Amid tuition crisis rocking the state-run University of Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has held talks with students and administrators to examine the primary issue concerning the University’s “proposal” to step up fees for credit hour from LD$175.00 to US$5.00 for undergraduate students in the wake of demands for quality education.
President Sirleaf cautioned that the issue of the proposed increment in fees cannot be taken to the streets, after receiving comments from the students reacting to the current situation at UL. During the meeting hosted at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Monday, 7 September, she suggested that both sides of the issue be discussed, including finances of the University to provide the quality education necessary and quality education raised by the student body.
At the discussions, the Interim Student Leader of ULSU, David T. Woart, indicated that their reaction was not necessarily against increment of fees from LD$175.00 to US$5.00, but the quality of education and increment of transportation from LD$30.00 to LD$100.00.
Opposed to an earlier agreement with the UL Administration to ensure improvement in the academic and infrastructure, Student Woart told President Sirleaf that the situation was even now “retrogressing”, stressing that the administration had attempted increasing fees without first solving problems with the computer lab that has been closed; while students in the sciences still face huge challenges.
Arguing that the sciences play a very critical role in the growth and development of the country, Student Woart wondered if Liberians wanted to “trust the development of this country into the hands of foreign engineers.”
“And that’s the question that we all have been contemplating on for which we have said for these learning environments, you cannot talk about increasing tuition when you have not told us or not succeeded in improving the academic infrastructure on the campus,” he contended.
As he cited an instance with students boarding busses from Red-light to Fendell Campus for hours under the rains due to the lack of any structure erected in the form of a bus stop to host those yet to find their way on campus.
He claimed that the UL only had its first ambulance to serve its more than 30,000 student population during the Ebola crisis. Concluding, Student Woart appreciated President Sirleaf for encouraging more concessions into the country, but noted that his qualm was that it appears as if Liberians were telling concessions that Liberia lacks quality workforce and as such, companies should bring in foreign workers due to the quality of education being offered students here.
But in defense of the UL Administration’s action, Acting University President Wade K. Wureh argued that in the last five years, there has been increase in student enrollment at the state-run university with a decline in funding for the university, saying the UL’s current budget for 2015/2016 is US$29m, with a commitment by the Government of Liberia to provide only US$15m.
She said the University was already dealing with reduction in academic malfeasance, faculty development, external collaboration, external support, as well as improving the physical and academic facilities, inclusive of science and computer laboratories, as well as the library, medical and law schools.
The outcome of the meeting was not known as journalists were asked to leave after the opening session.
By Winston W. Parley – Edited by George Barpeen