Ploy to Subvert Tuition-Free Policy -Koijee Criticizes Excessive Graduation Fees

MONROVIA : One of the most revolutionary public policies by the George Manneh Weah administration that will be treasured for a long time to come is the introduction of free tuition policy at public universities and colleges. Himself a former slum dweller, who endured the sting of slum life, President Weah made the populist declaration in the first half of the first year of leadership with conventional politicians, particularly of the opposition bloc, besmirching the policy as absurd and un-implementable. Six years on, the tuition-free policy remains, credited for triggering unprecedented increased enrollment of students who would otherwise sit home without bordering to enter college. But it seems some unscrupulous school administrations have been subverting the impact of the policy, taking short cuts and find detours in charging exorbitant fees for graduations—something the City Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Tamba. Koijee has uncovered and alarmed about. The Analyst reports.

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) which came to power in 2018 with the expressed vow to alleviate poverty and change the lives of the masses of downtrodden Liberians through its Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) sought to match action with words with President George Manneh Weah announced a tuition free policy at all public universities across Liberia to relieve parents of the extra cost of paying their children’s college school fees, and increase the country’s human capital development indices. But the National Secretary General of the CDC, Jefferson Tamba Koijee, has discovered what he sees as a deliberate ploy to undermine the government’s people-driven policy under the canopy of graduation fees.

“We cannot be telling our people to go to public universities free of tuition and then, when they shall have completed their studies, they would be confronted with the challenge of paying hefty graduation fees. Something needs to be done about this. This is a burden too weighty for the ordinary people to bear,” the CDC Chief Scribe told a well-attended press conference on the afternoon of May 29, 2023 at the headquarters of the Coalition for Democratic Change.

The National Secretary General of the CDC maintained that asking people to pay graduation fees after lifting tuition burden off their shoulders undermines the true intent of the pro poor educational policy that seeks to enable every Liberian to acquire tertiary education.

“The CDC-led government under the leadership of the paragon of peace, George Manneh Weah, is committed to removing everything that represents barrier to ensuring that Liberians are emancipated from the dungeon of illiteracy to the pedestal of intelligence,” Secretary General Koijee indicated.

According to him, the decision to demand graduates to pay hefty amounts like the US$375.00 the University of Liberia is requesting is akin to saying, go to school now and pay at the end of your studies.

Koijee intoned that the tuition free policy is being taken to a sterner level through the introduction of a bill by two CDC lawmakers: Representative Frank Saah Foko and Representative Thomas P. Fallah, which is now before the Liberian Senate for concurrence as a way of making sure that even after the regime of President George Weah, Liberians do not go back to the dark days of educational opportunities being available only to the privileged few who have access to state resources and their families.

To address the present situation, the CDC Chief Scribe disclosed that he has heeded to the instruction of the Chairman of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Mulbah K. Morlu to write the Minister of Education, Prof. D Ansu Sonii and the office of the President to look into the matter for immediate redress.

He entreated Minister Sonii to begin taking steps in that regard while President Weah is on his way back from Nigeria where he has gone to attend the inauguration of the new President of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The CDC National Secretary General pointed out that paying graduation fees seems to be unique to Liberia because during his recent visit to the University of Oxford, he asked about a similar situation and he was informed that such was not happening. Hence, it is unthinkable that a country that is struggling to pull through the mud of economic destitution would endeavor to overburden its citizenry, he said.

It can be recalled that in October 2019, President George Weah announced a revolutionary change to Liberia’s educational nightmares. He declared that tuition would be free for all undergraduates in Liberian public universities.

President Weah made the announcement during a speech at the University of Liberia (UL). It was received with loud cheers and applause. Students at the UL had been protesting against the university’s administration for raising fees. The protest escalated to the country’s president, who promised to address the matter.

For the 2018/2019 academic year, UL was expecting 20,000 students. Unfortunately, only about 12,000 students were enrolled in the university due to the fee hike. Out of these 12,000 students, about 5,000 depend on financial aid or scholarships.

Many students miss out on a university education due to the high cost. The new policy has helped a large number of students. It has been introduced in all government-run community colleges and the country’s four public universities (University of Liberia, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William V.S. Tubman University).

In his speech at the time, President Weah said, “I personally believe in education. Therefore, I feel that the constant drop out of students from the various schools is counterproductive.” The Liberian president also believes that there is a link between education and economic growth.

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