BUCHANAN, Grand Bassa – Over 400 students benefiting from the Grand Bassa County Scholarship Foundation may not receive support this year due to a lack of funding, says the manager of the fund.
The scholarship foundation was established through a resolution signed at the July 15, 2015, Grand Bassa County Council Sitting. It aimed to assist Grand Bassa students at educational institutions across the country.
Since its establishment, the foundation has received US$104,000 from the county. The first payment of US$92,000 was made in 2016 while the second payment of US$12,000 came in December 2017.
At last year’s county sitting, the county had allocated an additional US$50,000 but the money was not received due to a national budget shortfall that affected several other projects that were funded at the sitting.
Amos Boeyou, who manages the foundation, said the fund owes US$40,000 in arrears for two semesters at 46 grade schools, 9 universities, and 7 colleges across the country. There are 289 students affected at the grade schools and 133 at tertiary institutions.
“There [are] already arrears on us wherein, currently, students are finding it difficult to go back to school because their grade sheets and report cards are seized by school administrators,” he said. “Our fear here now is the children – the 422 children from every category – may not be in school this semester.”
Boeyou said he had consulted with the Project Management Committee, which is responsible for implementing and monitoring projects decided upon at county sittings. However, the committee has continuously said the county has no money available.
“Even the staff that are here with me – including my very self – for the past seven to eight months, we have not received any salary,” Boeyou added. “So, this is very serious, and not about us receiving salary, but it is about those students who will actually be out of school if no money this year.”
He said the foundation needs at least US$60,000 per semester to function and he called on humanitarians and international partners to come to the aid of the foundation.
One of the parents affected by the fund’s lack of finances is Peter Gborzeo, who says his son may not enter school this academic year as his report card has been seized by the Drim School System due to the foundation’s failure to pay his tuition.
“You notice that some of these children, their parents never had money, so they were out of school, but being that the foundation brought that kind of momentum in their lives, they sent their children and they become students again,” Gborzeo said. “This is a serious issue. If it was not for people to be mature enough, you could see people wasting at the foundation office every day, crying.”
Another affected beneficiary is Kennedy Sunny, who attends the Grand Bassa Community College. He said he feared that he may not complete school given that his tuition has not been paid for two semesters.
“From 2015 to 2016, everything went smoothly, but from 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 – those two semesters – my grade sheets have been seized. Right now, I am out. Right now, I don’t have hope to go and free those grade sheets before registering due to lack of money. When we come to the foundation, the office manager will always say, ‘Gentlemen, no money,’” Sunny explained.
He said his only hope of obtaining a tertiary education was through the foundation.
During a press conference held on July 4, 2018, the county’s assistant superintendent for fiscal affairs, Daniel Willie, disclosed that his administration met a broke county government.
He said they met US$20,995 in the accounts, withdrew US$20,000, and were left with the balance of US$995.
“As of now, we can clearly state that our leadership took over a broke county – empty coffers, no money there. We are starting from nowhere,” Willie said.
With these balances, the county cannot support most of its programs or pay for projects.
For the 2018/2019 fiscal year, Grand Bassa has been allotted US$1.1 million in the national budget with has been allocated to Grand Bassa, with the County and Social Development Funds amounting to US$741,000.
Grand Bassa’s Senator Jonathan Kaipay had recently told the public that the central government had agreed to remit US$250,000 to the county as part of its portion of the County and Social Development Funds. That amount would be more than enough to help the foundation pay its arrears.
The foundation initially started with 445 students benefiting. Since then, 23 have graduated, leaving the remaining 422 students.
Featured photo by Emily Doerr/USAID