The warning comes in the wake of reported plans by some students to carry on what they term as “peaceful demonstration” against speculation that tuition will be increased in the coming semester.
Since January 21, 2013, tension has been building on the Capitol Hill and Fendell campuses of the University of Liberia, with students converging under palava huts and under shades expressing discontentment over speculation that credit fee is to soon be increased from one hundred and seventy five Liberian dollars (L$175.00) per hour to five United States dollars (US$5.00), equivalent to L$355.00 per hour.
As a result, many some students have been abandoning classes and gathering in groups, shouting slogans and roaming around the campus in protest against the speculation of tuition increment.
Reacting to the planned demonstration and other protesting activities ongoing at the University campuses, the Vice President for University Relations, Dr. MomoluGetaweh, said administration has set people on the campuses to identify people who will disrupt classes, and anyone caught in such an act will be severely dealt with according to the university’s handbook.
Dr. Getaweh noted that while he cannot rule out the possibility of increment in tuition, there has not been any agreement.
He stressed that pronouncement made by the President Dr. Emmet A. Dennis during the 93rd commencement convocation has not been discussed with the faculty senate, nor the Board of Trustees, noting, “Until all these are done there can be no increase in tuition.”
Dr. Getaweh assertively observed that those behind the planned demonstration are students who have poor academic status and want others to be affected in similar manner.
Displaying a document containing probation students, Dr. Getaweh said “over 7,000 students are on probation list and many of them are heading groups to demonstrate and disrupt classes so other students learning can be hindered.”
Speaking from his personal opinion, the UL Relations Vice President indicated that there will be an increase in tuition in time to come, but such has not been agreed upon.
He stressed that the institution needs modern facilities including internet, equipped libraries, laboratories, amongst others, and at the same time needs qualified instructors to teach.
“How can the institution receive all these needs without money and the increase in tuition be a case to cause students go on the rampage?” Dr. Getaweh argued.
He disclosed that the university survives on national budget, tuition, and charity from foreign friends, but further indicated that contribution from the national budget cannot solve most of problems.
“It is from these sources we provide what you see on the campuses of the university. It is even a shame on the part of Liberia to have a state university where someone with Bachelor of Arts or Science degree is teaching another person pursuing the same degree, and Masters Degree teaching someone pursuing the same Masters. We want to provide attractive salaries to our instructors who are qualified and to send some out for higher degree, and it requires money to do,” Dr. Getaweh said.
He said the University of Liberia is one of the oldest in the region founded in the 1800s, but it has remained stunted among other universities to the extent that it has not been able to offer PhD.
During the 93rd commencement convocation on December 19 of 2012, the University President, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis stated in his speech that administration was contemplating on increasing credit to US$5.00, stressing that the current amount charged is not enough to financially sustain the state highest institution of learning.
Student group leaders of the university informed this paper on January 23 that they, with consent of the student populace, will carry on a protest action on Monday January, 28, 2013, to register their concerns to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the National Legislature on the matter.
One of the leaders, Thomas B. Mowaca studying Accounting said increment in tuition was not realistic because there is no justification for such increase.
He cited the lack of internet service, equipped library and laboratory, computer lab, amongst others as some reasons why there should be no increase.
Mr. Mowaca, who was joined by another leader identified as Prince L. Jugbe studying Economics, argued that the Government of Liberia allots budget for the institution for the sake of the suffering Liberian students and “abruptly coming out with increment was unjustifiable.”
The two men said besides argument that the institution lacks facilities to enhance learning, majority of the students attending the university do not afford even the LD$175.00 charged per credit, and bringing increment will only cause a lot of them to drop from school thus creating setback in the human resource capacity building of the country.
“Administration should be ethical in its approach to increasing fees here. You cannot tell me that state university responsible to prepare citizens of the country will exist without basic services needed and tuition be increased. What then is the essence of the increase?” Mowaca argued.
For Jugbe, he argued that about US$1 million was allotted in the national budget for the University of Liberia in addition to other suicides, and therefore increasing fee for students was not realistic but a clever way the administration is devising to get Liberians out of school.
“Out of the last budget about US$1 million was returned to government as excess to portray UL Administration’s transparency. How is it that the administration will return excess from budgetary allotment and then increase tuition?” Jugbe argued.
Jugbe named the Sinoe National Park and the Gray Stone at Mamba Point that the United States Embassy is located as some properties UL has and believed to be bringing in money, but the appearances of both Fendall and Capital Hill campuses do not indicate in any way that the University of Liberia is a state owned university.
He further argued that the university, despite the huge budget it is expected to have, does not have many buses to transport students to the Fendell campus where many colleges are now transferred.
“If the administration cannot provide some of the basic needs the university must have to enhance our learning and it remains consistent with increase in tuition, we too will remain resistant to the decision until it is justified to convince us,” the two men asserted in separate view.
According to them, they are not going to conduct themselves in a violent way, but will ensure that students wear white T-Shirts on Monday to march to the Capitol where President Sirleaf will give her annual message to the Legislature so that the situation of increasing tuition at the University of Liberia without justification can form part of the message. That is, despite the warning by UL Administration, the President’s pending annual message is expected to be greeted by student protests.