Monrovia — The tuition-free policy introduced by President George Manneh Weah in Liberia's public universities was a significant step towards increasing the country's human capital development indices and providing equal educational opportunities for all. However, the National Secretary General of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Jefferson Tamba Koijee, has highlighted a concerning issue regarding the imposition of graduation fees that undermines the true intent of the pro-poor educational policy.
On October 24, 2019, President Weah took a significant step towards making college education accessible to all by introducing a groundbreaking Tuition-Free Policy for students in public universities. Recognizing the financial constraints faced by many individuals unable to afford a private university education, President Weah declared that undergraduate tuition fees would be completely waived for students enrolled in Liberian public universities. This initiative aimed to alleviate the burden of college expenses and pave the way for greater educational opportunities for the less privileged.
Koijee, however, argues that imposing graduation fees on students after lifting the burden of tuition fees contradicts the spirit of the tuition-free policy. He asserts that such fees place an additional financial burden on graduates, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, making it difficult for them to fully benefit from the educational opportunities provided by the government. Koijee's concern resonates with the party's commitment to removing barriers and ensuring that Liberians can access tertiary education without being burdened by financial constraints.
The CDC-led government's dedication to education and empowerment is evident in the introduction of a bill by two CDC lawmakers aimed at solidifying the tuition-free policy. This legislative initiative reflects the government's determination to prevent a return to a system where educational opportunities are limited to the privileged few who have access to state resources.
To address the issue of graduation fees, Koijee has taken action by writing to the Minister of Education and the President's office, seeking immediate redress. This proactive approach demonstrates the party's commitment to rectifying the situation and ensuring the effective implementation of the tuition-free policy. By urging Minister Sonii to initiate steps toward resolving the matter, Koijee emphasizes the urgency of the issue and the need for prompt action.
Koijee also draws attention to the uniqueness of graduation fees in Liberia, highlighting that during a visit to the University of Oxford, he discovered that such fees were not imposed. This comparison underscores the disproportionate burden placed on Liberian graduates and the need to alleviate this financial strain, especially in a country still grappling with economic challenges.
The initial announcement of the tuition-free policy in 2019 was met with enthusiasm and hope from the student population, as it addressed the high cost of education that often prevented many students from pursuing higher education. The policy aimed to reduce the dropout rate and expand access to education, recognizing the link between education and economic growth, as emphasized by President Weah.
He strongly believes that the imposition of graduation fees in Liberia's public universities undermines the positive impact of the tuition-free policy and states that urgent action is needed to address this issue and uphold the principles of the pro-poor educational policy, allowing Liberian students to fully benefit from the government's efforts to promote human capital development.