The Visitor to the University of Liberia President George Manneh Weah declares tuition-free for all undergraduate students at the University of Liberia as well as all other public universities across the country, a pronouncement that has received mixed reactions from both students of the UL and the public generally.
The President urges students of the University of Liberia and all other public universities and colleges here to make use of the opportunity being offered to enroll and reach full potential of their educational sojourn with a reminder that details and modalities will be arranged and finalized between the UL Administration and the relevant sectoral Ministries in what he describes “a win-win partnership” with the students.
But skeptics and critics are concerned about sources of funding and sustainability of the so-called tuition-free public university education in the face of a projected annual budget shortfall of 26 million (0.7 percent of GDP), based on a latest World Bank Update. Even students of the University of Liberia are themselves apprehensive, given past history of funding gaps particularly, at the UL when they were paying tuition and fees. Yet, the UL Administration has always struggled to keep afloat in keeping the institution’s doors open to the public.
President Weah disclosed that he took the decision following consultation with the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah. He emphasizes that his government will never succeed in its Pro-Poor Agenda if it did not place more emphasis on developing the country’s human capital.
We are not with the prophets of doom and skeptics, who say this would not work. Instead, we encourage students across the country to make use of the opportunity by enrolling to further their studies. The UL has always been without problems in terms of funding and quality of academic programs over the last two to three decades. But, in the midst of the challenges, it had produced some of the best brains and minds, including the likes of former Finance Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, and the current Minister, Samuel Tweah, among so many others, who have made and are making enormous contributions to the society.
They achieved their goals because they kept focus amid challenges of prolonged closure due to inadequate funding to the administration. There were also problems of lack of up to date instructional materials such as books, chemicals and laboratory tools, mainly for the natural Sciences. However, successful students kept their focus and were determined in achieving their college education.
It is that same spirit we urge current students enrolled and those contemplating to enroll at universities and colleges across the country to adapt. The government has opened the doors, but it would require students’ resilience to make a difference.
Making use of the opportunity would require paying all fees and attending classes rather than spending precious times on social media and facebook, and yet expect to pass at the close of the semester. No! This would not happen.
President Weah is challenging Liberian students to use the ‘weapon’ placed at their disposal thru the tuition-free program to go forth and change Liberia. Achieving this goal would require devoting more time to their studies despite challenges like others before them did. They should use the digital communication to conduct vital research that would widen their horizon both academically, intellectually and socially.
The whole world is at your disposal. The sky is the limit. Go for it. Along the way, there will be challenges of funding delay, and other distractions, but with concentrated minds and commitment from both partners (government and students) it is doable.