Monrovia (AFP) – Liberian President George Weah, who overcame childhood poverty to become one of the world’s top footballers, has abolished tuition fees for undergraduate students in the poor West African country’s state universities.
Speaking Wednesday on the campus of the University of Liberia in the name of “the Liberian people and my government”, Weah declared “free tuition for all undergraduate students” at all the public universities.
Weah said his decision arose after a meeting he had with the university administration.
“The students came in front of my office to complain that the administrators have increased the tuition in the school. I was not happy about that,” said Weah, who took office in January.
An administrator informed him that the actual fee had not changed, but the fall of the Liberian dollar against the US one had led to a rise in the amount due in the local currency. Both currencies are legal tender in Liberia, which was founded by freed former American slaves.
“I was shocked when I was told that every semester about 20,000 (would-be students) go through the registration process, (but) only 12,000 attend.
“Furthermore, about 5,000 of the 12,000 who are in attendance are depending on some form of financial aids or scholarship. The rest of the students do not attend due to the lack of financial aid,” Weah added.
Weah was elected late last year on a platform of fighting poverty and kickstarting an economy still affected by two civil wars between 1989 and 2003, as well as providing stability and growth.
“The inability of our young people to continue their education is very troubling,” he said on campus.
Liberia has four state universities: the main University of Liberia, the Booker Washington Institute, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law and the William Tubman University.