By David S. Menjor and Simeon S. Wiakanty
Students of the University of Liberia (UL) and the Tubman University (TU) in Maryland County have all reasons to smile as President George Weah yesterday declared both public universities in the country tuition-free.
Amid a thunderous applause in the auditorium of the University of Liberia’s Capitol Hill campus President Weah said considering the constraints students at the public universities face each semester, and the need to push the Pro-poor Agenda through capacity and skills development, it is now the time for students attending the institutions to learn without any worry of tuition.
“We will never be successful, as a government, if we do not place more emphasis on the development of our human capital and, as such, we have to invest in quality education,” Weah said.
He said as a visitor to the University of Liberia, he is fully aware of the challenges facing the university and now is the right time for the government to turn its attention to the development of the country’s manpower needs.
“I, President George M. Weah, on behalf of the Liberian people and the government, therefore declare free tuition at the University of Liberia and other public universities for undergraduate programs,” Weah said amid jubilation from the students of the UL.
He said the inability of young people to continue their education is a very serious issue in the country and it is against this backdrop that his government has seen it prudent to invest in order to ensure that young people acquire quality education.
In addition to the two universities, Weah also said all community colleges across the country are also included in the free tuition spree.
“I personally believe in education. Therefore, I feel that the constant drop out of students from the various schools is counterproductive,” he said
He said his government, therefore, believes that the time has come to take bold steps to address the perennial problems in the country.
Although he did not elaborate in detail, Weah said there is a definite link between an educated citizenry and economic growth and that in view of that the government has decided to build its human capital in order to keep a firm economic growth and make the country a better place.
Concerning the hectic moments students have been going through at the University of Liberia to register during each semester, his government recently laid that quagmire to rest by providing the digital means for fast and easy registration of all students as well as administration’s operations.
“Over the years, we are aware that students at the state-run university have suffered by standing in a long queue for registration purpose, which was due to a lack of a proper system to effectively and efficiently manage students’ registration processes. And with the school population up to forty thousand students, it has been a serious concern to us,” he said.
He added that realizing the critical importance of the digitization system, the CDC-led government included in its scope of decisions, a maximum priority and support earlier this month when he visited the UL Fendell Campus to dedicate the newly digitized system that is currently providing easy access to the registration process for students as well as a vital internet access for research purposes.
He said he was rising from his office’s seat at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Friday, October 19, when he heard battle cries and chants from a group of students of the UL who were protesting against alleged attempts by the University’s administration to increase tuition from US$ 4 to US$6 or its equivalent in Liberian dollars. However, he later received information from Norris Tweh, who is Vice President for UL Relations, that there was no increment to the tuition per credit hour.
He encouraged students at the University of Liberia and other public schools to always seek common ground with administrations instead of going into the streets to protest.
“Let me encourage all students that if there is a problem between the UL administration and the student body, it is important to negotiate rather than to vibrate,” he said.
Weah said his government is prepared to allot more funds to education, and it is his hope that the UL will become a proud university among several other universities in the sub-region.
When contacted via mobile phone for the Ministry of Education’s impression on the President’s declaration of free tuition education at the UL and other public institutions of learning, Deputy Minister for Administration at MOE, Latim DaThong, said his office will today respond to the President’s statement.