October 26, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
A source within the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) has disclosed to Concord Times that the 39-60% tuition fees being paid by the government of Sierra Leone as subsidy for university students would be shelved in 2018.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that the scheme would be replaced with a “students loaning scheme” and that government would send the 39-60% fees subsidy to selected commercial banks where students would access them and repay after they would have graduated and secured jobs.
The MEST anonymous source explained that commercial banks would have to come up with criteria that students should meet in order to benefit from the scheme.
The government in 2012 reported that it would be paying 39-60% fees subsidy for university students after the University of Sierra Leone increased tuition fees for various courses.
Parents and students who bear the financial burden, at the time when economic hardship was hitting Sierra Leoneans, protested against the increment, forcing the government to intervene by paying a reported 39-60% of the fees in place of the usual subvention to the university.
A senior official at the University of Sierra Leone (USL), who also preferred anonymity, said the composite fees paid by government varies from 39% to 70%.
“Previously, government used to give subvention to the university but it has now been transformed into fees subsidy. The fees are now called “composite fees” which comprises tuition and other charges. We no longer collect monies for other charges but composite fees, which includes everything,” the anonymous USL source said.
The source revealed that the entire “composite fees” are now being referred to as “economic fees” in the context of the university, adding that they also charge “realistic fees”, which when charged will compare USL charges to big universities in Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
Asked whether they have been informed that the “composite fees” would expire in 2018, the source said they have not been informed about the said development, adding that as far as the USL was concerned the policy is still in place and government is expected to be honouring its own part of the agreement.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Cornelius Deveaux, denied the claim, adding that the government was committed to ensuring that it continues paying the percentage for students in order to alleviate the financial burden on parents.