The New Dawn (Monrovia)

5 February 2013

Liberia: 'Time Bomb' in Bong - County Scholarships Suspended

Authorities of Bong County have unanimously decided to provisionally suspend all scholarships sponsored by the county for a semester. They took the decision at the Capitol following a closed-door meeting lasting two hours. It was a result of the realization of a short-fall of US$550,000.00 in the county's budget.

The New Dawn's Bong County Correspondent quoted the Chairman of the Legislative Caucus, Representative George Mulbah as recounting that during the last county sitting in November, it was agreed by delegates that the sum of US$550,000.00 be used to underwrite scholarship fees.

Chairman Mulbah assured beneficiaries that tuition fees for the current semester in various universities around the country will be paid, but the county would not be in the position to settle tuition fees for the next academic semester.

He noted that an agreement has been reached among Legislators and the Superintendent that during the temporary suspension, several reforms would be made to restructure the scholarship scheme that costs the county more than US$1,000,000.00 annually.

The decision is reported to have developed controversies in the county and Monrovia among beneficiaries of the Bong County scholarship program, otherwise known as the Madam Suacoco Scholarship program, who continue to meeting daily with an option for a mass demonstration in Gbarnga and Monrovia for the authorities to reverse their decision.

Human rights advocates in the county argued that law makers have failed to offer personal scholarships as provided by the Legislature, despite promising their constituents during the 2011 elections at the expense of the county's scholarship.

Human right groups and other permanent citizens of Bong County have cautioned the Chairman and members of the Caucus, as well as County Superintendent against discontinuing the scholarships as they restructure, alarming that the possibility of targeting students with whom authorities of the county are uncomfortable may be high.

They appealed to the Caucus to also reduce the burden on the County's scholarship program by localizing their Legislative scholarship program to benefit more Bongese than a single or a few individuals internationally.

Despite calls for the county's scholarship program to be managed by an independent committee, lawmakers including Senator Henry Yallah have argued that there is absolutely no way for political leaders of the county will be left out of the process.

Although one benefiting from the scholarship is required to be a Bong County citizen with a GPA of 2.5, it has been discovered that more of the beneficiaries, especially those favored by the lawmakers and county administration continue to fall short ( far less than 2.0 or less) of the main requirement .

The decision to suspend the program for a semester for restructuring may not go down well with many financially incapacitated parents and students may instigate protests and other actions against the county's interest.

More than seven hundred students are currently benefiting from the county's scholarship program at the under-graduate and graduate levels at Cuttington University, University of Liberia and others.

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