Liberia: Gov’t Sets up Task Force to Probe Tuition Hikes

Minister Sonii at the high table speaks on the mandate of the taskforce, while the taskforce chair Abdallah Housseini and co-chair (rear) carefully listen   

— Vows to penalize private schools for unjustified fees 

With a report of a hike in school fees within private institutions, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has established a task force to investigate the tuition charged by private schools across the country. 

The task force is also mandated to enforce the school permit regulation.  

Private schools hiking tuition and fees have caused parents to complain as they find it difficult to enroll their children, amidst the economic situation facing the country.

Deputy Education Minister for Administration, Latim Da-Thong said on Wednesday, September 14, that the Ministry has decided to address the issue of a hike in fees at private schools, but must still do it within the limit of the law.

“We are law-abiding citizens and don’t intend to violate the law. The law says that the government as an institution cannot determine private school fees but regulate them. And we don’t intend to determine fees in private schools, but regulate and this we intend to do,” Da-Thong indicated.   

Da-Thong said the establishment of the task force is essential and will bring a lot of change to the country’s education sector, stating “that the Ministry has always stressed the need for monitoring and evaluation of the education system.”

“Because of the public outcry and our concerns as the senior management team of the country’s education system, we have decided to establish a task force,” Da-Thong, who is the supervisor of the task force, said.

Accordingly, there are several criteria that the task force will be working on, among other things, that all schools in Liberia must have a permit.

“If you don’t have a permit, we will outline penalties and fine you. We will also be looking at fees being charged by private schools and ensure that it commensurate with the services they are offering. If you are charging for certain services, you have to be offering those services and if you are not offering those services, we are going to ask you to drop the fees,” he said.

According to him, if a private school says it has computer classes, the Ministry expects to see a computer lab or if such a facility does not exist, the task force will be left to ask the school to drop the fees.

“The task force will be asking private schools for 2021-2022 fees and 2022-2023 fees and do an analysis and look at the changes in the hike. If you cannot justify the hike, we ensure that you revert to last year’s fees,” Da-Thong said.

He said the task force will also ensure that the learning environment across the country is safe, comfortable, and suitable for students, stating “this is important and we will be rigorous while praising the ministry for providing the necessary support to do the work.”

Da-Thong said private schools that have hiked their fees and refuse to abide by the ministry’s mandate after being verified will lead to revocation of their permit and withdrawal of the right to register with the West African Examinations Council, thereby denying the institution’s students from writing the examinations.   

Da-Thong added that the private schools are doing very well in Liberia as most schools in the country are private schools. He added that the taskforce will work periodically to ensure that no school violates. 

Meanwhile, Da-Thong said any principals caught hiking public school fees will be immediately dismissed and replaced.  

Wednesday’s event brought together county education officers (CEO), district education officers (DEO), and other stakeholders in the education sector. The task force is chaired by Abdallah Housseini and co-chaired by Nehbor C. Poquee.

Minister of Education, Prof. D. Ansu Sonii, said the task force did not have to be formed but the public has emphasized the lack of monitoring of the private schools and supervision as well.

“The impressions that people get may not be true and there’s minimum monitoring and practically minimum supervision and every school has the right to do anything without reprimand by the ministry. It may not be but how we erase such impressions,” Sonii said.

Sonii said he received a call from a parent stating that public school teachers only go to the school in the morning, sign in and later leave to teach at private schools.  

Sonii said the Ministry has established a radio midweek program from 8 a.m to 9 a.m to provide updates to the public as the ministry believes that the work being done exceeds the publicity being created.