Liberia: Bong County Technical College Students Lament 10 Years of Schooling without Graduation
Gbarnga, Bong County – Beatrice Smith, 27, was hopful that she would have graduated from the Bong County Technical College (BCTC) in the year 2017 when she enrolled back in 2013.
With the prospect of being a fresh graduate, getting a paid internship with either Phebe or C. B. Dunbar Hospitals — two of the major health centers in the county – was her priority. That would have been her first step into a career after obtaining a degree in nursing from the county’s major tertiary institution.
Now, her dream and aspiration has morphed into frustration. She’s worried that the college is just begun to offer Nursing courses.
“It’s depressing,” decries Beatrice. “As a student, who has spent four years at the college, I have done my best to achieve the desired grades but I am not seeing the reality. Our graduation is now in limbo after several postponements.”
Beatrice is not alone. Ms. Deborah Montgomery, 33, is also a student of Nursing and enrolled in 2013. Now, she doesn’t know her status as a student.
“I don’t know when I will graduate. Just last year the Nursing Board accredited the nursing department of the college and we have begun at fresh,” she lamented. “I don’t know if I am a junior or senior student.”
Like Deborah, the fate of most students of this government-funded Technical College is in limbo after being students for more than six years.
“I am a senior student at the college but don’t know if I will be part of the first batch of graduates because I still have some courses that have just been introduced,” said Prince Cammue, a student studying Agriculture Technology.
He has been a student since 2014 but he still doesn’t know when he’ll graduate.
Jeremiah Peabody, another student of the college who claims to be a junior student, is considering a transfer to either Cuttington University or Nimba County Community College.
“My being here at the college has been a waste of time. I don’t know when I will graduate. It’s so frustrating and if the college doesn’t put out her first graduates, I will have no other options but to take a transfer,” he said.
BCTC president uncertain about graduation date
In fact, the uncertainty over the actual date of graduation is not unique to students alone. Dr. Roland Massaquoi, president of the college, seems to be guilty of the several postponements of graduation dates.
In a January 2018 interview with Bush Chicken news, Dr. Massaquoi promised that the college had concluded all necessary formalities to hold its first graduation.
“We have concluded all the necessary modalities to have our first graduation and we are looking forward to having a great day,” Dr. Massaquoi said at the time. But that assurance would prove futile.
Also, in an interview with FrontPage Africa in December 2019, Dr. Massaquoi again promised that all was set for graduation in January 2020. But he would later change the date, citing “unfinished business”.
Nearly seven years after the Bong County Technical College started operations, data indicates that the government has spent over US$8 million on the college but the institution is yet to hold a single graduation ceremony.
Observers say despite the huge expenditures made on the college, the people of Bong County and Liberia at large are yet to get any value for money.
The BCTC started operations since 2013 and as per financial details from the leadership of the county; the Government of Liberia has spent over US$ 7 million on the college. If you add this to administrative and other costs, the amount expended so far has surpassed US$8 million.
Construction work alone on the unfinished BCTC has cost the Government over US$3 million as issues of corruption in the performance of the construction continue to loom while the building remains uncompleted.
Dr. John S. Flomo, while serving as president of the University, promised to complete construction work but controversy rocked the process with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Internal Audit Agency and other anti-graft institutions conducting audit and investigations of alleged corrupt practices in the implementation of the construction contract for the BCTC.
The regime of Dr. Flomo received huge trunk of allotment from the County and Social development Fund of Bong County, which was in the tone of US$4 million but nothing substantial was realized in terms of completing the college and ensuring that the college award degrees.
Bong County lawmaker, Marvin Coleof electoral district three, described Dr. Flomo’s regime as the “worst thing to ever happen to the college”.
“He had been one of the reasons why the college hasn’t put out her first graduates because he spoiled it from the beginning,” Representative Cole said.
Dr. Flomo, who contested in Montserrado County electoral District #4 in 2017, was accused of diverting funding meant for the college to his political campaign, thereby leaving the college uncompleted. He was later replaced when his political ambition became public.
BCTC Trailing Others
Other community colleges in Nimba, Lofa, and Grand Bassa Counties, amongst others, have made significant progress by putting out graduates on numerous occasions.
In a country that has been struggling over the years financially, the expenditure on BCTC without graduating a single student within seven years is now seen by many as waste of resources with Bong County and Liberia not obtaining value for money in the expenditure of public resources.
The BCTC has been headed by some of the known educated individuals including Dr. Flomo, current president Dr. Roland Massaquoi and others but there is no concrete explanation for the inability of the college to live up to public expectations and put out graduates.
According to sources, Dr. Massaquoi is claiming that the Nursing Department just got accreditation, which is some of the reasons for the delayed graduations.