, youths and women. I often met with Liberian refugees in the sub-region, too. In February 2005, I carried out an educational needs assessment to see how young girls and boys were coping after their high school graduation. The assessment revealed that there was an urgent need to establish regional community colleges to serve students from Bomi, Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties. Of course, students from Montserrado and other counties would be encouraged most definitely to join these colleges as it was in the old days.
The original plan called for Tubmanburg to serve as the main campus of an emerging regional community college while satellite campuses could potentially be built based on the comparative advantages and economies of Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties. The aim was to enable the major stakeholders to agree on prioritizing this community college initiative before the 2005 presidential and general legislative elections. It was an exciting dream and vision for Bomi Community College. The plan was then disclosed to Rev. Kortu K. Brown and many Bomi citizens in Liberia and the United States in February 2005.
Concerted efforts were made to mobilize resources and get citizens to contribute to the idea in both countries. This idea was well received by our people everywhere. Initially, the community donated 25 acres of land. I made a generous contribution of US$1,000 in May 2005 for the surveying of the land, preparation and registration of articles of incorporation and accreditation of the community college. This community initiative marked the birth of the first community college in Liberia. In 2013, I also contributed and transported 100 bags of cement valued at US$1,300 towards the recently completed Nursing School Annex.
Gratitude also goes to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government for continuous financial support to our college. Honorable Speaker Alex J. Tyler and Honorable Samuel Gayah Karmo were especially instrumental in transforming the Bomi Community College to an official state institution through an act of legislature establishing the Bomi County Community College.
We must therefore redouble our collective efforts aimed at accelerating sustainable development in order to better serve our students and make them competitive in the world.
Together, we must invest more in education for a better future of our county. Education is the key to success. Geometry teaches this basic fact: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Education is a serious business which helps us to find the shortest path toward reducing poverty for peoples, communities and nations.
About the author: Varney Arthur Yengbeh, Jr. is the founding President& CEO of Afrivision International, LLC. Afrivision is a privately held management consulting, engineering and technical services firm organized, incorporated, and registered under the laws of the Republic of Liberia in 2011. Appointed as chairman of the Board of BCCC, the official announcement by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was recently delayed due to the absence of the Bomi County Legislative Caucus at the 4th Commencement exercise of the BCCC in Tubmanburg.