A CLOSER LOOK AT A STUDENT’S LIFE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LIBERIA-WHAT IT TAKES TO DO CHEMISTRY

Nearly six months after the civil war in Liberia, I entered the University of Liberia as a freshman and chose chemistry as my major, a decision I had made some years back when I was in high school. I still had fresh memories of the war, though the mental trauma did not live with me that long.
The University was partially damaged; including the Department of Chemistry, where essential text books, chemicals, laboratory equipment, computers, etc. were damaged or taken away.
Since then, the University of Liberia, particularly the Department of Chemistry, has remained aloof from the academic, social, and scientific advancement in our contemporary world and has fitted me/us into an unjust and joyless struggle for education, which of course is of low quality.
I considered all these conditions as hindrance to my studies but I could not and still cannot divorce myself from the science of chemistry because of the natural interest I have built in it over the years. I receive many bizarre remarks from friends, relatives, and teachers, including the dean of my department, about studying chemistry. My dean always expresses an indifferent attitude toward chemistry students. There is only one teacher who usually encourages me to persevere and afterward says, "The consumer bears the weight," which is somehow logical. Most of my colleagues who could not withstand the tension have changed colleges or majors on grounds that studying chemistry or any of the sciences in Liberia, they say, is a waste of time, resources, and energy.
Currently, according to my college, I am a junior student with respect to the three years I have spent and not considering the number of course credits I have done as it should be. This is obvious since I had to escape few courses or receive an incomplete grade due to the following reasons: 1) the unavailability of qualified teachers, 2) the lack of the requisite textbooks and supplements, and 3) very poor laboratory works or exercises, which are highly below standard. Nobody’s safety is guaranteed in the lab. There are no safety materials, including goggles, lab aprons, gloves, nose caps, etc. Sometimes chemical shortage cannot allow a particular course to be offered or continued. For instance, I am presently taking a course in chemistry that is quantitative and requires many laboratory exercises but unfortunately, the lack of chemicals has become a major cause for us not conducting any of the fifteen experiments necessary to complete the course. The choice is mine, whether to redo the course at a suitable time (when?) or depend on the classroom lecture to forge ahead. Many problems cannot easily be explained.
Despite the adverse circumstances, I have become accustomed to the hardships and frustrations I encounter every semester. Moreover, a friend who provided me with textbooks, which of course without, serves as a major impediment to a successful university education, has blessed me. This friend was very sensitive to my plight as a student when she paid a visit to Liberia in 2006. My colleagues and I including some of my teachers use those textbooks. It is a blessing to have them.
We have a chemistry student organization, CHEMUSA, that has been working assiduously to find a remedy to some of these problems we are presently faced with but our deans have refused to hear our cry. All the efforts we have made in seeking local support have been blocked and some benefits that are sent to chemistry students through the chemistry department rest in the hands of some selfish and heartless individuals who do not regard us as students.
How can we get assistance in this part of the world? This is the question that can only be answered by any would be supporters. If one could imagine getting assistance from US students or students from any other country to students in less fortunate situation like ours, it would be a great thing to see happening and such assistance will be fruitful only if it is passed directly through the hands of the students to be assisted.
Finally, let me say that the better the facilities at the University of Liberia are, the better I can do good chemistry and the more joy I will find in my studies and the better educated we are, the lesser our problems become.

Comments

WWG said…
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WWG :)

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