Min. Sonii Nullifies NCHE’s Directive – “It Is A Major Setback”- Stakeholders – April 2023

MONROVIA – The education sector, especially at the higher education level may have been thrown into confusion over the weekend when the Minister of Education Mr. Ansu Sonii, who as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the National Commission on Higher Education (NCHE) took a decision to revoke a new regulation issued by the NCHE restricting the leadership of universities and colleges in the country to only holders of PhDs just as some stakeholders in the education sector described it as a major setback.  

The nullification, which came as a shock to some key stakeholders who hitherto were hailing NCHE for its decision, was made through a group chat post from Minister Sonii and directed to Presidents, administrators and proprietors of universities and colleges, urging them to ignore the earlier decision indefinitely until the Board of Commissioners decides.

“Good Morning Colleagues. This Circular is to nullify the earlier circular from the Secretariat of NCHE regarding the Heads of Universities and Colleges. 

“The decision of the Secretariat to request the resignation of Presidents of Universities with immediate effect for whatever reasons, however justified, should first be shared with the Board of Commissioners. 

“While we intend to correct the missteps of the same Secretariat, who did the due diligence in time past, and recommended institutions for accreditation, and thereupon, granted such permits, cannot undo its own action with immediate effect with no consideration for the impact of such decision in the ongoing system. 

“However authoritative the Board itself may be, an action of this sort could be grossly disruptive without reasonable notification and should be done with further due diligence.

“For this reason, I, the Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, having considered the ramifications of this action do hereby, place a hold on its effectiveness indefinitely, until the matter shall have been referred to the Board by the Secretariat”, Mr. Sonii said.

Credible information obtained from the conversation that ensued under Sonii’s post in the chatroom, has it that the nullification from Sonii was visibly seen as a relief for some of the administrators who fell short the requirements sets forth by the NCHE.

According to a leaked conversation from the chatroom, some of the administrators who might have fallen out of grace because of the NCHE earlier decision, “literally celebrated when they saw the post from the Honorable Minister who is the Chair of the Board of NCHE and that also was welcomed by some owners of the universities and colleges.”

Deputy Minister Latim Dathong who owns a private university, Starz University, was excited by the decision and was one of the first who commented under the post.

“Thank you, Chairman; we will engage the DG at the board level to end this disruption in the sector. Let’s use the laws and policies on our books in ful” to improve the sector,” DMA” Dathong commented.

Whatever might have informed the decision to nullify the regulation, some stakeholders said the decision will further undermine and compromise the proactive initiatives undertaken by the NCHE to save the education system from total collapse.

“This is a sad day for the sector especially coming at the time when the society is being polluted with fake degrees, substandard institutions and ill-prepared products coming out from our universities and colleges.

“I personally celebrated when Ansu Sonii was appointed as Minister of Education because I thought as a former university teacher, he would have known the problems that have impeded the sector from growing. But see the decision from him. It will further destroy the system”, an elderly woman who once worked at the Ministry of Education but didn’t want her name to be in the media said.

Wison Kettor, a radical intellectual said he was not surprised that the NCHE decision was quashed because those who are bent on destroying the education sector will not rest until their bidding is achieved.

“I knew it was coming and I was not surprised. Now, the decision is indefinite, which means we will continue to have people with fake degrees, or who do not even have the right qualifications to head our higher institutions of learning. In that instance do we expect quality to come out of our universities or colleges when the administrators are either parading with fake degrees or do not even have the qualifications?” he reasoned.

The Analyst can confirm that in the wake of the NCHE’s hammer, some institutions were putting in place succession plans with advertisements of vacancies as well as board decisions taken for those who were affected by the regulation to honorably step down.

Sources close to some of those institutions told The Analyst that almost all of such institutions have decided to stay in order and move on as if nothing has happened.

“We can confirm to you that we are suspending our decision to advertise the positions that should have been vacant since the order was announced. We met and set the criteria for the recruitment process and we were to have announced that during our major press conference next week. But for now, it is not necessary again and not urgent as well since the Minister nullified the regulation and the decision will be indefinite”, an administrator for one of the universities said last night.

It can be recalled that the NCHE came up with a new regulation which bars non-holders of PhDs from heading any tertiary institution of learning in the country through an official circular released by the regulatory agency on higher education in the country.

“This is to inform all heads of higher education institutions in Liberia that one of the overarching policy expectations of the NCHE is that all Presidents and Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs (VPAA’s) of Universities and Colleges operating in Liberia must possess a doctorate degree from an accredited university and /or college.

“An honorary degree holder is disallowed to serve as President or Vice President for Academic Affairs at any higher education institutions within the Republic of Liberia”, a press statement from NCHE signed and approved by G. Melvin Taydor, Acting Public Relations Officer and Prof. Edward Lama Wonkeryor, Director General stated.

The new regulation from NCHE is being viewed as being in the positive direction as it will go a long way to curb the wave of administrators of higher institutions, especially faith-based institutions that are taking up leadership roles at these academic centers without the requisite academic qualifications, yet they are allowed to sign credentials of graduates for degrees the administrators themselves do not possess.

This policy, according to sources who told The Analyst, was among several other recommendations forwarded to NCHE from stakeholders at the highest level of the education sector to promote standard and quality education in universities and colleges across the country. The findings which prompted the recommendations, among other things, noted that most of those heading higher institutions in the country hold honorary doctorate degrees while others obtained their higher degrees, normally, doctorate degrees from unverified online institutions.

The NCHE for some time now has been involved in waging war against the decay in the education sector beginning with cracking down on unlicensed and bogus institutions around those who are awarding fake degrees and other forms of certifications to unsuspecting students.

The Analyst News        Feb 20, 2023

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