6 February 2013

Liberia: UL Prexy Under Probe

Members of the House of Representative Tuesday voted, mandating the committee on Education to summon Dr. Emmett Dennis, President of the University of Liberia and other UL officials to appear before them, to justify the proposed increase in the tuition at the institution from LD$175 to US$5 per credit.

A recent report alleging that the university was increasing its tuition received a loud acrimony and a zealous protest from students at the institution. They vowed to resist the payment of such fees if implemented.

The students also staged a massive street protest at the front view of the main campus of the university on the Capitol By-pass during the President's state of the nation address, soliciting her attention to the matter.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf or any of her lieutenants at the Ministry of Education are yet to officially comment on the matter which credible sources describe as delicate in the academic transformation of the nation.

But at the House plenary yesterday, lawmakers mandated the members of the committee on education to look into the matter and submit findings to them within one week.

The decision which stemmed from a communication by Rep. Gabriel Nyekan (Montserrado District 11) and a motion by Rep. William Dakel (Montserrado District 17) is the latest since the student protest two weeks ago.

In his letter, Rep. Nyekan informed the plenary that despite the students' protest, Dr. Dennis and his "lieutenants at the university remain resolute to increase the tuition" and therefore called on his colleagues to urgently intervene in the matter.

"I am [concerned] that some of our constituents could get killed depending on the intensity of the brouhaha as we have sadly witnessed in the past.

"Honourable presiding officials and esteem legislators, we are under moral and legal obligation to intervene quickly in this fast developing conflict by inviting the authorities of the UL to justify this sudden increase in fees when we judiciously increased the UL's budget exponentially over time to adequately cater to our people," Rep. Nyekan's letter that was read before the House's plenary yesterday stated.

The letter also criticized the poor quality of education provided for the students and the sales of "under content" pamphlets as some of the odds that the students are currently faced with at the university.

"We all must be reminded that the UL is not a private institution meant for super profit accumulation [by] few oligarchs. Rather, the institution is public owned and as such, should be public funded at a reasonable expense to the young people.

"How do we build the capacity of the young people? Can we achieve this at the face of tuition hike?," the letter queried.

Following the reading of the letter, house members voted for the authorities to appear before the committee on education and justify their decision in increasing the tuition at the university.

This is not the first time that proposed increase in the fees at the state university has received condemnation under the leadership of Dr. Dennis whose initial tenure was hailed by many for some of his reform initiatives.

Few years ago, students condemned a similar attempt to increase the fees at the university arguing that the institution had no justification for increasing tuition fees for "poor students."

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