The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) says while it welcomes Liberia’s President, George Weah’s manifested interest in the education of the country’s youths, it is urging the administration to quickly identify the source of funding for the recently announced tuition free policy for undergraduate students across public universities and colleges.
The Association, in a press release issued on Monday, October 29, 2018, said in these dire economic times, the President has a responsibility to clearly articulate the financial implications and long-term sustainability of a policy that affects thousands of undergraduate students in the country.
“In the absence of this,” ALJA said, “the President’s pronouncement should be considered a political gimmick.”
According to ALJA, the pronouncement appeared to be spontaneous and meant to garner political support for the President and the CDC led government amongst the disadvantaged student populace of Liberia.
ALJA said “the October 24, 2018, pronouncement was an off the cuff action because it is not sustainable.”
ALJA said it opposes the pronouncement because the President and political advisors failed to factor in the costs associated with undergraduate education in today’s Liberia.
The Association further noted that Mr. Weah’s tuition free announcement sounds plausible, but neither he nor the Liberian government has the monetary and logistical supports for the realization of the policy.
ALJA wondered how the President and the CDC administration will fund such an undertaking after he, on January 22, 2018, while delivering his first legislative agenda to the 54th National Legislature of Liberia, declared publicly that the Liberian economy is broken and by extension the government.
Then ALJA recalled, the President declared “This is plain to see for we are all affected by it: our economy is broken, our government is broke, our currency is in free fall, inflation is rising and unemployment is at unprecedented high, and our foreign reserve is at an all-time low.”
ALJA further asserted, in a statement that in the midst of the reported financial crisis, it is preposterous for President Weah and the Liberian government to initiate an undergraduate tuition free policy.
The Association further noted that it is paradoxical for the President and the CDC administration to herald a tuition free policy for undergraduate students at public universities while at the same time underfunding public education in the country.
The Americas based Liberian journalists maintained that of the more than US 570 million dollars approved national budget for the 2018/2019 fiscal year, the Liberian government allocated a little over US 85 million dollars for public education.
ALJA said more than US 51 million dollars of the money apportioned covers salaries while nearly US 11 million dollars goes toward goods and services.
The Association noted that as a result of the Liberian government’s lukewarm support to public education, most public institutions of learning in Liberia including the University of Liberia and Tubman University are in financial woes.
ALJA said in the wake of the prevailing situation, most public schools, colleges and universities remain understaffed, ill-equipped and inefficient in meeting the educational needs of students and the country as a whole.
The Association said to keep afloat most public universities and colleges including the University of Liberia rely heavily on the minimum tuitions and fees they generate from students for operational cost.
Meanwhile, ALJA says while it is not opposed in principle to the idea of ameliorating some of the cost associated with undergraduate education in the country, the Liberian government has consistently demonstrated an inability to be financial prudent which makes the President’s policy difficult if not impossible to achieve.
The Association added that unless President Weah’s “ill-advised announcement is given a sober reflection, it has the propensity of further eroding learning at public universities in Liberia.”
The Association emphasized that the funding of public education in Liberia goes beyond political ploys aimed at gaining popularity at the expense of the poor.
“It requires sustained efforts, planning, resources and political will,” said the ALJA statement, signed by Akai Akasu Awuletey Glidden, Secretary General; and approved by Moses D. Sandy, President.
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