OPINION: Please don’t let us lose our studentship, NDDC 2015 foreign students beg Buhari

OPINION: Please don’t let us lose our studentship, NDDC 2015 foreign students beg Buhari

Editor’s note: Recently, some Nigerians schooling abroad on scholarship are encountering difficulty ranging from lack of their sponsors (government and private) to pay their school fees as and when due to outright abandonment due to reasons best known to them.

In an article sent to NAIJ.com, one of the NNDC foreign post graduate scholars, Ifeoluwa Ayodeji who currently undergoes his PhD in University of South Florida says that the Nigerian government has stopped paying his and other scholars’ school fees and appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene so that they could not lose their studentship.

Without a doubt, foreign training, with other student exchange/ bi-lateral programmes between home country and foreign institution is one of the key drivers to developing the education sector of a country.

The long-term and sustainable impact cannot be underestimated especially in country like Nigeria, whose fate of scientific and technological innovation is at a bleak.

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) - foreign post-graduate scholarship is part of this movement to sponsor young bright Niger-Deltans who are dedicated to achieving excellence in their various dreamed career.

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However, a mutual commitment is required from both players, first, from the commission. The current Managing Director, Mr Nsima Ekere from a statement published on NDDC website, has pledged to sustain the funding of its foreign scholarship programme which started seven years ago.

OPINION: Please don’t let us lose our studentship, NDDC 2015 foreign students beg Buhari

NDDC 2015 post graduate foreign scholarship award letter. Photo credit: Faceboo, Oyintare Joey

Equally, scholars are committed to take full advantage of this opportunity for knowledge acquisition while representing a worthy ambassador of Nigeria in foreign country.

Although, this might not be a surprise to Nigerian style of government, where the major stakeholder in government or private sector only care about flamboyant commissioning of projects, with no/delayed execution and subsequent maintenance.

OPINION: Please don’t let us lose our studentship, NDDC 2015 foreign students beg Buhari

NDDC 2015 post graduate foreign scholarship award letter. Photo credit: Faceboo, Oyintare Joey

I remembered it was a memorable moment in September 2015 when we (200 winners from about 3000 applicants) were awarded scholarship letters ($30000 yearly for 1 year MSc and 3 years PhD degrees abroad) following rigorous testing and interview.

I personally made an attempt in previous year. Scaling through at this time gladdens my heart and gave me a reassurance that Nigeria can be a great nation.

Shortly after this captivating ceremony, scholars left the coast of the country for their respective universities. We solely rely on NDDC as a “beacon of hope”. We were so carried away with the award event façade and we never have a second thought of being stranded in foreign land if our tuition is not paid.

Majority of us obtained loan, some scholars’ parent sold properties, while some whose parents can afford all to facilitate travel plans and other costs. We all believed on NDDC’s promise to pay our tuition as soon as the semester begins.

Even in Nigerian universities, there are deadlines set for tuition payment how much more in foreign institution which gave us admission letters not only because of our exceptional academic history but also because we will be getting a full financial support for our studies.

My question now is “What is the rationale for the award letters”? Does that mean NDDC gave us the letter only for VISA purpose and change our set dreams and aspiration to becoming street hustlers and rogues?

NDDC refused to pay any scholars’ tuition all through the very first semester. Many students were forced to obtaining outrageous loan from Nigeria to pay semester tuition after a long waiting. Our names were “red flags” on university registrar account and international service.

We have no access to university facilities like library and other amenities. We also receive emails of registration cancelation if tuition is not paid after certain deadlines, resulting to termination of studentship and immigration status.

OPINION: Please don’t let us lose our studentship, NDDC 2015 foreign students beg Buhari

List of NDDC 2015 post graduate foreign students. Photo credit: Faceboo, Oyintare Joey

Recently, a scholar almost commits sui*cide before he was selectively paid. Thus, are we truly representing Nigerian? While facing financial instability and emotional trauma, can we stay focused? I remembered a comment on the internet regarding payment our tuition.

These folks said, “Your mates were working to get tuition paid” in UK, US or Canada. I am not surprise with these comments because this is doable in Nigeria though it might consequently affect academic performance.

“They never realized we are under stringent conditions as an international student; limited to odd jobs for 20 hours a week and minimum wages. Honestly, the maximum this could do is to pay rent and probably few utilities while the fact still remains that foreign student pay multiple fold tuition than residence.

After several months of no communication from NDDC, they sent emails requesting bank account details again. This kept our hopes alive thinking payments will be made shortly. This waiting was beyond threshold and scholars in UK decided to stage a protest at the Nigeria embassy.

This triggered NDDC to release payments (1st batch: April 2016 and 2nd batch: August 2016). While it is required to receive an initial N500K travel allowance before we depart Nigeria, not all student was paid (including me). To date, not all 2015 scholars received their first-year tuitions payment, maintenance fees and the travel allowance.

Second year academic calendar began last year September (2016), we are all left in limbo without no payment. Just at the beginning of this year, the NDDC team (including Director -EHSS, Education, Health and Social Sciences) visited scholars in respective universities in UK and US without initiating any of our payments.

They only left the coast of Nigeria only to give promises to us (including universities officials) putting all blames on change in Nigeria government and NDDC governing board. I was wondering if they came for this primary assignment or for their personal vacations.

Shortly after then, we are only meant to validate our account statement, academic transcript and payment invoices (if available).

NDDC left us in this awful situation while new set 2016 scholars joined the movement; we thought our payments will be made soon. Just around May, the MD during an interview section with channels TV made another “soon” commitment that our payments will be made.

He stressed that, we are not at fault but there are discrepancies in documentation from previous management. And an ad hoc committee will look into this, hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel soon.

Shortly after then, 2 batches of payments had been made ONLY to 2016 scholars and 2017 scholars aptitude test and interview had been conducted. Ever since, no move has been made, no feedback, no outcome from committee. NDDC only meant to neglect us, shatter our dreams, destroy our reputation and make us face immigration issues.

Remember, majority of us are PhD scholars, we initially had our bachelors and master degrees, responsible Nigerians who can at least carter for basic needs, raise family, and at overall contribute to the economic, educational, research and high-tech advancement of Nigeria.

You gave us false hope by counting on you to furthering in advance countries. Are you making or marring sustainable development?

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We understand the handwriting on the wall especially when the only information we get from NDDC liaison officer is to “keep praying”, similar to doctor’s advice. We heard the MDs commenting that scholars are not meant to change course or institution after the commission initial approval and payments.

We are coming together, even if we are all spread around. We are taking strategic actions and we don’t have to sit in front of NDDC gate. Just remember that this same set of scholars staged a protest at UK to get our previous payment.

Enough of keeping our files under your table, enough of disagreement between NDDC board, management and staff. In one accord in the “belly of the beast”, we stand to fight this through, until all travel allowance, 2015, 2016 and 2017 maintenances fee and tuitions are disbursed to the very last scholar.

Meanwhile, NAIJ.com had previously reported that three top management members of the NDDC, were alleged to be involved in a contract racketeering worth N14 billion naira.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.

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