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Angry students barricade lawmakers

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaProtesting students, under the banner “Grand Bassa University Student Union” or GBUSU Tuesday converged on the grounds of the Capitol Building and barricaded lawmakers from the county in demand of scholarship funds to enable them return to school.

The students, from various universities in Monrovia have been out of school since Government shutdown all learning institutions last year because of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. 

The grounds of the Capitol were scene of disgrace and embarrassment, particularly for Grand Bassa lawmakers as the students requested college fees.

The protestors barricaded the main entrance to the House of Representatives as they requested Speaker Alex Tyler to ask all lawmakers from the county out.     

The drama began when the mass protesting students converged on the premises of Capitol, carrying placards and chanting anti-corruption slogans.

Some Grand Bassa County lawmakers, including Representatives J. Byron Browne, Mary Karwar and newly elected Senator Jonathan Kairpaye came out and tried to intervene and speak with the students, but their efforts were like pouring gasoline into fire as tension flared further.

Representative Browne however asked the students to return home, assuring them that the Grand Bassa County Legislative Caucus in collaboration with authorities in the county will meet to address their concerns.

But it seemed that the promise by the lawmaker annoyed the students and they immediately surrounded the lawmakers, making threats such as,  “We will hold your heads; we hold your waists; we will hold your foot and we will knock you down. We’re tired of fake promises; we will die here together.”

As the protesting students held their grounds, Senator Kaipaye narrowly escaped the scene and jumped in the Senate Wing of the Capitol Building, while Representative Byron Browne also tried escaping, but apparently missed the road leading to the entrance of the House of representatives and similarly jumped into the Senate, prompting the students to chase and bring him back outside the building, while Representative Mary Karwar stood in the midst of the angry students.

Montserrado County District #13 Representative Saah Joseph, subsequently intervened and appealed to the students to leave the door leading to the House and follow him under the trees to discuss their concerns. The intervention by Representative Joseph, enable the Grand Bassa lawmakers and other lawmakers, who were being affected by the standoff,  to pass and go to session.

The students told Representative Saah Joseph that their protest had been predicated by the unprecedented refusal posture of the Grand Bassa County leadership to pay their tuition and fees for college

“It is sadden to note that our lawmakers and county administration are not prioritizing education, which has the propensity to bring about genuine development in the county; instead, they are expending the county social development funds on things that do not contribute significantly to the lives of the ordinary citizens of Bassa,” lamented student Jerome D. Barnard, President of GBUSU.

He said authorities of the county had claimed since 2013 that the Ministry of Internal Affairs placed a moratorium on the Bassa Social Development Fund, which has created serious impediment for tuition payments of 2,500 Bassa students currently attending tertiary institutions across the country.  

By Ben P. Wesee

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