Liberia: Harsh Condition Forces Physically Challenged Out Of College, Turns to Shoe Repairing

Jerry Laffa, coordinator of the disabled community in Grand Bassa County

Buchanan – The coordinator of the disabled community in Grand Bassa County has said the many challenges they are enduring are making their future bleak.

Jerry Laffa added that those of them seeking tertiary education are being denied access.

Laffa lamented, “It is difficult for us to attend the [community] college due to the distance, damaged bridge and the college loop structures are not disabled-friendly.”

“I graduated from the Liberia Christian High School two years ago. I managed to make my way to the community college but I couldn’t continue due to the challenges,” Laffa added.

“I can be ashamed to enter class because I have to drag myself on the ground before entering the class with my dirty clothes,” he further said, sadly.

Lamenting how he could not use his wheelchair on the school bus, which commutes students to the college’s Paynesberry Campus, Laffa said he was constrained to discontinue classes.

“The college campus is very far from Buchanan; other students use the bus but we as disabled students do not have access to the bus due to our wheels,” he explained.

“On one occasion, I nearly fell in the river with my wheel when the heavy rain damaged the bridge leading to the college.”

Laffa, who coordinates activities of the community of physically challenged students in the county, stressed that they have complained several times about these challenges but the county administration is yet to listen or intervene.

“Only our votes are important to them but our wellbeing is not their concern. If they don’t think about listening to our cries, we as disabled are not going to form part of any voting process in Liberia,” he said.

Due to the existing challenges, Laffa stressed he dropped out of school and has now become mending old shoes as a means of survival.

“Look, see what I am doing now,” he tells a LocalVoicesLiberia reporter who had gone to interview him. “I have turned to be a shoe repairer because I need to survive.”

Like many public buildings in Liberia, Grand Bassa Community College (GBCC) does not have a ramp, which makes the facility accessible to wheelchair users. 

Dr. Samuel Monwell, president of the college, in one of his reports to the college’s board, promised to work with the county leadership to make the college accessible to physically-challenged students.

Before taking over the college, his predecessor Nathaniel Gbassagee promised to ensure that the college is accessible but his promise was never fulfilled as he was replaced months later.

Monwell, the current president, has been struggling to deal with a massive challenge created by the collapse of the major bridge connecting the campus with the rest of Buchanan City.

Meanwhile, Laffa has renewed calls to members of the physically-challenged community in the county to quit depending on handouts; adding: “We need to do something for ourselves.”