Students of the state-run University of Liberia yesterday, Wednesday, October 22, 2015 stormed the campus in support of the colleague, Alvin Wesseh who was suspended by authority of the institution for ‘Act on becoming’ as a student.
The incident started at the Fendall campus when protesting student first moved into the auditorium spilling water over everyone seated causing their colleagues to flee for fear of being hurt.
They then moved into various classes making their presence felt and as a result, classes were dismissed as professors ran for cover. As if that was not enough, the students set up roadblocks on the main highway preventing the moment of vehicles for some time. They then sat in the middle of the street till the Police Emergency Response Unit (ERU) was called in to calm the tension.
The students placed road blocks on the main highway leading from Monrovia to many of the counties, demanding fellow students to leave classes and join the protest. The presence of officers from the Liberia National Police riot squad only exacerbated the incident as the number of students partaking in the protest increased. The students vowed to agitate till their expelled colleague is reinstated and more buses brought in. But university authorities say they will shut down the University if the disruption continues, insisting that the expelled student will never return.
Speaking to reporters on the campus during the protest, a spokesman of the protesting students, Adolph Mike said, “The reason for which you see the students in their hundreds here is only because of the draconian policy that the administration of the University of Liberia has decided to institute and their so-called expulsion of one of the student generals who is Alvin Wesseh. Students regard that as an affront and on the basis of that, students decided to amalgamate forces to draw national attention”.
“Mind you now, they should not forget the role played by university students in the past. The President of Liberia can consult her friend Charles Taylor—he will better narrate the story of the university students to her. So, we are telling the UL authorities that Alvin C. Wesseh has done nothing wrong. Iit is not a bad thing to agitate for buses”, student Mike said.
He said they deem the decision of the UL Administration to expel student Alvin Wesseh as a pre- calculated attempt to strangulate advocacy at the University. According to Mike, expelled student Alvin Wesseh’s recent decision to advocate against the university’s attempt to increase fees per credit hour from one hundred and seventy five Liberian dollars to five United States dollars and even now continuously campaigning for more buses frightened the Administration to expel him.
Mike said students struggle on a daily basis lining in long queues just to catch a ride on one of the few buses provided by the administration at the same time climbing through windows of commercial mini- buses to and from the Fendall campus.
He said to make matters worse, in an attempt to rob students, the university administration is making students to pay thirty Liberian dollars for a one way ride from Red-light to Fendall campus which previously cost fifteen Liberian dollars and according to spokesman Mike, even more disappointingly, the conductors on the buses are giving the students a receipt of fifteen dollars though they are made to pay thirty Liberian dollars.
From the Fendall campus, the students moved to the main campus of the University on Capitol Hill, few meters from the office of the President and the National Legislature. The students tried to make their way into the University compound but were stopped by the Police. The angry students began throwing stones into the university compound and also on the main street. People started running in all directions as rocks were flying everywhere and landing on cars and breaking windshields.
“We walked from Fandell to the main campus, to show that we are serious. Why should they expel the boy for advocating for our rights,” a female student said. The students accused the Police of throwing stones from within the university fence; say that they could not have been the ones to throw stones at their own colleagues. Violent protest is not new to the University of Liberia as in the past tussle between students and state security forces led to injuries. Learning conditions at the university are poor with students fighting over chairs on a daily basis, no laboratories and limited buses to commute students to the Fendall campus of the University.
An official of the University of Liberia says student Wesseh will not be reinstated at the University of Liberia whatsoever. “Alvin Wesseh has been expelled from this university due to criminal activity,” said Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Momolu Getaweh. Dr. Getaweh said Alvin Wesseh was one of the known culprits following investigation of disruption and vandalizing of the home of the former UL Provost Dr. Wede Elliot-Brownell and he was expelled last year and was served a letter to that effect.
“If the student agitation persist on the basis that if we don’t reinstate this criminal we will close the school down and there will be no graduation. We don’t want to waste the teachers’ time, the people come from far places pay their own way and they come here to teach and the students go disrupt them,” he frowned.
Dr. Getaweh said the government of Liberia is not fully supporting the University of Liberia financially and instructors are only making sacrifices in helping to mould the minds of the students and if those in the majority don’t stand up and prevent those described as the disgruntle few, they will only be deterring their own progress. He accused the majority of students of being non supportive of what the protesting few are doing.
On the issue of the buses, the UL acting vice president for administration said students were told a year ago that the schools cannot afford to bring the students from red-light to the Fendall campus for fifteen Liberian dollars and it was agreed that the students pay thirty Liberian dollars for some arranged transport buses. He said the UL has eight arranged buses currently but agrees there is a need for more buses but said they are still negotiating as they don’t have money to buy buses. He said arrangements are been made to print thirty Liberian dollars ticket and called on students to be patient.
“We don’t have money. The Ministry of Finance and the budget people say they can give us fifteen million United States dollars just to compensate the staff and the professors. They are not giving us money for operation, so we are sitting here. The operation fees we have to generate ourselves out of school fees”.