YARPAH TOWN, River Cess – After a logging company provided funds to communities in River Cess to use as scholarships for students, residents are now complaining that the process for selecting students has not been transparent.
In a social agreement signed in 2016, the EJ&J Investment Corporation agreed to pay US$5,000 every semester for educational support to communities affected by its logging activities.
The company has now paid US$10,000 for two semesters, and each of the 12 clans that make up the affected communities was asked to recommend three students for the scholarships.
However, residents say students are being selected without any specific criteria. They have been calling on the community forestry development committee to establish fairer and more transparent means of determining the students. The committee is responsible for ensuring that benefits are equitably distributed to community residents.
The Bush Chicken gathered that three of the twelve clans (Siahn, Dowein, and Wheasein) have already selected students and their listings have been forwarded to Matthew Walley, the chairman of the community forestry development committee of Forest Management Contract B.
On Sunday, March 11, 2018, Walley chaired a meeting in Banama Clan, and another student was handpicked.
So far, all of the scholarship recipients selected have been males.
Victor Wilson, a member of the county’s education board, which is often charged with collecting a listing of qualified students for national scholarships, disagreed with the selection of scholarship recipients.
“The manner and form in which students are being collected is wrong,” he said.
“What they are doing, they are doing it on their own,” Wilson added. “We need to work with the schools in the various clans to administer tests and not to handpick students as they are doing it.”
Of the US$10,000 provided, each clan will receive US$800 for the scholarship. At public and private schools in the country, the fees at the junior and senior high levels rarely exceed L$3,000 (US$22.90) for tuition per semester.
Featured photo by Bruce Strong/Together Liberia