Federal government has stopped funding over 150 students on scholarship in Europe and America. They face deportation and the prospect of losing all they’ve worked for.
Ogbonnaya Samuel Ogbonna, a medical student at the University of Leeds; . (Charlotte Graham/Telegraph)
Nigerian students aspire to study abroad at some stage in their education, usually at the university level.
Among all the many options that they have, the Federal government and its many agencies sponsor some of these initiatives.
The idea is to expose some of the brightest minds from local schools to the training and culture in foreign universities; with the eventual aim of diffusing their learnings into the system when they return.
But, as the Telegraph reports, it appears there won’t be a glorious return or transfer of knowledge; none of that will be happening anytime soon; over 150 students have been abandoned by of the government.
A bursary program funded by the agency has crashed; leaving them with tens of thousands of pounds in debt.
University of Essex; a public research university founded in 1963 in Essex. As of 2016, tuition for international students cost an average of 12,950 pounds. (Booking.com)
While universities in Swansea and Sunderland have allowed the students to graduate; University of Leeds; University of Sussex and University of Essex; they will not graduate student while their fees remain unpaid.
When reached for comments on the issue, the Nigerian High Commission in England confirmed that 152 Nigerian students had question marks hanging over their future. It claimed that the drop in Nigeria’s oil revenues had dried up the agency’s coffers, as such it could no longer find the money to fund the scholarships.
In the last few months, a number of Nigerian agencies and regional governments have withdrawn scholarships and funding from students in foreign universities.
Earlier this month, beneficiaries of its scholarships called out the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); for withholding their funding since 2016 when the former head of the agency, Ibim Semenitari was ousted in favour of new management.
The Presidential Special Scholarship Scheme for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) is the only merit scholarship at the Federal Level in Nigeria. Federal government has pulled funding and stopped paying their stipends.
In an open letter addressed to Dr. Dipo Awojide, a lecturer at Lough borough University and a consultant on education, a beneficiary claims that only two sets of scholars, the 2012/2013 and the 2013/2014 sets have been sponsored.
“Since the beginning of the 2016/2017 session that is almost over; our tuition fees and living expenses are not paid”. “We have tried reaching out to NUC (our primary point of contact) but they have stopped replying our emails or picking our calls”.
The stranded students have written letters to the President, the Vice President, the SSA to the President on Diaspora and Youth Affairs and the Minister of Education. None of their letters has been replied.
The stranded students have written to the Federal Government and the necessary officials. (Twitter (@OgbeniDipo))
At the height (or bottom) of Shagari’s agbada-wearing misrule, the federal government abandoned many students in institutionsaround the world.
At a point, there were 50 Nigerian students at the same university faced this situation; no money for food, tuition or shelter.
Covering the story for the American network, the NBC’s Meredith Vieira said those many years ago, “…. this is really a story about oil-rich countries like Nigeria and what happens when oil prices drop and the supply of dollars begins to dwindle. The Nigerian government has had to tighten up on its foreign exchange. What that means here is a group of students who can get money out of their country so they can’t pay their bills”.
For these students, some of whom owe up to 20,000 dollars in tuition and other fees, the prospects are grim.
“The direct impact is hardship. Most of these students will not be able to feed, pay their rent and even afford basic stuff due to the non-payment of their living expenses and tuition”, Dr Dipo Awojide tells me in a text interview.
“First of all, it is not easy being in another country without any or little support system. Now imagine having to live on the street or 10 people sharing a room meant for 2 people because they cannot meet their contractual obligations.”
As they stand now, many of the students do not know where to turn. The possibility of getting funding remains, but that is unlikely and with bills piling up and their visas nearing expiration, they must make a decision.
“Well, they have no option than to return back to Nigeria empty handed. Those who are fortunate to have parents or uncles who can foot their bills will graduate and get their certificates”, Awojide says.
Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu has not responded to any of the letters from affected students. (ThisDay)
“Some Universities might be compassionate, allow them graduate and give them their certificates. Others will not. And that is understandable because they are not charities”, he adds.
Already, the Universities of Leeds and Essex are extending olive branches and helping hands to the students. A spokesperson for Essex told the Telegraph, “We deeply sympathize with the students who are facing problems with their funding. We are liaising closely with the funder and hope to resolve this issue quickly”.
In a statement, the Nigerian High Commission said; funding has been released for 87 students; when this will be paid remains unknown.
Across Europe and the United States; there are hundreds of students waiting on money that they are not sure will ever come; exploring the prospect of returning to Nigeria with little to show for their troubles.
All they did to deserve this was to dream and work hard at their studies; even though they are hundreds of miles away, Nigeria has found a way to fail them.