This week, as the Bayelsa State Government convenes another around of the Bayelsa State Investment Forum: a gathering aimed at wooing investors, Bayelsa students who are on the state’s scholarship in the United Kingdom have once more cried out over the failure of the State government to fulfil its educational promises to them.
The Students who spoke to sayelba.com in a Telephone interview, recounted the sufferings and pains that their educational voyage to the UK, courtesy of the Bayelsa State Government, has turned into, due to the neglect they have suffered from their sponsor that has refused to pay their fees and other funds required to aid their studies.
According to them, the Governor Seriake Dickson Administration that sent them abroad has not paid their Tuition fees in the last THREE YEARS and is owing them 18 months upkeep allowance. The last time they received any payment from the State was in August 2014, when they were paid 3 months out of the 8 months they were then owed.
So since August 2014, which is one full year ago, these students have been left to cater for themselves in a society that is far more expensive than many Parents in can ever imagine to afford. For instance, the least amount they pay as monthly house rent is £350, which is over N120,000. This is even for those who leave outside London. The Students in London pay a rent of between £600 to £700 per month to secure a roof over their head.
Many of these Students have been evicted by their Landlords and served warning and in some cases withdrawal notice by their Universities. The very fortunate among them managed to graduate against all odds without receiving their Degrees from their Universities.
Some of the PhD Students are indebted to their universities to the tune of THIRTY-ONE THOUSAND POUNDS (£31,000), while others owe various amounts.
The last funds that were released for the UK Students’ upkeep was said to be shared to pay the fees of th Children of top politicians in the programme. Thus, while 98% of the students groan in pain, the younger brother of the State Governor graduated from his Masters in Law programme hitch free.
While all these are taking place, the Bayelsa State Scholarship Board that operates mainly from the Bayelsa State Government House seems to be unconcerned and unperturbed. Worse still the Secretary of the Board, Mr Collins Ifidi, who now serves as the acting head of the BSSB has continued to maltreat the Students when they call him to complain about their plight.
Giving that the programme is State sponsored, some Students have appealed to him to write to their institutions explaining the situation and pleading for time, but the ever angry Mr Ifidi has failed to do so in the last two years and has instead increased the level of his impudence towards Students who dare to make such suggestions to him.
It must be noted that the Students in the UK are not the only ones suffering from this criminal neglect by their government. The plight of those in Russia, Malaysia and a few other places is even worse.
As the Bayelsa State Government gather the world to exhibit its potentials as a business hub, one would expect that it realise that its greatest assert is its people. The importance of a highly educated workforce which the Bayelsa State students currently on overseas Scholarship represents cannot be overstated.
The greatest economies of today’s world are knowledge based economies. Nations no longer relay on their natural resources or toiling on the soil in Agricultural activities to survive. Small countries like Estonia with a population of a little more than 1 million citizens and large ones like India all earn more from ICT than the entire Nigeria earn from Crude Oil.
So as the Bayelsa State Government venture out to woo investors, it should also pay attention to the Education of its people who could build its economy more than any external investors.
Skype and Hotmail which have been bought by Google for multibillion Dollars are all creations of Estonians. The Bayelsa State government can also tap into this knowledge based global economic climate by finishing what it has started in the UK and other places by training these Students in a Globally competitive educational system.
As of today, sayelba.com investigations shows that neither the BSSB now the State Government has a clear idea of the number of students under the Bayelsa State Overseas Scholarship Scheme.
There is therefore a need for the Seriake Dickson Administration to appoint a competent hand to head the Bayelsa State Scholarship Board and to conduct a comprehensive audit to ascertain the total number of its Students abroad, the current status of their programmes, and to device a payment plan with their institutions that will ensure that the funds already invested in the education of these Students do not go down the drain through an abrupt termination of their education halfway.