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Passage Of Weah’s Ed. Funds Sparks Concern

By Bill W. Cooper
The controversial passage of a Bill to legislate President George M. Weah’s tuition-free scheme for students across the country by the House of Representatives yesterday, sparked up serious concern among lawmakers of which some threatened to drag that august body to court.
The lawmakers during its 17th day sitting, controversially passed the Bill that was recently submitted by Montserrado County District #5 Representative, Thomas Fallah, with simple majority votes of 15, nine against and one abstention following a report from the House joint committee on Education and Public Account and the Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning.
The Committees on Education headed by Nimba County District #9 Rep., Johnson N. Gwalkolo and the Ways, Means and Finance headed by Rep., Thomas Fallah, in its report to plenary stated that the passage of the Bill will create opportunities to promote empowerment and development of the young people of Liberia through easy access to higher education.
The committee further stated that they believe that the passage of the Bill will also serve as an impetus for students to seek college education without worrying about the high cost of college education, adding that the Bill as presented should be modified to meet specific situation of the Liberian educational sector.
Accordingly, Part 1 of the Bill stated from and immediately upon passage of the instrument, the Bill shall be cited as “Education Equity and Enhancement Fund (EEEF), as in Part V, the EEEF shall be funded from revenue generated from the Maritime Program and Surcharges on Tobacco products and Alcoholic Beverages and keep special account.
Additionally, the purpose of the Bill 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.
Furthermore, Part VI of Bill stated that any students staying longer than one year after the average duration of the course of study shall be dropped from the program, and that it shall be applied in keeping with the residency clauses enshrined in the handbook of the institution under PEF, as the student may enroll at other Public Universities and Colleges at the discretion of the Administration.
The Bill added that any student on academic probation with GPA of less than 2.00 shall be dropped from the program and that Section 2 of the Bill becomes Section 3. While, Part VII of the Bill added that Revenue generated as a result of the Bill shall not be used in lieu of budgetary appropriations required to operate the institutions.
However, before and after the passage of the Bill by that august body, several lawmakers including Reps. Rustonlyn Dennis, Larry P. younquoi, Ceecee C.D. Barshall , Clarence K. Massaquoi, Moima Briggs Mensah and Rep. Edward Karfiah all voted against the controversial passage of the bill on grounds that the instrument was not holistically debated by them before its passage.
The aggrieved lawmakers intoned that although the Bill is good and intended to help struggling Liberian students; they added that their own disagreement is that the report from the joint committee did not mention much about the Bill something which they said left them doubtful.
Furthermore, following the passage of the Bill, a motion of reconsideration was filed by Bong County District #5 Rep., Edward Karfiah in which he stressed that the Bill does not address the issues of output which has to do with students benefiting from the scheme performance.
He added that education is the bedrock of any nation with Liberia of no exception and as such; he will not affix his signature to any educational documents he believes that are not properly scrutinized by his colleagues.
Following his deliberation, the Bill was again voted by simple majority by his colleagues pending concurrence by the Liberian Senate.
It can be recalled that, January 15 of this year, Rep. Thomas Fallah in fulfillment of one his campaign promises, submitted a Bill craving his colleagues to support the Act to establish a special fund to support and sustain President George M. Weah’s tuition-free scheme for students across Liberia.
Rep. Fallah’s decision at the time came a little over two years after the Liberian leader invoked his executive powers, thereby declaring tuition-free for undergraduate students attending the University of Liberia and other Public Universities and Colleges across the country.

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