HARBEL, Margibi – The president of Harbel College, Syrulwa Somah, says low budgetary support to the college is impeding its operations.
Somah said running the college with limited funding has been a major challenge for his administration since he took over in 2015.
He said when his administration initially started managing the college, there was US$250,000 in the budget, with US$59,000 set aside for the ongoing construction and a little over US$79,000 made available for salaries.
“Sadly, I think Harbel College is not getting its fair share of dollars and cents being allotted to other higher institutions of learning by the government of Liberia,” Somah said. “Other community colleges receive far more than us, [even though we are] established to grant full degrees.”
In the current budget, Harbel College was allotted US$422,960, less than all community colleges in other counties. That amount was also less half the amount that the Bong Technical College received.
He said the staff of the college make sacrifices to ensure that students from Harbel and surrounding communities can attain quality education and contribute to the growth and development of Liberia.
“I am currently using my personal generator and projector just to ensure that the college gets electricity to run her evening classes,” he added.
Harbel College began operations a few years ago with an interim management team charged with the responsibility of constructing the college. The interim team, headed by former Firestone Liberia superintendent of schools, Dwede Hoto, had promised in 2014 that the construction would have ended in December 2015.
Apart from a palava hut, all other buildings of the college are still incomplete.
Somah had previously wanted to sue the contracting firm, Eagle Contractor, that was awarded the work to construct the college; however, The Bush Chicken has learned from a confidential source within the administration that he has decided otherwise.
The source also confirmed that 80 percent of the payment was made to Eagle Contractor, a firm belonging to the owner of the Golden Key Hotel in Paynesville, who has a close link with House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay and outgoing Representative Ballah Zayzay of Margibi’s second district, who wrote the bill to establish the college in 2012.
Zayzay has been criticized in recent years for unilaterally running the affairs of the college by directly influencing the interim management team.
Prior to the just-ended elections, which he lost, Zayzay appealed to citizens of his district to re-elect him so that he can ensure that the college is completed. But the message must not have resonated with citizens.
Since taking over, Somah said the management of the Roberts International Airport had provided two tents for the college to use as temporary lecture rooms.
He said the college is struggling with enrollment. The college was expected to have eased the burden of students who had to commute to Monrovia daily to attend the colleges.
However, it appears that many students found the school to be too expensive. The college currently has less than 75 students and has reduced its cost from US$5 per-credit-hour to US$4 dollars after experiencing a drought in enrollment. The University of Liberia currently charges US$4.
Harbel College, which is a full degree-granting institution, offers degrees in engineering, environmental safety and management, and food science.
Featured photo by Jefferson Daryoue