By Prince Kurupati
Liberian students studying at state-run higher tertiary institutions will no longer pay tuition fees. This announcement was made by the country’s head of state and president, George Weah.
Speaking at the University of Liberia, Liberian president George Weah said that with immediate effect, all undergraduate students are no longer required to pay tuition fees. The Liberian president also took to his Facebook page to make the sensational announcement declaring that tertiary education with immediate effect is free for undergraduate students, “Today, I am excited to announce that I have declared the University of Liberia and all other public universities in Liberia Tuition-free for all undergraduates.”
In the same address, president Weah went further to state that he is looking into making university education free for all. Presumably, this means Weah is also considering making Masters and Doctoral programs at state-run universities tuition-free.
President Weah said that his aim is to make Liberia an example to other African nations on the continent.
Liberian undergraduates were thrilled to hear the announcement with some stating that the president is staying true to his word. During the election campaign, Weah said that “I played football in Europe. I would have stayed in Europe and enjoyed my money, but I came to Liberia to redeem you from the bondage of hardships.” By making university education free, the president is taking the first step in redeeming the nation from the ‘bondage of hardships’. Other students said that Wednesday 24 October (day of the announcement) will go down in history.
Addressing the hundreds who came to see him at the University of Liberia, Weah said that the decision to make tertiary education free for all undergraduates didn’t come from him only but it arose after a meeting he had with the university administration. According to Weah, he summoned the meeting with the university administration after students had complained about the increase in tuition fees. Weah learned from the university administration that the actual fee had not changed, but the fall of the Liberian dollar against the US one had led to a rise in the amount due in the local currency. Liberia uses a multicurrency system with both the Liberian dollar and the US dollar officially recognized as legal tender.
Weah said from the meeting with the university administration he learnt that “about 20 000 (would-be students) go through the registration process, (but) only 12 000 attend” class. He went further to state that ” about 5 000 of the 12 000 who are in attendance are depending on some form of financial aids or scholarship. The rest of the students do not attend due to the lack of financial aid.” Seeing the (financial) difficulties affecting undergraduates, he decided to help them.
Weah won last year’s election on the back of a campaign which primarily focused on fighting poverty.
Liberia has four state universities i.e. the main University of Liberia, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William Tubman University.
In addition to the four universities, Weah also said all community colleges across the country are also included in the free tuition spree.
Liberia becomes the first African nation to take this step. Most African countries are grappling with implementing free education even at the basic level. Ghana started an ambitious free Senior High School system which continues to be faced with challenges. Sierra Leone is also in the process of implementing free primary education.