MONROVIA – The administration of the United Methodist University (UMU) has commenced the reimbursement of graduation fees initially paid by recent graduates of the institution prior to the goodwill gesture from President George Manneh Weah, with a call on Liberian students to be considerate s and hold trust in authorities spearheading academic activities at their respective institutions.
The university is owned and operated by the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Liberia.
It can be recalled that on June 10, President George Manneh Weah promised to pay all 1,307 graduates of the 18th graduating class of the United Methodist University when he served as Keynote Speaker for the 18th Convocation Program of the university.
In fulfillment of the promise, the amount of over US$400,000 was given by the Liberian leader for the payment of the graduation fees of the graduates.
But since the money was received by the university’s administration, there has been a barrage of delay tactics and bottlenecks surrounding the refund of the money to the graduates.
The students staged a violent protest over the weekend demanding a refund of the money in a timely manner.
But on Monday, September 19, the administration commenced the payment in an organized and accepted manner.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the President of the UMU, Rev. Dr. Yar Dorlah Gonway-Gono, blamed the delay in the reimbursement of the fees on the need for an organized system to be put in place.
She disclosed that the move was also intended to guarantee the reimbursement of money to legitimate graduates, instead of others to avoid confusion.
“Everything takes time especially when you have enrollment at the same time and the graduates were not the only people we have to attend to. We have our incoming students who also are trying to get into their classes. We have been working on it and told them that this money will be paid and we will pay 35 students per day or 150 students a week.”
Dr. Gono disclosed that the school authorities will ensure that all of the graduates receive the reimbursement fees in a timely, smooth and effective manner.
“The reimbursement is going on smoothly and of course, they are others out there whom I told that they need to be organized and considerate of people who are working because sometimes the system breaks down-even at the bank. So, if you come in huge number, we will not be able to control it and that’s why we reduced it to 35 persons per day so we can have a peaceful process.”
She said alumni and students of various higher institutions of learning in Liberia should always revert to dialogue and constructive engagements in finding solutions to their disenchantments or disputes.
“The graduates are people who are close to my heart because, since I have been here for more than a year, we have had a very good relationship. Conflict and going on strike are not the way, but dialogue with the administration will help you to meet the needs of the students, especially those leading the students’ council.”
“Because of the relationship I have with them, they have given me all these awards of appreciation. But I was very surprised that they did what they did on Friday. I was so embarrassed because, this is a faith-based institution where students are supposed to be understanding, respectful, and they supposed to engage administration for the interest of the institution.”
Dr. Gono said students or graduates should desist from getting onto the streets to block roads to avoid being blacklisted and denied from being hired for various jobs in and out of the country.
Think, Plan and Take Steps
She called on the recent graduates of the UMU to now busy themselves by planning and thinking about steps to be taken after achieving their respective undergraduate degrees.
“This should not be the end of it; they should keep moving because Liberia needs qualified personnel to help so that we can build our country. And that’s why we are doing our best to educate them to at least look for resources to provide those things that will help them drive and be competitive around the world.”
Dr. Gono said students and alumni should do away from levying false allegations against those striving to make them productive citizens for tomorrow.
She observed that some of the graduates are the only ones being looked up to by their respective family members, and as such, they should “make something important of themselves instead of causing trouble because troublemakers do not succeed.”
“Conflict is unavoidable; we can only reverse it. I never anticipated that the graduates will be the ones to do what they did on Friday. And so, we will continue to do what we do by working with them and caring for them and their needs, and trying to teach them how to live. As people, they are supposed to be morally and ethically based.”
Dr. Gono stressed that UMU graduates should be models for students attending various schools and universities across the country.
“The students should remain calm and trust the system. We will do our best to continue to love them and ensure that they do the best.”
Students not trusting administrations
Speaking further, Dr. Gono observed that most students attending various schools and universities across Liberia do not hold trust in their respective administrations.
She added that the situation remains an aged-old problem confronting the post-conflict nation.
She maintained that many of these students feel too uncomfortable with their authority and as such, they create scenes or situations to cause confusion.
“The money that was given by the President is not even for us (administration); it was given to the graduates and we are supposed to give it to them. Whatever they want to do with it, it’s up to them. The whole thing is an issue of not trusting people. In this country, we have not had a situation in which students can trust the administration. They always fear war; they want to fight. We don’t have to fight to be good people.”
“Liberia been at war for 14 years and it never helped. Families and friends were fighting each other, but it never helped. So we came back to post-war Liberia to instill in them and demonstrate that we are people of integrity.”
She said Liberians should always remain committed to helping their country and people and renege from putting money first in whatever they do, adding that, “we want this university and Liberia to be a non-violent environment and country.”
She, however, applauded President Weah for reimbursing the graduates to enable to address some of their problems in the wake of harsh economic constraints.
Dr. Gono further stressed the need for the provision of adequate attention and support to early childhood education in Liberia.
Meanwhile, the recent graduates of the UMU have heaped praises on the administration for living up to the commitment made to them.
They described the reimbursement as timely since, in fact, most of them have expended a lot on their graduation celebration and others.
They, however, vowed to use the money refunded to help pay the registration and tuition fees of their children and other family members attending various grade schools in Monrovia and other parts of the country and solve other problems they are presently faced with.