“Aiming Left But Shooting Right” is an old but popular saying which is used to describe an individual who professes to be working towards an objective but yet at the same time taking actions that tend to undermine the achievement of his set objectives. It draws strong parallels to another English expression “working at cross purposes”.
Working at cross purposes as defined by the Collins Dictionary says: “having or acting under a misunderstanding as to each other purposes”. This newspaper’s attention is drawn by a Senate Resolution of January 24, 2019 inviting the Minister of Finance and the President of the University of Liberia to provide clarity on the sustainability of President Weah’s recent pronouncement of tuition –free education at the various high schools and Universities around the country.
According to Grand Bassa Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, she has grave concerns about the sustainability of the scheme since according to her there is no money provided in the budget to underwrite the entire exercise. And this is a growing problem which must be underscored, a problem anchored in the obsequious behavior of governing who too often try to paper over the widening disconnect between policy pronouncements and concrete policy action.
Already this newspaper is receiving alarming reports that WATSAN conditions at the various campuses of the University of Liberia continue to deteriorate by the day. Administrators complain that the money realized from registration and other fees prior to the free tuition policy announcement went a long way in addressing felt needs at the University of Liberia.
From the look of things, the implications of a free tuition policy announced by President Weah appeared not to have been given adequate consideration, yet UL officials hailed the announcement not knowing from whence would come the funds required to underwrite such an undertaking.
This newspaper is therefore constrained to question whether and how many of President Weah’s officials can look him in the eye and tell him the truth that there is no money in the budget to fund the free tuition program. As Senator Karnga-Lawrence noted, “Given the fact that there is no provision in the national budget to support the President’s free tuition policy, I am kindly seeking the indulgence of plenary to invite the ministers of Finance and Education and the President of the University of Liberia to present a free education plan and explain to us the sustainability strategy for this ‘free tuition program,” Sen. Lawrence’s communication said.
Looking back on the President’s pronouncement and given the current realities of the national budget, the public is left wondering just how the government is going to actualize tis policy. Given the look of things, it appears more likely than not that the failure of the government to deliver on this promise could spark student protests across the country.
Looking back this newspaper recalls President Weah’s promise that Government was going to work out the necessary modalities for the actualization of his pledge. It is not clear at this stage to what extent the modalities have been worked out for the implementation of the tuition-free policy across the country.
It is also unclear just what explanations would the UL authorities provide to the Senate. But it is expected that the UL authorities will speak on behalf of the University of Liberia only, which is currently the nation’s largest institution of higher learning.
This newspaper must again warn officials of the President that they are not helping his case when they, out of sheer sycophancy, fail to properly advise him. His officials for example must have known that the President’s decision to introduce a tuition-free policy, though a laudable idea, was fraught with implications for failure simply because the money is simply not there.
And this is what the President’s officials are not telling him. This means they are setting him up to fail. This is a message that the Baghdad Bobs of Liberia need to underscore to their revered leader. But they will instead await the slightest opportunity to put a spin on every official misstep. And when that fails, the media becomes the perennial scapegoat, and of course, opposition politicians.