Liberia: Rep. Fallah Submits Bill Supporting Free Tuition at Public Tertiary Institutions
Capitol Hill Monrovia – The House of Representatives’ joint Committee on Education and Judiciary has begun scrutinizing a bill seeking to legislate the payment of free tuition for students attaining undergraduate studies at all public universities and colleges.
The bill, which is also aiming to make pass into law the payment of WASSCE fees for all 9th and 12th graders attending both private and public schools across Liberia was introduced by Rep. Thomas P. Fallah (CDC, District #5, Montserrado County).
It comes a little over two years after President George Weah, invoking his executive powers, declared tuition free for undergraduate students attending public universities and colleges across Liberia.
In a communication petitioning the House to pass the bill, Rep. Fallah said the law will sustain the free tuition and WASSCE payment schemes launched by the President, even after the CDC-led Government.
“Paying tuition at the University of Liberia was a challenge for some of our students, and the payment of WASSCE fees was a burden for some of our parents, especially our mothers. Owing to the fact that Government is continuity, we believe it should not be on the basis of gratis, meaning the President has agreed and accepted to do this under his watchful eyes, but what becomes of these initiatives when they are not policy driven or legislated… On that background we thought to proffer this communication today so that the Honorable Legislature, beginning with the House of Representatives to have this special fund placed aside to support our brothers and sisters,” he said.
The bill, he added, will also reduce the financial burden on students and parents and mitigate the current economic inequality by increasing college and senior high enrollment, lowering pressure on students and parents and improving completion term of studies, especially amongst parents of low income family.
What’s In the Bill?
The Bill is titled “An Act to Create a Special Education Fund to Support and Sustain the Tuition Free Scheme for the University of Liberia, All Public Universities and Colleges’ Program and the Free WASSCE fess for ninth and Twelfth Graders in Liberia, or the Weah Education Fund (WEF) for short.
The purpose of the act, as outlined in part three, among other things, is to ensure that students who cannot afford the cost of higher education be given the opportunity to acquire same; institutionalized the free WASSCE fee program for ninth and twelfth graders; ensure continuity of the WEF by identifying permanent sources of funding and encouraging academic growth and excellence, among others.
In Part IV of the proposed act mandates the Ministries of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and Ministry of Education (MOE) to submit an annual report of the management of WEF to the Legislature as a way of promoting accountability, as well as informing the Liberia National Student Union of progress consistent with the Act.
In addition to their statutory functions, the bill calls on the MFDP and MOE to take full responsibility of the program. It also called for the management of the fund to be participatory and shall involve the administrations of the universities, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Student Union leadership.
Part V of the act calls for any additional cost to run the public university and colleges resulting from the program to be reflected in the national budget; while revenue generated from Maritime and surcharge on cigarettes and alcohol beverages shall be applied to the tuition free program. However, WASSCE and MFDP shall make the determination.
Part VI of the act prohibits any student staying extremely long at any public university or college, and called for said student to be dropped. This section, according to the proposed act, will be applied in keeping with the residency clauses enshrined in the handbooks of the institutions under WEF.
It also outlined that no student should be dropped for exercising his or her rights guaranteed under the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.
What Happens Next?
The joint committee was mandated by the plenary of the House to report within two weeks. Following the committee’s report, the Plenary will then decide to either vote in favor of the committee’s recommendations to either pass it or not.