Report by Alfred P. B. Kiadii, [email protected]
(Monrovia, Liberia—January 22, 2019)--When President George M. Weah announced that all public universities in Liberia will be given a tuition waver and thus his government will foot the bill in order to alleviate students of the burden of paying tuition, it drew applause and commendation from many quarters.
Even though such declaration was more like pandering to his base using his characteristic populist jumble, Liberians and other Africans praised the government for such worthwhile initiative, and the news made global headline and attracted plaudits, signaling that it is the Weah government way of ensuring that education is affordable to the mass of Liberians.
However, before the rooster could crow about such pronouncement, some analysts intimated that the policy statement made by the president was not backed by realistic policy analysis to ascertain the depth of the strain the government’s wage bill would incurred, arguing that already the economy took a nosedive. Adding that due to the bloating of the payroll, coupled with the attendant crises of revenue shortfall, stagflation (a combination of stagnant growth and high inflation), low investment and crumbling businesses, these anomalies could prevent the government from delivering on such major policy pronouncement.
So far, credible report reaching us has it that Liberia’s only medical college in the AM Dioglotti College of Medicine, University of Liberia cannot open due to severe funding drought amidst the refusal of the government to make allotment to the budget of the University of Liberia. Interestingly, this is happening in the aftermath of the policy pronouncement of President Weah that his government will shoulder the tuition of students in all public universities in the country. So, if the government cannot allot funds for the running of the country’s only medical college, would it be able to offer free public tertiary education to thousands of Liberian students?
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a second year student of the college who is familiar with the matter told our reporter: “We returned to the dormitory on the weekend, hoping classes will resume on Monday, but we were told by college authorities that the school remains closed. Since we came over the weekend, the campus has been consumed by darkness at night due to the lack of electricity. Meanwhile, we don’t know when classes will resume and nobody is saying anything to us in this regard.”
Amidst all of this, according to the Liberia Medical and Dental Council (LMDC) as of September 2017, Liberia had 338 medical doctors catering to the 4.5 million people, making the doctor per patient ratio 1:15,000. Such ridiculous statistic reveals the rottenness of the Liberia healthcare system and thus shows why infant mortality and other curable diseases continue to count human fatalities in the country.
Meanwhile, the medical college cannot transfer to its new campus constructed by the World Bank due to lack of funds to have electricity, pipe-borne water, and other amenities befitting the school. On top of this, foreign instructors from Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda have not returned to the country because the University of Liberia authorities have not renewed their contracts due to a black hole in its budget. This has made the instructors to remain in their respective countries since they went for break.
Prior to the policy statement of the Weah government for the University of Liberia to abandon collecting tuitions and fees, the tuition was used to pay for stationery and other accessories, in addition to funds from other sources. This situation has left students of the college in an uncertain situation, as they will be perpetually out of school because the UL authorities have set no date for the reopening of the medical college.