Young Liberians, especially those in public colleges and universities, are eagerly waiting to hear President Joseph Nyumah Boakai deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) today, 29 January 2024 at the Legislature.
Boakai was sworn in on 22 January 2024, succeeding former President George Manneh Weah who introduced a policy for free tuition at all public colleges and universities.
Weah’s government also offered to shoulder the payment of examination fees for senior high school students who sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
Only through legislation, these policies can be binding on successive governments.
President Boakai’s SONA is in fulfillment of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia which provides that the President shall, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuing session.
The Constitution says the President shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic.
In presenting the economic condition of the Republic, it says the report shall cover expenditure as well as income.
During the regime of Boakai’s predecessor, the administration initiated two policies that were never passed or enacted into law by the legislature.
Student groupings from the University of Liberia petitioned the Legislature to pass these policies into law but to no avail.
Speaking in an interview with Williamena Tarpeh, a student at the University of Liberia, she said she is eagerly awaiting President Boakai’s decision on these policies through his SONA.
“My brother, I’m desperately awaiting President Boakai’s SONA like many public universities across the country,” said Ms. Tarpeh, an Accounting major.
“We want to know if the President will continue our free tuition policy or discontinue it. But, what I want to say is that we want him to continue on this policy because it has brought great relief to our educational sojourn,” she stated.
Also speaking, Lawrence Kamara, a student of the University of Liberia majoring in Mass Communication and Political Science, described President Weah’s free tuition policy as a gift to bettering Liberia’s human resource development capacity.
According to him, the free tuition policy had brought unprecedented relief to Liberian youth and parents across the country, adding that it’s saddening today that uncertainty hangs on the initiative.
“We want the free tuition policy to be maintained and so we want to know what the president will say about it,” said Kamara.
“From there we will know what to do. But, to be real, we want the policy maintained and enacted. We hope that the President will announce [the] continuation of the policy today,” he concluded.
For her part, Madam Ruth Kollie said parents are appealing to President Boakai to continue the WASSCE policy for high school.
According to her, this had helped parents across the country, especially those who have more children in the senior high division.
“My son, I’m a single mother. Since the introduction of this program, we have been relieved. I have three children in high school this year like many parents and so, we are appealing to President Boakai to maintain this policy that is why we are awaiting his SONA,” he noted.