By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI—EBONYI State students under the State’s Overseas Scholarship scheme pursuing various PhD degrees at different universities in the Diaspora especially in the United Kingdom, weekend, appealed to Governor David Umahi to disentangle them from the clutches of debt and embarrassment facing them in the foreign land.
The governor had been assisting the students with their tuition and other logistics to ameliorate their condition since he assumed office in 2015.
In a statement tagged “A passionate appeal for an urgent intervention to salvage the deteriorating conditions of the abandoned Ebonyi state government sponsored PhD students in the Diaspora” and signed by Chuku Ejike, Enyita Clifford Iteshi and Jude Ogbodo of University of Bradford, Lancashire, University of Salford, Manchester and University of Central Preston, respectively, on behalf of their colleagues, the trio explained how they have unavoidably accumulated huge debts through house rent, feeding and other miscellaneous expenditures in order to support themselves.
According to them, “many of us in the final year of our research are perching precariously on the precipice and without paying up our bills; all our efforts and steadfastness for the past three years will be in vain.”
But reacting to the development, the State Commissioner for Education, Prof John Eke who stated that the present administration was doing its best to ensure that these categories of students were adequately provided for , explained that the state government had recently paid their tuition to enable them conclude their educational pursuit abroad without stress.
According to him, despite the harsh economic situation in the country, Ebonyi State government has made it a tradition not to owe workers’ salaries and payment of fees for the overseas students is usually done immediately after salaries of workers are paid in the state.
The statement from the scholars read in part: “Your Excellency can recall that your administration had approved about £5,500 for each of the beneficiaries of this scholarship scheme on two different occasions. This money was tagged our ‘school fees’ but we want to bring to the notice of Your Excellency that the approved fund could not pay our school fees to say the least.”
“Having been abandoned for so long, we have unavoidably accumulated huge debts through house rent, feeding and other miscellaneous expenditures to support ourselves. This should not have been the case if we are allowed unlimited hours to work. However, as students under the Tier 4 students’ visas, there are limitations that affect our willingness to work. Based on this reason, we used the part payment we received earlier to offset some of our accumulated bills in order to guarantee our survival to continue with our studies and with the hope that Your Excellency will approve our fees and stipends at the appropriate time.
“Unfortunately, our conditions have gone from bad to worse. Ordinarily, PhDs in most of our universities should only last for 3-4 years if the students are comfortable, but when we are regularly locked out of the school resources, the duration of the programme is affected. Many of us in the final years of our research are perching precariously on the precipice. Without paying up our bills, all our efforts and steadfastness for the past three years will be in vain. We appeal to Your Excellency to approve the release of our tuition fees to guarantee the completion of our programmes in order to come home and contribute to the manpower needs of our dear state.
“It may interest Your Excellency to know that we have previously written reminders to you regarding all our outstanding tuition fees. Having exhausted their patience because of our nagging excuses about our inability to pay our tuition fees, the next option for our universities would be to commence legal actions against us. We have all received first and second warnings from our various institutions and the third one may involve the Debt Collectors Management who shall commence legal actions in this regard.
“The legal proceedings will be initiated against each of us in accordance with the laws of the land as well as those of our institutions of study. This shall involve the candidate and the sponsor as the defendants knowing that the contract was established between Ebonyi State Government and our various institutions.”