24 October 2018

Liberia: Pres. Weah Issues Stern Warning to UL Prexy Over Hike in Tuition - Source

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Monrovia — FrontPageAfrica has reliably learnt that heads are about to roll at the state-run University of Liberia, following a visit by President George M. Weah to its Capitol Hill Campus, Wednesday, October 24.

Sources close to both the Executive Mansion and university authorities, confided in this newspaper that UL President Dr. Ophelia A. Weeks is top on the list of individuals, who might be dismissed by President Weah.

The UL Administration has suspended classes base on the President's visit. The President, who is officially known as the 'Visitor,' is expected to make a statement that will affect the University.

"The President might either talk about dismissing someone from the administration or ask students to disembark their protest action," an anonymous source close to UL administration said.

"We heard that the students are intending to protest based on reported hike in tuition by the administration and the President is not satisfied about that."

According to our source, the President's decision comes in the wake of complain by some students about the hike in tuition and have threatened to stage a protest.

The students in a recent meeting held with President Weah at his Foreign Affairs Offices complained that the fees imposed on them for the 2018/2019 semester, are "too high" and "unaffordable."

Students were paying US$4 (L$400) per credit hour last semester but the amount has been increased to L$600 per credit hour this semester.

The students said the decision to increase fee contradicts previous discussions between them and the UL administration.

According to policy governing the University of Liberia, the decision to increase fees should not be unilateral, but should meet the approval of the UL Board of Trustees, the Faculty Board, Students leadership and the President of Liberia.

But the student leadership has stated that they were in any prior discussion which led to the increase in fee for this semester.

As a result of these complaints, our source from the Executive Mansion told us that President Weah last week summoned the UL Administration to show cause of hiking tuition at the detriment struggling students.

During the official launch of the EPortal digital system at UL recently, President Weah expressed dismay over the low enrollment of students every semester relative to the number of students who are billed during registration circles.

The President said he wasn't dissatisfied that only about 11,000 registered of approximately 20,000 students who were billed last semester.

FrontPageAfrica was also informed that the President has ordered UL Vice President for Public Relations, Atty. Norris Tweah, not to leave the country until the situation is placed under control. Tweah was expected to leave for vacation on Tuesday, October 23, 2018.

When contacted, Tuesday, Atty. Tweah confirmed that he was to leave Liberia but said his trip was not cancelled on the order of President Weah, but rather on the basis of the Liberian leader's visit to the University's Capitol Hill campus.

He also stated that L$600 fee per credit hour is not an increment as insinuated by students, but rather commensurate with the prevailing exchange rate, between the US and Liberian dollars.

"It's true that I was to travel to the US today, but that trip was postponed by me, due to the importance attached to the President's visit," Atty. Tweah clarified.

"In fact, our rate is better and all the way below the Central Bank of Liberia's (CBL) approved rate. Our tuition is still US$4 per credit hour. It's just that these students, who are complaining do not understand how the adjustment is done, convert US$4 to the current rate you will observe that we have not hike fees."

University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU) President Flomo Mao Maiwo told FrontPageAfrica Monday that the UL administration did not consider students' interest before coming up with the decision to increase fees.

According to Maiwo, ULSU has already submitted a communication to President Weah on the matter and looks forward for his prompt intervention.

"We have already distanced ourselves from the increment they are talking about because the university administration did not inform students of increment or shift in tuition and fees," Maiwo asserted.

"We think it was wrongly calculated and not in the interest of our students, so we wrote them and said we do not support it. We will be telling the Visitor to the UL that the attitude of administration has always caused violence on the campus."

The UL student president wants President Weah instructs the UL administration to revert its decision on the hike in fees until adequate information can be made to better prepare students for future adjustment.

At the same time, the Secretary General of the campus-based Students Unification Party (SUP), Martin K.N. Kollie, has also frowned on the institution's administration for the increment.

"The leadership of Dr. Weeks has been dictatorial, not consultative and fails to build consensus with student leadership. Since she came, her actions have continuously been unilateral and no leader can succeed at the UL without the support of the student leadership," student Kollie said.

He termed the UL argument of prevailing rate affecting tuition for the 2018/2019 semesters as irrational.

"It's an increment in tuition and not about exchange rate. You cannot transfer the financial burden of government to poor students. The responsibility to fund this university is not with the students, but government, according to the 1953 Act creating the UL," he maintained.

Meanwhile, Dr. Weeks is reportedly out of Liberia attending a major education summit in Kenya in the wake of President Weah's visit to the campus.

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