— Sen. Sherman suggests, concerning President Weah’s pronouncement on public tertiary institutions
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Senator (Cllr) H. Varney Sherman, suggests that there be a corresponding responsibility for expected beneficiaries of President George Weah’s pronounced free tuition for Government-owned Universities and other public tertiary institutions.
“I am not sure what was the purpose of this so called free tuition. Was it a gift to students? Because I believe that there should be corresponding responsibility: we allow you to go to school free; when you graduate serve us. That’s how people committed in their various jurisdictions around the world, what they call national youth service,” Senator Sherman said during Senate’s first debate on the “Free Tuition Program” pronounced by President Weah recently.
He continued: “When you use our money and go to school free, and if you are not taking it as a loan that you will pay over a period of years, when you graduate you go and serve us in different parts of the country. But for us to announce that you may get your tuition free, and when you graduate you can go to London or anywhere abroad to work, I think it’s an abuse and misuse of our resources; that is my problem with this free tuition.”
The Grand Cape Mount County Senator then suggested that the Senate Committee on Education and Public Administration looks into that possibility to tie the free tuition with some corresponding responsibility; “if not service oriented, then something else that will be of value to the Liberian people.”
The report to plenary of that committee, chaired by Senator Dallas A. V. Gueh, was prompted by a refiled communication from Grand Bassa County ranking Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence to plenary, in which she requested for plans and strategies, as well as sources of the President’s pronouncement regarding free tuition policy.
Senator Gueh yesterday informed Senate plenary through his committee’s report that, having listened to the President of the University of Liberia, findings show that: there was no consultation with the management of the University of Liberia before the pronouncement; that since the pronouncement, no policy guidelines or strategy have been deployed and/or presented to the administration of the University of Liberia and, most certainly, other public tertiary institutions.
The committee further reported that since the pronouncement of the free tuition policy, a gap has been created in the revenue generating capacity of public tertiary institutions; and that, if there is no immediate intervention, it has the proclivity to undermine the smooth and effective running of all tertiary institutions.
The committee then made a five-count recommendation: that the committee invite the Ministers of Education and Finance and Development Planning as a last resort to continue engagement; that a dialogue is required amongst the executive actors and the two committees of both Houses to provide a clear picture of this exercise that will forestall, any situation that could derail the learning process; that a swift intervention is required by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to mitigate any shock due to revenue lost from the various tertiary institutions.
The Education committee also recommended that the source of funding that engendered the pronouncement be made available to the Legislature to encourage smooth sailing of this worthy cause; and that a comprehensive policy on the financing of tertiary institutions be developed and approved by the Legislature in as much as it has appropriation powers under the Constitution. Additionally, that guidelines and strategies to support this current free tuition program be developed as well, the recommendation concluded.
The committee, through a unanimous vote, was again mandated to go back to committee room and add recommendations during the debate to those already contained in its report, and report back to plenary within two weeks.