‘Most of them are squatting with friends’
Parents of neglected and abandoned recipients of Rivers State Scholarship in foreign Universities have continued to cry out over the pitiable plights of their children schooling abroad.
The administration of former Governor Chibuike Amaechi had awarded overseas scholarship to over 500 students to various universities abroad through the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA).
Though before Amaechi left office, the scheme suffered logistics lapses, which sometime threaten to mar the entire exercise, it managed to trudge on amid criticisms
However, its suspension by the incumbent administration led by Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, owing to the dire financial straits in, which the State is now, has left many of the beneficiaries in foreign universities and their parents/guardians flustered.
They are bothered that their children/wards may die of hunger and cold as many of them have been chased out of their houses due to inability of the state government to proceed with the funding of their education, nor cater for their upkeep and accommodation allowances.
The State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mrs. Onimim Jack, had told parents of the beneficiaries in Port Harcourt that the current economic situation had made it impossible for the sustenance of the overseas scholarship scheme, adding that the government was making arrangements to see how the students would continue their studies in state-owned universities.
Investigations revealed that nothing has changed since the state government made a promise to attend to their needs. The students have continued to live at the mercy of friends and neighbours.
One the parents said, “ we have appealed to the state government to consider the plight of the students who are mostly in final year, the schools have refused to release their transcripts pending when the outstanding fees are paid, and this is very worrisome”.
Another parent, Mr. Sylvanus Nduh described the situation as disturbing. He disclosed that the tuition fees, upkeep and accommodation allowances have not been paid for over a year, a situation which forced the school managements to stop the students from attending classes.”
He added: “The schools have said, if the government can pay up the bills, they can release their transcripts to enable them return to Nigeria. Right now the children are at crossroad, if they come back without their transcripts, are these final year students going to start writing JAMB examination again? Where would they start from, if they are sent back without transcripts, all will be wasted efforts?”
He, however, called on the State government to help offset the bills as the parents/guardians are not able handle the bills considering the current economic challenges facing the country.
Also speaking, Mrs Paulline Micheal lamented that if the children are abandoned at this stage of life, they may be influenced wrongly and misled, hence she appealed to the state government to consider the students as a father.
Another parent who wanted her name off-print said, “ the children are in critical condition now, most of them are squatting with friends, the house they are staying, there is no heater, we gathered that someone among them has been hospitalised, so we are pleading with the state government to do something urgently to avoid us losing our children”.
One of the students alleged that there has not been communication between the state government and the school authority for long.
“The school is very angry that the government is not even contacting them, the management has stopped all of us from classes, we are all in final year and we are up to 10 living in one room with friends. Inside the room, there is no electricity, no water, we are living a miserable life here. It is so pathetic. We are in dire need of help.”
Another student said: “It is over one year we have not been paid, no tuition fees, no rent or allowance. At first we felt after the elections, it would be fine. Elections came and went, nothing still changed. We realised we had to fend for ourselves. I got a job, I work 24 hours every week.
I also started catering for people, just to make ends meet. I actually started a business. So we aren’t sitting around waiting for government to pay us, we go to school, then go to our jobs and work like slaves, just so we would be able to pay our rent and put food on our table, then still find time to study. We obviously have to work odd hours (for some of us, 3.30-12am, and others maybe till 2am). Imagine washing plates for a restaurant till 4:00 am and having to go for a class at 8:00 pm. Sadly this is what we have to go through. Keep in mind that we study medicine which on its own without the hassle and work hours is extremely difficult.”