Open letter To Dr. Al Hassan Conteh, President of the University of Liberia

By Dorsla D. Farcarthy



The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

December 30, 2004

I would like to begin this letter by firstly congratulating Dr. Al Hassan Conteh on his preferment to serve as President of the University of Liberia amidst the difficult and strenuous conditions under which the University finds herself. Dr. Conteh is indeed no stranger to that institution and as a matter of fact he is aware of the appalling and degrading situation that continues to drag the University in the abyss. His appointment came as no surprise because he is one person who worked tirelessly under different administrations to keep the University running. I read his articles on the Perspective Website and I was very much impressed about his plans and vision for that great citadel of knowledge that has a major role to play in our transformation process especially as a country coming out of a fratricidal civil conflict.

I got fascinated by his articles and all of the good things that he stated and was beginning to give him a pat on the back for a job well done but was cautioned by an inner voice which said to me, there is no insufficiency of dreams and visions in Liberia. This inner voice told me that we have had dreams and visions since 1847 and the latest was vision 2024 for Liberia and vision 2005 to take the University of Liberia to Fendell and expand its scope and make it an institution that would be second to none. I was then in Liberia at the University when the forum on the future of the University was launched and Dr. Conteh was an integral part of this process and the major resource person for this project. Since the conference on the future of the University was held, we have yet to know what went wrong with the implementation of policies that emanated from that conference and why the University of Liberia is still the least on the continent in terms of support and development.

I believe strongly that the problem with us Liberians is not the dreams and visions that we have for our country. The problem is that we are not sincere and honest to the country about things we say and do and due to lack of accountability; no one seems to care because the problems are so enormous that people are thinking of survival then anything else nowadays. We have had enough dreams and visions but our problem is the lack of stick-to-itiveness to implement. This is one major problem that has permeated our society for so long and we seem not to be making a difference about promises we make to our people and country. While I applaud the appointment of Dr. Conteh at this time, I also have a fear about promises being made to uplift the University giving past experiences by even leaders of our country.

Mr. Taylor told students of the University that the University was going to be the best in the sub-region but we experience the reverse. Gyude Bryant also told the Liberian people similar thing with his slogan, “This is not business as usual” and we are seeing the results of this slogan. Under the Bryant administration, students have to demonstrate before they can go to school. We see total neglect of schools from the primary and secondary levels to that of higher education. Dr. Conteh, as I stated earlier, you are no stranger to the University of Liberia. The institution needs a complete overhaul ranging from Professors to Security.

You have decided to serve an institution that lacks modern textbooks, laboratory apparatuses, well qualified Professors, logistics, adequate classrooms, modern library and an enabling atmosphere where students can learn without hindrance. We need not be disingenuous about this because the University is at a critical stage and the problems are so complex and with limited attention giving education as a whole in Liberia, I have reasons to be afraid for my dear “Lux-In-Tenebris”, an institution known to be the light in darkness. An institution that was a symbol of light giving the very high illiteracy rate in our country but has not done much to attenuate the situation but yet still portrays that symbol.

I have reasons to be afraid because the institution is supposed to prepare our young and provide the needed human resource development that we will need for our reconstruction but I see this institution being neglected by “educated people” who always want to see our people in darkness so that they can continue with corruption, malfeasance, and enrich themselves at the detriment of our people. I also have reasons to be afraid as to whether the University will get the needed attention giving the myriad political, social and economic problems in Liberia today. I am wondering whether your administration will get the necessary buttressing that it needs to move the University forward. I have reasons to be afraid because this inner voice keeps telling me that the institution I admired so much lacks all of the wherewithal to keep it functional and as usual the University is still in that aberrant stage.

I also read the interview conducted by The Perspective with Dr. Conteh and he was asked why Professors were refusing his appointment. He stated clearly that they are aware it will not be business as usual. I take keen interest in this statement and would be watching your administration to see the changes that you will carry to the University. The University needs a lot and I don’t need to tell you. You know the problems more than I do. Our experiences in the western world have made significant progress in our lives in terms of education and make us to feel that our time at the University of Liberia was like a joke because things have advance and different fields of concentration are experiencing new developments. We have seen the level of materials, professors, the curriculum, the various labs, libraries and research tools. People who are called Professors merit their titles and various chairs of departments are qualified and competent Phd holders who have written books and doing research every time.

In most Universities across America, most departments boast of at least five Ph.D. holders and these individuals are well read and competent for the job. I hope Dr. Conteh’s administration will do all it can to begin training young people who have very good potentials to help the University experience its dream. We hope the prolonged closures will be reversed. We hope the time of medical students at Dogliotti will be fast advancing and all other professional schools will experience a new lease on life under your administration. I hope the long queues for registration will be aborted and I hope the admission records will be transformed into a data base and be updated. I hope our professors and Teaching Assistants will get their just deserved in terms of salaries and other benefits and I hope the memorandum of understanding granting Leigh Sherman students, AMEU students and Zion University students direct entry to the University can be reviewed and the necessary actions taken to ameliorate the situation.

I hope the rights of students will be well respected under your administration and that the University will not continue to be a floodgate for weaklings in the society or relatives of state bureaucratic elements. I also hope that the staff that is assisting you in your plans will be well respected and their needs met. I hope your administration will provide benefits in the form of medical, insurance and other social safety nets for professors and staff who are sacrificing at the University. Those staff members that will need to be upgraded should be given priority so that the University can fulfill its mission. On this note, I want to again commend you for taking the lead in identifying the problems at the University and for coming up with a blue print that is intended to shape the University. I hope this inner voice that keeps me in check every time will be put to a shame. I hope you take this as a challenge and do all you can to make the University the real light in darkness so that the mission for which it was established will be actualized. We hope to keep in contact with you and the institution for the betterment of our country.

The writer is a candidate for Master of Science in Policy Economics at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and can be reached at