Sime Darby, Yayasan Foundation Scholars were among the highest honor graduates from their respective colleges at the recent graduation ceremony of Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County. Cuttington is one of Liberia’s leading tertiary institutions, graduating thousands of students each year.
The privileged scholars, which are all Yayasan’s Excellence scholarship recipients studied agronomy, agriculture science and Economics, with each coming at the top of their class.
The Liberian students, most of which are residents of Grand Cape Mount and Bomi Counties where Sime Darby operates an oil palm planation, were among the first batch of 11 Liberians to have received a full- four year undergraduate scholarship from the company in 2012.
Student Sam Weah who served as Vice President for the association of scholars, Liberia Chapter accumulated a GPA of 3.77, followed by students MeyongaiWhurwuyon, Peter Mulbah and Lahand Stewart all accumulating 3.64 GPA respectively. Both students Abraham Valhmu and Joseph D. Lamina obtained 3.37 respectively. The six students were among 11 students who received scholarships and bursaries from Yayasan four years ago.
In an interview with journalists at the main campus of the Cuttington University in Suakoko Bong County, the graduating students lauded both management of the Malaysian Diversified Oil Palm Company for giving them the scholarships. They especially thanked the foundation for standing by them with them during the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, affecting Liberia.
Student Sam Weah who studied agriculture with emphasis in Economics said, as far as life was concerned with him, secondary education was his end. He said his hope of enrolling at any University was far from thought, least to mention attending Cuttington which is considered the most expensive University in the Country.
“It’s like a dream. I never thought that one day I would have graduated from college, not even to say this kind of expensive school where people pay thousands of dollars. I come from a very poor family. My parents could at any point in their lives, except by miracle pay my school fees, even if they were to save for five years of their lives.” Student Weah said, as he looked in a distance as though his eyes were missing something.
Weah said he believes his story is just a blip of the many stories thousands of the employees of the company could have to share about how their lives have touched significantly by the operations of Sime Draby in the Western Liberia.
Continued Weah: “Companies have operated in our area for years even before Sime Darby came… have you ever heard that they gave scholarships to people like us- I mean people with potential and a great future. That is why I have always told our people that it is not because we are benefiting from Sime Darby’s Scholarship today that is why I am saying this, but is important that our people understand that the three counties have been sleeping economically for far too long and it’s about time we put our arts together, give the Company the support so that our county can move forward.”
For Meyongai Whurwuya, who was born in the plantation, with his parents hailing from Grand Bassa County but settled in Bomi County where they worked for the former Guthrie Rubber Plantation, said Sime Darby’s operations in the two counties is a dawn of a new day in Western Liberia.
“Sime Darby presence in Western Liberia is like a volcanic eruption- with light engulfing every part of the country, especially our area. Those who don’t have eyes to see better listen to us! Our counties, including us the people would have gotten nothing better than what this company is doing the people. Scholarships for students each year! Water and sanitation- decent living quarters for workers, good wages for employees and on time, contribution to social development in our three counties plus many more; we need to embrace this with urgency!” Meyongai said in a passionate tone.
Graduate Meyongai said he took his studies very seriously at Cuttington, because he believes that they are first ambassadors from the operation area of Sime Darby to be given scholarship. He also said not only he is an ambassador for the region but an ambassador for his entire family, because according to him he is the only person of his parents’ children to ever enrolled in any University.
Life, according toMeyongai would have been a ‘dark empty vacuum’ without education, the graduate intoned.
Like Weah, Joseph Lamena says he is the fifth of eight children from his parents; and the only child to graduate from secondary school and enter university thorough the initiative of Sime Darby.
Continued Lamena: “Because I was in school, my family looks up to me as the only hope for them. “That is why my heart sometimes grew faint when I read all the negative report about the company on the internet. I say to myself if only our brother and sisters knew what the future holds for all of us rather than a few people who are only after their personal gains, they would give this company a chance.”
Lemena said it is difficult to easily forget his deceased father who died during the civil war. According to him, he was inspired at the dawn of each day to study harder and maintain his scholarship, because he remains the singular hope for his entire family.
In a brief interview with the Vice President for Public Relations at the Cuttington University Dr. Joshua Giddings, he said he was pleased about the performance students. According to Dr. Giddings the agriculture college at the University was one of the best and the toughest.
He said the agriculture college is considered the center of excellence where very qualified and experience instructors provide lectures to students. The Vice President for Public Relations also said the minimum qualification that is required to teach in the agriculture college is masters and PHD.
In 2012 Sime Darby Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia awarded 380 scholarships to 21 countries around the world where the company is operating. Of the 380 scholarships ranging from Undergraduate to graduate programs, 20 scholarships were awarded to deserving Liberian students especially within the areas of Science to study locally and overseas.